A senior account manager from Sodexo has won the first ACE Robyns award.

Leanne Findley, 31, was named winner at an Association of Catering Excellence event on Bateaux London last night (21 July) to celebrate the best young talent in the catering and hospitality industry.

The inaugural ACE Robyns is named after Robyn Jones OBE, founder of CH&Co, who died in September 2015. An ACE Patron for many years, Robyn was known for her tireless work in the mentoring, training and development of young talent

As senior account manager for Sodexo Sports & Leisure, Leanne is responsible for the day-to-day running of airport lounges and various cleaning contracts at Heathrow, Manchester, Glasgow and Gatwick airports for Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Gulf Air and Virgin Holidays.

Leanne joined Sodexo as a 16-year-old food services assistant at a staff restaurant at Gatwick Airport. Her meteoric rise through Sodexo’s aviation business now sees her responsible for a team of eight managers and 170 employees looking after 400,000 first and business class passengers every year.

Sodexo head chef at Wycombe Abbey school Louisa Matthews was also named on the 12-strong ACE Robyns shortlist, alongside Leanne and peers from across the industry.

Leanne Findley, Sodexo Sports & Leisure senior account manager, said: “I can’t believe I’ve won. When I looked at the shortlist and the achievements of the other nominees I didn’t think I had a chance, but now I’ve won I’m so proud. I’m lucky to work with a great team and this is as much their award as mine.”

Tim Jones, joint founder of CH&Co, who was one of the judges said: “I would like to congratulate all of the entrants. The standard of award entries was very high and several were particularly inspiring, demonstrating the drive and initiative that Robyn was well-known for. The judges had to make some difficult choices but I could see that Leanne would have struck a chord with Robyn.”

Paul Hurren, Chair of ACE said: “When I became ACE Chair one of my aims was to put young people in the spotlight, as they are the future of our industry and I believe we should champion young talent at every opportunity. These awards are just one aspect of our work to involve the next generation. I know Robyn Jones would be delighted that she is still shining the spotlight on the stars of contract catering.”

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