Paul signs on

Paul signs on
22/03/2017 - 07:03
Former Caterplus managing director Paul Robottom has swapped a salaried job for the uncertainty of running his own business with the launch of Signature Dining. He talks to David Foad.

With what he claims is the UK’s only dedicated caterer in the senior living and care sectors, Paul Robottom has launched his own business – Signature Dining.

He believes that the key factors in its favour are its size, which offers flexibility and a personal touch, the focus on fresh, good-quality, locally sourced food and the fact the company is dedicated to the sector.

Robottom said: “Our vision is to improve the everyday lives of our customers by offering a broad range of fresh, home-style seasonal menus, cooked from scratch daily with passion and served with professional courtesy.

“We are a brand new set-up, low earning to build our reputation, but I know there’s a real opportunity. We have an ageing population, demand is only going to grow, so it’s a buoyant market.”

He has been busy setting up Signature since being put on gardening leave after stepping down from his role at Caterplus when parent company Waterfall Catering Group was acquired by France-based global services provider Elior Group in July last year.

“I love Caterplus and left on great terms with them. But when the acquisition happened, I had a chance to reflect. I thought that I had done my time working for bigger groups and decided I wanted to work for myself.”

He is proud of the fact that he took the care specialist from £6-million turnover to £26 million during his seven-year term from January 2010.

And he has made sure that he’s got serious support for his venture, including entrepreneur and investor Luke Johnson, best known for his success with Pizza Express, who has invested in Signature through his Risk Capital Partners vehicle.

Robottom says: “Luke will be putting money in, but he will expect returns. We have told them it will be a slow burn at first, but hopefully a massive expansion after that.

“He will open some huge doors for us, his knowledge, expertise and reputation will be a tremendous asset.”

The other pillar of support he has put in place is a link-up with The Genuine Dining Co, a £13-million B&I contract caterer led by managing director Chris Mitchell.

“Genuine was looking at different avenues to go down and see what it might look at. One option was the care sector, but it had no expertise or knowledge.”

In return for a part share in Signature, Robottom gets to take advantage of Genuine’s business infrastructure to take care of back-office functions like IT support, payroll and personnel.

“We are not part of Genuine but will use it to help us with support and infrastructure. We are a separate, stand-alone company, a start-up without all the start-up costs.”

Robottom says that his four-year business plan is to win 30 contracts and be turning over about £9 million.

“But in year five, I see us jumping to 40 contracts, by which point we will need four area managers to look after a combination of groups and single contracts,” he adds.

The core markets for him within care will include assisted living/extra care; retirement villages and gated communities where residents spend up to £3,000 a week and expect service to match; and traditional nursing care homes.

“My aim is simply to be recognised as the UK leader in the care sector,” he says.

I think we were recognised as that as Caterplus, but we were part of a bigger company. I thought we would have a real empathy because we were solely devoted to the care side. It’s so important that we have that complete focus.

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