MKN stalwart Stuart Long is preparing to clear his desk and sail off into the sunset today as he retires from an industry that he has been part of for 35 years.
Mr Long has spent the last 23 of those years on the catering equipment side of the business, most recently serving as MKN’s sales and marketing director for the UK.
He has been with the Germany-based heavy duty cooking equipment manufacturer for almost 12 years, following two years at Hobart and 10 years with Foster Refrigerator.
Mr Long began his career in the industry as a 19-year-old at Greene King, working in one of the chain’s hotels, before moving into the contract catering sector with companies such as Sutcliffe Catering.
He recalls being told by a teacher upon leaving school “not to go into catering because it was a dead-end job” but said his experiences had proved just how misplaced that advice was.
“If I think about the places I have been, the people I have met and the opportunities I have been given, it is an incredible industry,” he says. “Some of the things that spring to mind include measuring up kit for Buckingham Palace, putting equipment into the tallest restaurant in Europe, working with Michelin starred chefs, going into high security prisons and underground bunkers, and travelling the length and breadth of the company, as well as parts of Europe. My message to anybody thinking about getting into the industry is that it can provide some fantastic opportunities.”
Mr Long made the transition from caterer to salesman after a friend recommended him for a vacancy at Foster Refrigerator due to his catering skills and experience of a commercial kitchen. “At that stage manufacturers were looking for caterers to work in their business because of their understanding of equipment and I came into Foster as a food product specialist, working closely with the sales team.”
By the time he left the refrigeration firm, he was running a national accounts team targeted with sales of £11m a year and serving major multinationals such as McDonald’s and Yum! Brands.
For the last eleven-and-a-half years, the 55-year-old has been synonymous with MKN, playing a key part in the company’s UK growth. “Looking back over the past 11 years the business has tripled, the factory has doubled in size and the number of staff worldwide has also doubled. MKN has been a privately-owned, family-run business since 1946 and I am proud to have represented its UK team,” he said.
Following his retirement, all projects, consultant specifications and UK matters will be managed by Mr Long’s current line manager Marco Albarello. He said UK colleagues Stuart Brereton, Kate Aston, Ray Donovan and Steve Brough would continue to fly the flag for the brand in his absence. “The business is in safe hands because there is a strong team in place and MKN now has a demo facility and office based in Cannock.”
Mr Long now plans to spend his retirement on his canal boat with partner Alison, as well as take the opportunity to explore parts of Southern Europe.