Catering Insight is celebrating its 100th issue with a run-down of 100 UK catering equipment industry greats, comprising people, projects, equipment and business developments.
Today we take an in-depth look at the fourth section of people profiled: Chris Playford, Dave Riley, Glenn Roberts, Jack Sharkey and David Smithson.
Chris Playford’s work ethic is second to none and is a credit to not only Foster and Gamko, where he is market and development director, but to the industry as a whole. His involvement with FEA, previously CESA, and lobbying bodies has helped influence the direction and shape the refrigeration equipment industry over the years for the better. Chris was part of the Eco Design development steering committee, helping set guidance for the industry.
Being both approachable and reasonable, there is no question that his drive and positive ambition has inspired all that have had the pleasure of working with him. Chris uses his experience and knowledge to unofficially coach his team and the wider business.
Dave Riley has spent over 30 years at the coal face of the UK catering equipment industry. Starting in the 80s as the general manager of distributor, Gardner Wilkinson, he ran the northern operation for 5 years. Even before that he’d run his own hotel, having studied hotel management at Hollings College.
But it is his 25+ years at Hobart UK he is most well known for. He joined the company as a national accounts executive in 1991, based in Bolton, before he progressed to be regional sales manager for the northern Home Counties, then becoming commercial manager in 2004 and subsequently commercial director, and finally appointed as UK MD by 2012.
But his crowning achievement in terms of the wider industry impact was to oversee a large-scale ‘dealer conversation’ in 2015, working with dealers to understand and change perceptions of Hobart – fostering a greater air of trust and transparency.
Glenn Roberts’ reputation in the industry is second to none. He is a dynamic and committed leader who has made a big impact on the sector, especially in areas such as sustainability and training, both through his professional work and his involvement in CESA.
Currently sales director at Winterhalter UK, he previously had stints at the Nisbets group as head of Polar Refrigeration and as sales director at Brita Professional. He also gained experience from time spent at some of the industry’s largest companies including Bunzl, Gram UK and Hoshizaki.
Under his watch as UK MD, Gram UK grew significantly, and he helped direct them through several buyouts.
He has contributed to the industry overall in other ways too, serving as CESA (now FEA) chairman between 2016 and 2018 and was an active participant in teams such as the Exhibition Liaison Committee.
Jack Sharkey is well recognised in the industry and his reputation based on his knowledge and expertise of catering operations across all sectors precedes him. Jack has over 25 years of experience within the hospitality industry and started Vision Commercial Kitchens in 2002 with his three fellow directors. Vision has since become one of the most respected catering design, supply and installation companies in the UK. He also sits on the board and is the immediate past chairman of CEDA.
In addition he also sits on the UK Foodservice BIM (Building Information and Modelling) standards task group, Build UK’s BIM Group. He also holds an MSc in Hospitality Design and Management Consultancy.
He has an unrivalled knowledge of the foodservice equipment market and products, enabling him to match client’s needs, expectations and budget with practical and innovative solutions.
He’s held top positions in the industry for decades. Since working at Hobart and Winterhalter, he has become the face of the warewasher sector. From his degree in catering management, to his years in Switzerland where he learned the secrets of the trade, to managing several of Keith Floyd’s restaurants upon his return to the UK, he has a depth of experience and knowledge in the industry that is second to none.
Mentoring many major personalities in the sector over the years, his commitment to the industry is underlined by his voluntary pro bono work and his involvement with CEDA, the FCSI and CESA (now FEA), which he was chairman of between 2001 and 2003.