Middleby UK’s managing director Adrian Wood admits he will miss the camaraderie of the catering equipment market after recently taking retirement following more than 35 years’ service in the industry.
Wood has spent his entire catering equipment career in sales and management roles, working for a string of leading brands, including the last six years as boss of Middleby Group’s UK business. He officially left his position at the start of the year.
Wood attended catering college in Derbyshire after leaving school in 1968 and cut his teeth as a banqueting chef at a time he calls ‘BC’ (before combis!). He then worked for the NHS before getting his break in the catering equipment industry when an old friend, who was working for Hobart at the time, dropped in on a sales call.
“I used to get salesmen coming in all the time when I was a head chef and they’d sit down with the catalogue, turn all the pages and go, ‘do you want to buy one?’ Then along came an ex-college buddy and he said to me and my boss at the NHS, ‘I would like to bring in a piece of equipment next Friday and demonstrate how I can save you money’. When he left I thought, ‘I could do that job’ and six months later his boss phoned me up because they’d got a vacancy. I went for an interview, gave it a shot, and that was me in sales.”
That was in 1979 and Wood says his early success at Hobart came from “selling by demonstration”, adding that he fondly remembers the pep talks that his bosses back then would give, which include such gems as ‘CCDD’ – Carry, Canvass, Demonstrate, Deliver.
“We didn’t have company cars back then. We had our own estate cars and we used to carry food slicers, mincers and other equipment with us. If it was in the back of the car and it was brand new, you got the order. And we were on commission only, no basic, no expenses, so it was a massive gamble. But I will never knock Hobart. They were a fantastic company to me, they sent me on sales courses, even junior management courses, and to Offenburg where the factory was. It was obviously a different business back then. I think we had 200-plus reps and 16 branches, and I remember working at the Nottingham branch when we won the inter-branch sales trophy.”
After his spell at Hobart, Wood then moved onto Dawson MMP, where he spent a decade before joining Winterhalter to look after distributor sales. He also worked for MKN and Enodis, joining Middleby shortly before Enodis was sold to Manitowoc.
“You could see that was going to happen, so I then joined Middleby, originally as the Houno brand manager. I was then made sales director and then managing director.”
Wood says the big highlight for him at Middleby was growing the business from where it was when he took over to where it is today. “We put together the sales team and we grew the company profitably and expanded. One of the legacies of that is the new building and showroom that the company moved to. I will certainly miss the camaraderie and the interaction with people that I have grown up with.”
Now that he’s retired, Wood said he’s enjoying not spending so long on the motorway and away from home each week, and is looking forward to getting back on the golf course when the warmer weather arrives. Longer term he and his wife are aiming to relocate to the US to be closer to where his son is based.