Building a legacy

Total Foodservice Solutions' original store in Huddersfield

Total Foodservice Solutions' original store in Huddersfield - Credit: Archant

Simon and Sue Howarth reflect on 10 years at the helm of Total Foodservice Solutions and the ethos of putting their customers first

Simon Howarth is celebrating his 10th anniversary as managing director of Total Foodservice Solutions this year, but this is no ordinary business. Simon is the fifth generation of Howarth to run the business, which began in 1881 as a ‘Fruit and Potato Merchant’ run by George Henry Howarth in Huddersfield. 

The business has evolved over the years, with Simon’s father Richard taking over the helm of the greengrocer in the 1960s and introducing the sale of frozen food and ambient products. It continued to develop and evolve into a wholesaler to hospitality until merging with Lawsons of Clitheroe, a Lancashire food company, in 2002. In 2012, Simon became MD, and since then, he and wife Sue have been working to continue the Howarth legacy, ultimately building a state of-the-art, temperature-controlled depot in Clitheroe as well as making major investments into the depot in Huddersfield.

Total Foodservice Solutions' Clitheroe depot

The state-of-the-art Clitheroe depot was built in 2010 - Credit: Archant

One thing that hasn’t changed since the first greengrocer opened in Huddersfield, however, are the principles behind Total Foodservice Solutions. ‘It’s about giving the customer the best service that we can,’ says Simon.

Personal touch

‘There’s nothing really clever about our business, it’s just giving the customer what they want,’ he continues. The company’s approach – talking to customers on the phone – might seem an old-fashioned one, but it’s also a very strong part of the business. ‘Relationships are key. It’s about being accurate, and reliable,’ he says.

This personal touch was also what helped get the business through the initial shock of Brexit and the pandemic. With its ranges reduced by several hundred lines, Total Foodservice Solutions was forced to offer less products. But with the team on hand to suggest alternatives, it was able to help customers cope.

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During the pandemic, it carried on working, despite losing 90 per cent of its regular business. Instead, the team was feeding key workers, as well as supplying care homes and the schools that remained open.

Simon also shares that its core strategy during these challenging times was to increase the stock volumes as a way of ensuring its loyal customers could keep running their businesses. With a customer-first mentality, the Howarth family is currently focusing on staging cost-of-living price increases to reduce the shock for customers.

Simon Howarth

Simon Howarth - Credit: Archant

But despite the tumultuous few years, the company is currently in a good place. ‘Our business at the moment is as busy as it was in 2019,’ confides Simon. ‘It is exciting every day. We are busy, and hopefully will remain so.’

Local roots

Although the business is taking off, with clients from across the country, the company’s local roots are still a part of its ethos. ‘We try and use Yorkshire suppliers,’ shares Sue. ‘We always look to reduce the carbon footprint and try to promote Yorkshire as a whole by using local suppliers.’

This isn’t limited to just food manufacturers either. She notes that whenever the team does any work on the Total Foodservice Solutions facilities – such as building the depot – it uses family-run local businesses because as one itself, it wants to support families in other trades.

What’s more, the business has been firmly planted in the county since its early days. ‘When we were a greengrocer in the 1960s, my father used to have 10 shops in Huddersfield and the surrounding areas which are well known and still remembered now,’ Simon reminisces.

Sue Howarth

Sue Howarth - Credit: Archant

Today, Total Foodservice’s Yorkshire depot is still based in Dalton, Huddersfield, where it has been since 1980 and where it hopes to stay for a long time.

Good causes

Another way the family business supports the local community is through charitable projects, including partnering with Huddersfield Town Football Club Foundation Charity. This sees them supplying goods for a breakfast club, for children who don’t get breakfast at home, in schools throughout the Kirklees area. ‘We’ve been doing that for about 10 years now,’ reflects Sue. ‘It started off with two schools, and it’s about 32 now. It’s nice to give something back to the community in that way.’

For the past three years, the Howarth family has also supported the Hospitality Action charity because of how much the industry has suffered. What’s more, it facilitates a Hell’s Kitchen-style competition alongside the local catering college, Kirklees College. There, local chefs from some of the best restaurants look at every aspect of the hospitality industry students present and occasionally even scout talent.

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