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Phil Hooper is almost unique in an industry that traditionally has such a high level of staff turnover. Having joined Sodexo (then Gardner Merchant) as a trainee manager in 1976, he has spent his entire career with the same company.
His steady progression through the ranks - from unit manager to regional manager, to sales director responsible for business development in 18 countries - gave him a rock-solid understanding of the food service sector and stood him in good stead for Gardner Merchant's merger with Sodexo in 1995.
In 2000, it was just a short and well-deserved step into his current role as corporate affairs director and member of Sodexo's UK and Ireland executive team.
It's a heady responsibility. He's in charge of all internal and external communications for one of the largest contract caterers in the country, embracing no fewer than 50,000 staff and 3,500 clients.
As the judges noted, Hooper is steadfast and committed, not just to Sodexo, but to the food service sector at large. He has been with the company through some of the most difficult years in contract catering, particularly five or six years ago when the growing levels of risk being built into contracts, tighter margins, sluggish growth and recruitment issues all took their toll.
What Hooper has excelled at is his ability to move this giant employer with the times. Initiatives in recent years include the launch of the Healthwise website, an interactive online hub full of information on healthy living. Hooper regards this as vital in helping employees, clients and customers in making healthier choices.
Thanks to Hooper, Sodexo has frequently been recognised in the Business in the Community's Corporate Responsibility Index. He has also driven the approach to corporate citizenship challenges through the launch of the Better Tomorrow plan.
Undaunted by his duties in a multimillion-pound company, Hooper finds time to lend his experience to countless industry organisations, such as Springboard, the BHA and Business Services Association.
Most importantly, his emphasis on training and development has helped many within Sodexo and beyond in the industry at large to carve out successful careers.
Even Hooper's business rivals respect him as being a high-achiever and a real team player.
Geoffrey Harrison, managing director at Harrison Catering Services said: "I've known Phil a long time from when we worked together in the City. I have enormous respect for him - for what he has achieved in Sodexo and through his work to the industry as a whole."
This admiration was echoed by Robyn Jones, chief executive, CH&Co, who added: Phil is a tremendous asset to the food service sector, knowledgeable and dependable. He is considerate to everyone he comes in contact with."
But Tim West at Lexington Catering has the last word: "Phil is a great ambassador at all levels for our sector in particular and the industry in general - and he remains a good bloke, too."
Wendy Bartlett, managing director, Bartlett Mitchell
â- Phil Hooper, corporate affairs director, Sodexo
â- Ian Sarson, group managing director, Compass Group UK & Ireland
â- Mike Sunley, chief executive, Lexington Catering
Tim Cookson, chairman, the Litmus Partnership
Geoffrey Harrison, managing director, Harrison Catering Services
Hannah Horler, managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment
Robyn Jones, chief executive, CH&Co
Noel Mahony, chief executive, BaxterStorey
Kate Martin, managing partner, the Brookwood Partnership
Tim West, chairman, Lexington Catering