Tributes have been paid to a leading catering equipment procurement head at Morrisons, whose funeral is due to take place in Pontefract tomorrow.
62-year-old Ian Stephenson sadly lost his battle with cancer on 19 December. He was a respected figure within the industry who was well-known among catering equipment suppliers due to his role specifying and procuring foodservice equipment over many years.
Mr Stephenson served as procurement manager for production equipment until his retirement last year, while he also spent time as category buyer for market street equipment and buyer for waste management, environmental affairs and facilities during his 25 years’ service with the supermarket chain.
He was known as an experienced procurement manager skilled in retail negotiation and with a track record of delivering successful food and beverage operations projects.
Nathan Bland, director of catering design and project management specialist HK Projects, knew Mr Stephenson for more than 15 years and first met him when he worked at warewashing manufacturer Winterhalter.
He recalls: “We never did any business with Morrisons so we invited Ian to a product launch which he attended. It took over 18 months trialling all our equipment to get Winterhalter specified into Morrisons. During this period Ian did his research thoroughly including pricing, energy efficiency, specification, technical data, spare parts and all other matters. We then started putting machines into Morrisons. During this period and due to the slick operation Ian ran at Morrisons, this became a great account. I got to know Ian over a 10-year period and spoke with him on a daily basis.”
The man’s professionalism was never taken for granted and he kept us on our toes. He used to phone me every weekend needing equipment and service.
Mr Bland described him as one of the most professional people in the industry.
“The man’s professionalism was never taken for granted and he kept us on our toes. He used to phone me every weekend needing equipment and service. Ian was a hard task master but always respected everything we did for him. One incident I’ll never forget was my office buddy copied Ian into an e-mail he shouldn’t have received. She called me in tears so I called Ian, worried what his reaction would be. He laughed and told her not to worry and he deleted it straight away. He told me that without my office buddy we’d all struggle.”
When Mr Bland left Winterhalter to join another manufacturer he called up Mr Stephenson to try and get a product specified as he knew him so well. But because the brand didn’t fit with his needs he politely declined the offer, which he says was a big learning curve.
“He only specified equipment that was right for his business. The passion he had for Morrisons was mind-blowing and everything he did was for them. He has been through hell and back with personal issues but always fought through it. He was a family man and did everything for them – I will miss him.”
Mr Stephenson’s funeral will take place on Wednesday 9 January. The service is due to start at 10:20 at Pontefract Crematorium, Wakefield Road, Pontefract, WF8 4HA. Donations will be collected for the Prince of Wales Hospice at Pontefract.
After the crematorium, friends and family will be heading to the Upton Arms Hotel (2 High Street, Upton, Pontefract, WF9 1HG) for food, with all who knew Mr Stephenson welcome.
Mr Stephenson’s son Luke said his father was a proud and principled man who loved working in the industry.
“He was a core part of the procurement department and enjoyed the years he spent there. He loved meeting new people. He enjoyed keeping his knowledge fresh and up to date on equipment. And he especially loved working on projects.”