A food industry big hitter who started out as a Saturday boy at Iceland Frozen Foods has taken the helm at another iconic North Wales company.
David Cattrall, 49, a former pupil of Ysgol Friars, in Bangor, is already looking beyond the coronavirus crisis after being appointed managing director at distribution company Harlech Foodservice which has its HQ in Criccieth, and a base in Chester.
He has high hopes for growth and is aiming to add another £20 million to the turnover over the next five years.
The secret, he says, will be concentrating on what customers want with fixed, transparent and competitive pricing on a core range of products, making it simpler to search and order online and strengthening the “exceptional customer service” already provided by the team.
After being brought up in Liverpool and North Wales, he rejected the idea of going to university in favour of a career in retail.
He was offered a trainee manager’s job at Flintshire-based Iceland after working weekends for them and earning extra pocket money while in school.
It was the first rung on the corporate ladder which saw a meteoric rise, including roles with Marks and Spencer and Booker Wholesale with whom he ended up as sales director of their catering division where turnover was measured in billions.
Mr Cattrall, who lives in Beddgelert, has known the Foskett family who own Harlech Foodservice for a number of years and more recently did some consultancy work for them.
Then in January of this year he was appointed as a non-executive director with a view to him becoming MD at the end of 2020 but Covid-19 has accelerated the process.
As a company whose business revolves around the hospitality industry, the pandemic saw a massive drop in orders – something that has resulted in the painful decision to consult over the expected loss of 16 jobs.
The challenge now, according to Mr Cattrall, is to restructure the business so that it is well placed to prosper in the post-pandemic world, with the North West and Midlands being targeted as growth areas.
He said: “Our aim is to change the focus of the business to allow us to grow. The current crisis is forcing us to adapt and we are aiming to make changes with the future in mind.
“One important thing we are introducing is transparent, fixed pricing for our all customers, rather than the norm in the industry of inflated list prices that require negotiating line by line. For example, at Harlech Foodservice 5kg of chicken fillets is now £19.99 for every customer.
“We want to make it much easier for people to buy from us so we’ll move to a modern website and app to enable customers to search more easily, just like Amazon, so you can compare range, price and product information and make an instant decision.
“Also, our customers work at very different hours. So again, if they want to place an order after service or build up a basket during the day, it’s easy to do that in the digital world.
“We’re extending our order window until 10pm for next day delivery when ordering via digital means. However, we still offer a telesales service for those customers that prefer the personal touch.
“We’re very strong in North Wales and we want to continue to expand further and faster in the North West of England and the Midlands. There is also scope to grow our business in the education and healthcare sectors.
“At the moment we’re a £33 million pound business and we hope to grow to at least £50 million over the next five years.
“My job is to make Harlech simpler so that we do the good things well – sourcing at a good price so we can provide our customers with competitive prices on their core range of products.
“In the short term, we’re trying to be optimistic around what happens to the business. We have seen some foodservice companies raise prices just when the hospitality sector needs help and support. We have done the opposite and invested in staples like oil, chicken, milk and chips.”
Director Andrew Foskett, who was previously joint managing director with brother Jonathan, said: “We’re delighted to have been able to appoint David to take Harlech Foodservice to the next level.
“Current circumstances have dictated that he has taken the reins sooner than we originally envisaged but David is the right person to help us navigate this difficult period and lay the foundations for the future.
“He has a hugely successful track record in the food industry and his vast experience and drive will help us grow, develop and prosper as a business.”