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Memories of Robyn Jones OBE

It’s been an incredibly sad week with the loss of a Robyn Jones, one of the icons of the contract catering industry and founder of our competitor organisation CH&Co. Although I knew Robyn only through the industry, we came from the same roots and had both pretty much come up through similar ranks, there is also incredible synergy on how the companies started.

Robyn was a true pioneer for women in contract catering, I can’t actually think of any other contract caterer that was started by just a single female to the success she attained. There were a lot of duo males or the female partner but to go out on your own, like she did, was incredibly brave. I am not sure people ever appreciate, (till you have done it with ‘skin in the game’) what it is like to sit in your back bedroom and cold call, picking up the phone and build your business, one contract at a time. Lots think they could perhaps do it, perhaps a few can, but many more have had investment and been able to buy growth.

Robyn really did do it herself and built a great team and business around her. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the support and partnership of Ian Mitchell, and Robyn had her husband Tim, but it shouldn’t detract from the sheer force of the woman and the inspiration she was to others.

Whilst as contract caterers we are always highly competitive, there is also a unique comradeship of a common passion for our industry and the people within it. We all appreciate the opportunities it has all allowed us and being able to do what we love. We were all very fortunate to count Robyn as a competitor and fellow industry colleague.

There certainly will be a place missing without Robyn in attendance and I’d like to personally recognise the contribution she made.

Rest in Peace, from all at bartlett mitchell

Wendy Bartlett-Owner Director

This week the catering world lost one of its most remarkable and pioneering woman in recent history Robyn Jones, founder of Charlton house.

Robyn offered me my first job when I set up my own consultancy business back in 1999. After sending flyers to countless companies and directors she was the first to pick up the phone and invite me in. At that meeting I remember her telling me how, in the early days of Charlton House, she started every day on the phone! Robyn wouldn’t allow herself a cup of coffee until she had made a set number of calls; lunch was not allowed until she had an appointment. That single minded determination became the sure foundations of a successful group of companies.

But my memories of her go back to the very early days of Charlton House and meeting her, along with several other caterers, at a client briefing at Air Miles in Gatwick in what must have been 1995. I remember in particular how detail driven she was over the information we were given. She took nothing for granted and was tenacious in making sure the client provided the right information necessary to create accurate projections. It was this tenacity and attention to detail that led to the success of one of the largest independent catering companies of the last 50 years.

Probably her biggest contribution to our industry was her pioneering zeal; setting up a company using an enterprise allowance lead by a woman was both new and brave back then. Although we take it for granted these days this was unchartered territory and she prepared the way for other entrepreneurs to follow, our own Wendy included.

We send our most sincere sympathies to Tim and their family and to the many staff at CH&Co Group at their great loss. Her contribution to our industry was invaluable.

David James
Director of Food Services