The managing director at Wilcox Burchmore speaks to Lisa Jenkins about bouncing back from redundancies to found an award-winning commercial catering design and installation company
Did you study a hospitality course at school, college or university?
I studied a HND in hotel and catering management at Oxford Brookes University.
Did you do any work experience in the industry at a young age?
Yes, loads. I was a waitress at Bunters Bistro (where I had to dress as a schoolgirl), a chambermaid in Switzerland, and a weekend waitress in a Southampton restaurant where they used dog food in the curries (my Mum reported them).
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
I saw it as an industry where you could progress as a woman.
What was your first job in hospitality?
Trainee manager with Kingsmead Hotels at Hendon Hall.
Who was your first mentor/role model in hospitality?
Roger Flanagan, who recently retired from Baron, a catering equipment brand.
How did you decide on your career direction?
I joined foodservice company Compass in 1982 as a personnel assistant to the HR director, before taking up a role in the design and planning department. I was then promoted to equipment consultant.
Could you talk us through the roles you have had in your career?
After leaving Compass I worked for catering company Masters and Andren and Staines Catering. My role at the latter was made redundant, so I moved into design and planning at a Blackburn company before joining equipment supplier Carford and then on to kitchen maintenance company McFarlane Telfer. I was made redundant again in 2011, which is when I set up my own kitchen design company, Wilcox Burchmore, with Michael Burchmore.
Have you been part of any industry networks?
I've been with the Association of Catering Excellence for many years and I now serve on the committee. I love it and believe I can help give something back.
Wilcox Burchmore also joined the Catering Equipment Distributors Association (CEDA) as soon as we were able and I'm now on the council – it's a wonderful professional organisation for the kitchen design houses within the industry.
Have you embarked on any additional personal career development that has supported your progression?
Yes, while at Carford I did an interior design course. I've also done a lot of on-site training and classroom training with manufacturers.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced while working in hospitality?
Being made redundant three times knocks you! But I live by the motto: "In the midst of darkness there is a spark of an equal or even greater light." It's very true in most cases.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Be prepared to work hard and grab every opportunity.
What are your future career goals?
To ensure Wilcox Burchmore grows as we emerge from the pandemic.
Would you recommend a career in hospitality to your friends and family?
It would depend on their temperament. You have to have a true passion, as at times you have to live and breathe your job. But I can't imagine a better career and feel very fortunate to be in a job that is a true pleasure.
Who inspires you in the industry?
Wendy Bartlett, without a doubt. She's a no-nonsense career woman who cares about people and has shown me great support and friendship. Her business sense is impeccable and I admire her greatly.
- June 2011-present Managing director, Wilcox Burchmore
- January 2019-present Board member, Catering Equipment Distributors Assocation (CEDA)
- 1998-present Committee member, Association of Catering Excellence (ACE)
- May 2010-August 2011 Head of projects and design, McFarlane Telfer
- October 2000-May 2010 Project manager, the Carford Group
- 1990-1998 General manager, Staines Catering
- 1986-1990 Sales consultant, Masters and Andren
- 1984-1986 Sales consultant, Staines Catering
- 1980-1984 Equipment consultant, Compass
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