In Memory of Frank Brake
22 December 1933 – 22 December 2018
Frank was one of those characters who appreciated the old adage the harder you worked, the luckier you got.
Frank was born into the hospitality industry, as the son of publicans in New Oxford Street, later attending Borough Polytechnic where he developed his love for foodservice. It was here that Frank, with his brothers, began to identify the products and services that would add value to the caterers of the day, identifying some of the trends that would later help them to launch Brake Brothers.
Frank understood the importance of education and established the Frank Brake Scholarship at London South Bank University (formerly Borough Polytechnic), as well as being major benefactors, along with William, of the Licensed Victuallers’ School (LVS Ascot).
The Brake brothers followed in their parents’ footsteps when they opened a pub in Swindon in the 1950s. And it was here that the brothers’ entrepreneurial spirit began to show, after a local farmer offered the brothers some chickens which had stopped laying. The Brake Brothers business was launched.
But that was just the start for Frank whose forward-looking opportunism often meant that he was “legging it” across London signing up new customers before heading back to the cold store in Kent to process the next day’s orders.
Developing Brakes from those early days was no mean feat and meant constantly innovating and identifying opportunities. For example being the pioneers in frozen food and one of the early innovators in foodservice ready meals, creating meals that could compete with freshly prepared foods. The brothers were not afraid to move on either – for example ceasing poultry production when it became apparent that there were better opportunities elsewhere.
Moves into fresh food and an international focus followed and completed the journey from humble beginnings to a major listed company. As Frank said: “You started plucking a chicken, then you’re putting your shares on the market”, but following the death of his brothers, Frank felt a huge sense of responsibility and duty to their families and failing with the business would have meant failing them. As he couldn’t be half-involved in the business – he chose to sell his share of the business when he retired because he knew he had to be “in or out”, to sell and walk away or be fully involved. A perspective typical of his no-nonsense, pragmatism.
He would have been proud that the business he started with his brothers continues to be successful and it provides a lasting legacy to the hard-working entrepreneurial spirit of one of foodservice wholesaling’s founding fathers.
I was privileged to have the opportunity to talk to Frank at length and, although he sold the business many years ago, I know how supportive he was of Brakes today, under Sysco’s stewardship and spoke very highly of colleagues’ success in working in what he described as a today’s incredibly complex foodservice market. He was a humble man, whose hard-working attitude and entrepreneurial spirit was admired by those who knew him and he will be sadly missed.
Our thoughts are with Frank’s family at this sad time.
CEO, Brakes UK