Paul Anderson took over as managing director of warewashing and food waste handling solutions business Meiko UK from Bill Downie in April 2017, a move which saw him return to the brand he had worked with as a regional sales manager 15 years previously. Paul has had close associations with the hospitality industry throughout his almost 30-year career, starting out with a fine food company in 1991, before moving into catering equipment sales. He was sales director at Rational for more than six years and worked with Gram Commercial and Hoshizaki UK before joining Meiko UK. He currently oversees a team of 103 people at Meiko UK and has refocused the business to work more closely with hospitality and catering businesses as well as focus on more sustainable solutions.
I’d worked for Meiko 20 years ago when Bill was MD. I knew him, but we didn’t work closely together. One day he called me to ask if I was interested in taking over and within two days I was at Meiko in Germany.
People said I had big shoes to fill when I took over from Bill (Downie, who was Meiko UK’s MD for 24 years) but you don’t walk in someone else’s shoes, it’s not comfortable. Bill had built a fantastic business and had it brilliantly positioned, but I’m a different entity and had to put my own stamp on it. I’ve made some subtle changes, including a new direction focused on the HoReCa market which previously hadn’t been a focus.
We’ve been very strong in care, central production kitchens, business and industry, and in universities, but if you don’t touch restaurants, hotels and QSRs you’re a little bit on the back foot so I flipped that around and brought in some new people, three of which have a chef background and are well-liked in the industry, to help us focus on the HoReCa market.
A kitchen porter is probably one of the most important people in this business, but they are also working in one of the hardest environments, so it’s unsurprising that turnover in this area is huge. He, or she will work like an absolute trooper in the back of the kitchen with everybody bringing dirty plates back to them. It’s humid and steamy and can be ergonomically unfriendly, but making things clean is important. Nobody wants to eat off a dirty plate and nobody wants to cook in a dirty pot, so we try and make things as nice as possible for kitchen porters. Some of our new machines are automated, we have systems that improve efficiency and that remove the steam. We try and make it the best operation possible for them from our side. The rest is down to how the restaurants treat their staff.
Training people to use our machines is so important. We have top end, efficient products that have been made to use less water, less electricity and less chemicals. If your customers are going to get the best out of that efficiently-made machine, you have to follow it up with training.
We also look at our products from an ergonomic point of view. We make it a better working environment in terms of efficiency but also ergonomically, so that staff are in better health – they’re not bending over backwards or picking up too much weight. Our machines are designed to help them to their jobs well.
Meiko UK is totally decentralised. There are brand standards that we follow, but Meiko Worldwide trusts each market to run their own business. We also have foundation status, which means that all the money that’s made goes back into Germany for the support and security for the employees. We don’t have any shareholders or stakeholders, we are purely one. We are family Meiko, so it’s a great feeling and it works extremely well.
What makes Meiko different from other brands is that our service and support is extremely strong. We offer a dedicated service 360 days a year – allowing Christmas Day and New Years Day off – so together with our efficient machines and additional features means we’re seen as a real benchmark.
Everyone needs to take a holistic approach to sustainability. At Meiko UK we also help people get rid of waste. If you’re looking to get rid of waste the first thing you need to do is question why you have so much. One in six plates of food is thrown in the bin, so you need to look at why it’s being thrown away first, then look at how you get rid of what is left. It could go to make biofuel or be composted. Being sustainable is also about being efficient. Who wouldn’t want to save 20% of their business costs by being more efficient?
I’ll happily go anywhere to eat out as long as I’m made to feel welcome and the staff are attentive. I’m equally happy eating a po’boy from a street food stall as I am at John Campbell’s restaurant The Woodspeen. It doesn’t have to be a Michelin star experience, I enjoy everywhere and all types of food.
When I started in the industry I was like a fish in a big pond. Now I get pulled from pillar to post. I like it, I’ve grown up enjoying the commercial kitchen environment and I get asked to help in all areas, even though I focus on dishwashing. It’s a fab industry.
The people I most admire from the industry are Cyrus Todiwala and John Campbell. They’re both totally different but are just phenomenal.
I would love more people to invest in Meiko. I would love to support more areas of our business, work with our dealers much more closely, help develop new products and focus more on green waste solutions. That’s my plan moving forward.
H&C News would like to thank Paul for his time and insights, much appreciated !