Notable Alumni - Frank Brake

Frank Brake
Catering and Hotel Management, 1951

Robert Humphreys

Frank Brake is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs. Brake Bros Frozen Foods, the business he founded with his brothers William and Peter after leaving Borough Polytechnic, went on to become one of the UK’s biggest foodservice companies, with 9,000 employees and an annual turnover of £1.5 billion. 

Looking back at his distinguished career, it seems the entrepreneurial streak was strong in Frank Brake from the very beginning. Having completed his National Service, he went straight into business with his brothers William and Peter in 1958, supplying poultry to the catering industry. ‘We started up in a small way,’ he says. ‘We really just wanted to do our own thing and to make things happen for ourselves and our business, something you can’t do when you’re an employee.’ 

By the early 1960s, the company had entered new territory, distributing a range of frozen foods to pubs and other outlets. By the end of the decade, it had set up its own manufacturing facilities, producing award-winning frozen ready-meals and meat products. ‘In the food industry, quality and safety is paramount,’ says Frank. ‘Our name was on the box, so we invested a lot of time and money to ensure that the product was the very best.’ 

As the pub food market grew, so did the Brakes’ range of products and their customer base. Always quick to innovate, the company realised early on that computers could deliver competitive advantage, by reducing the time between order and delivery and streamlining stock control. 

For Frank the recipe for success was a simple one: hard work and unrelenting high standards. Hands-on experience meant the three brothers understood their business inside out, and could anticipate their customers’ needs. ‘Right from the start our philosophy was simple – first class product quality and customer service,’ says Frank.

A stock market flotation in 1986 paved the way for rapid expansion. As managing director, Frank guided the company as it diversified into new areas such as chilled foods, bakery products, contract distribution, fresh fruit and vegetables and seafood, and expanded into France.  In 1991 the company name was changed from Brake Bros Frozen Foods to Brake Bros Foodservice Ltd to reflect the new direction.

By 2002, Brake Bros Foodservice Ltd was the UK’s leading supplier to the catering industry with over 9,000 employees and an annual turnover of £1.5 billion. At 68 years of age, Frank decided to take a step back from the business and move on to follow other interests, leaving it to others to build on the company’s outstanding success.

In retirement Frank is an active member of his local Rotary Club and is still working on improving his tennis. The Frank Brake Charitable Trust supports a number of charities and Frank has also established the Frank Brake Scholarship here at LSBU, in order, he says, ‘to make a difference to students’ lives’. The scholarship provides financial support for four students each year on our MSc Enterprise and MSc Food Safety and Control courses.

© London South Bank University 2018