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WhitCo’s Customer Experience Centre opens a new chapter

WhitCo’s Customer Experience Centre opens a new chapter for business, public and education.

It’s been a year in the making, but a huge new chapter in the history of WhitCo is about to begin. We will soon be opening our new Customer Experience Centre – a trade and retail outlet for professional chefs and home cooks. Our products and services, which are best in class, affordable and high quality, will now be on show at our HQ in Thrapston. We are extending a warm welcome to a wide audience. We invite professional chefs and catering operators, home cooks, local food producers and manufacturers, FE and HE colleges, universities, training partners and professional associations, prospective members of our new business club, and the public on open days, to experience the art of the possible and to change.

“Time to Experience Change”

Thousands of square feet of office and warehousing space have been gutted, redesigned, and converted into a multi-functional experience that features a 60-cover restaurant, multipurpose bar/café, business meeting room, membership-based Club and a shop stocked with tableware, chef and cook essentials and a selection of Made In Northamptonshire foods.

Entered through an al fresco café, the new facility is clearly a highly flexible demonstration of how to design, fit and run a profitable hospitality business that is equipped to meet the demands facing the industry. Our leadership team has engineered this business change to host events from design, specification, styling through to installation and aftercare service while on-site training will be provided using innovative kitchen equipment and food tastings. The entire transformation process, including design, construction, fit out and furnishings, has all been done in-house.

Trade clients will visit as they did before. However, there will also be structured demonstration days in the fully operational Test Kitchen, which has been designed as the kitchen of the future, preparing and cooking foods we want to eat today. Trade clients will be able to see how their traditional methods of preparation and cooking can be done using innovative technology that can help to reduce costs. The dining areas are also displays in themselves, from design and build to interior design and styling. Everything that clients can touch and see (and can not see!) is in place to assist the trade to create their own individual restaurant space and dining. Manufacturers and supplier days will be held to present their new and innovative ideas to customers. The dining area highlights all aspects of our capabilities, from design and build to interior styling.

Our CEO Vita Whitaker says: “We wanted to bring together the best that our industry has to offer in a working environment that looks, feels and is a professional kitchen and restaurant, where we can invite professionals and members of the public for a unique experience, talk about the service style, ambience, equipment functionality, benefits, new technology and the impact change has and will have on their kitchen and restaurant. WhitCo will deliver that information in an impartial and unbiased way. To do that, equipment brand names are covered, chefs wear Jeff’s Way uniforms and prepare foods to recipes created by WhitCo’s own chef. Manufacturers’ names are rarely mentioned during events.

“The only Brand you need to know is WhitCo

Executive Business Club – Cappuccino Concierge

The venue also hosts a membership-only Business Club. Members’ benefits include free parking, tea, coffee and filtered water, discounted food, drinks, and meeting room hire, office services, networking events and concierge services. All members are urged to provide feedback on their experience as part of our market research.

Vita explains: “We have retail and trade clients, but we are not open to the public. Members sign up as a WIP – a WhitCo Important Person, an executive member’s club. They enjoy the benefits of everything from a great cappuccino to a concierge service, as well as discounts on products and services. Members can use the Taste Restaurant and Bar, enjoy discounts at The Shop or attend food and drink tastings. Members will also have access to meeting facilities, private and business venue hire, drinks, nibbles, office services, meeting room hire, guest passes, and Wi-Fi. WhitCo will be supplying catering services ranging from easy-peasy snacks to a buffet, chef’s table, an a la carte menu, a private chef, or a private party.”

The innovative Test Kitchen is the domain of Scott Williams, WhitCo’s newly appointed Sales Development and Executive Chef. His wide experience includes working as Head Chef at Richard Branson’s Necker Island as well as senior positions at Ragdale Hall and Kilworth House Hotel. His key role is to help other chefs make informed decisions about new equipment and kitchen design and his impeccable experience as a chef will confirm that the taste and quality of the food being prepared does indeed meet restaurant quality. Six past students, and those to be awarded the Jeff’s Way prize, will also participate in their own restaurant pop-ups to enable their skills and knowledge to grow faster and further. Those still in FE and HE education will have the opportunity to participate on site to add business experience to the culinary skills being taught.

Taste Restaurant, Cafe & Bar

As well as featuring locally produced and sourced Made in Northamptonshire foods and drinks, this fully functioning dining room, features wide choices in seating, tables, styling, and lighting for customers to sample and compare to enable them to decide what would work best in their own premises.

Cheff’s Office/Table

The stylish and comfortable business meeting room seats eight and is a punning acknowledgement of the influence of WhitCo’s founder, Jeff Whitaker. The area transforms itself into a location where a la carte meals are served and highlights the best culinary foods and service skills, and ways of changing the operation of the Test Kitchen and it is service style.

‘The Shop’ set inside an entire Showcase!

This is an immersive experience. The Shop offers stylish tableware, chef and cook essentials, Made in Northamptonshire food and drink products, furniture, and lots more. The Shop stocks an impressive range of iconic equipment from non-stick pans to juicers, mixers, and coffee machines.

WhitCo @ Home

We will soon launch another face-to-face sales channel alongside its successful national sales team. Wilmax England tableware will soon be entering the home, via a direct-selling channel of independently contracted WhitCo Home Sales Representatives. Recruitment will commence shortly in Northamptonshire and is intended to grow to nationwide coverage.

Al Fresco Dining at ‘The Cabana’

The dedicated entrance was once an old catering equipment recycling yard and has been transformed into a bamboo-fringed outside café area that highlights a style of al fresco furniture and other fittings to transport visitors to a beach-like environment. The transformation of this space once again helps customers see how to turn every inch of space into an area to return sales.

Upcycling, Collectables, Vintage, Antiques, Art and More!

As you walk around the restaurant and the shop you will see a range of furniture, ornaments, lighting, decorated stainless steel, lighting, all of which were originally destined for scrap. WhitCo offers a repainting, reupholstering, decoration and can source specific items – including nostalgia, vintage and mid-century furniture, – egg cups to theatre elephants! Once given a brief – the search commences!

Says Vita: “It is a massive change to add all these new initiatives to our existing business. Our plan is not to replace but to add growth to WhitCo. We are a people-to-people company, a truly independent, diverse, and entrepreneurial employee brand business, with a We Can Do ethos. Our new 360 business model will reach like-minded people and show everyone what we do and how we do it. It will link all aspects of the hospitality industry under one roof, with a people-centric real-life experience that oozes creativity and a warm WhitCo welcome. In developing our Customer Experience Centre, which houses the Test Kitchen, the Taste Restaurant & Shop, we thought of 5 T’s. Touch, Test, Taste, and Talk. Our clients and guests can test equipment and give us feedback, discuss changes to their kitchen and restaurant, they can taste good food [restaurant quality food serviced in any environment], touch every fixture and fitting, Talk, and discuss ways forward and offer up valuable feedback by telling us what they think and ultimately make informed decisions based on what they see.”

Client feedback has always been important to us, and we will soon be adding Trip Advisor to our social media. During events, feedback will be requested and anonymously passed back to those manufacturers and suppliers currently participating. Further research will support future students in Further and Higher Education. Relevant information and findings will be published in the next edition of ‘The Theory of Hospitality and Catering,’ to which Vita and WhitCo contribute.

Our services continue to expand with professional partnerships offering recruitment, training in licensing and food safety, everything that catering business need. And it doesn’t stop there. Plans to open a cookery school in the new year are advancing well. This will offer classes in cookery and restaurant service, open the public. The classes will be for both pleasure and available to those wanting to work in hospitality and will also be an affordable way for continuing to raise funds via Jeff’s Way CIC, to fund places for student stages.

For more information about the new initiative, contact us on 01832 735007 or email