Hutten has been around for nearly ninety years. Three generations with a single focus: making a genuine impact on the world around us. That includes everyone from the customers in grandpa Jan’s bakery, the guests in Piet’s restaurant, the many clients and suppliers Bob has been working with over the years, our staff members and their families, as well as our society. In recent years, much has changed, but much has also stayed the same. Of course, we’ve experienced incredible growth. We’re doing tasks that didn’t even exist in the company’s early years, and we are active in markets we could only have dreamed of. However, the passion and values that inspire us to do our job are something that never changes.
Veghel, 1929: this was a time when there were hardly any cars, everybody was Catholic and most people were either famers or craftsmen. It was also a time of substantial poverty and large families, but a huge sense of solidarity. This was when Jan and Marietje Hutten started a bakery/grocery shop on Veghel’s Molenstraat in 1929. Jan took care of the bakery and Marietje ran the shop. Jan delivered his bread on his baker’s cart, a special bike with a large basket in the front. His customers were ‘ordinary people’, they were churchgoers. When there was a party, they went to Jan for special bread. Rolls for a first communion, for example. Or cake for very special occasions: pure luxury! In addition to first communions, weddings were also celebrated in Veghel. People held their parties in the parsonage or in their own gardens, where the food was delivered. For 50th and 25th anniversaries, they could go ‘all out’, but it all remained very simple. Conviviality, togetherness, the Brabant sense of belonging, that’s what it was all about.
Jan’s traditional bakery was a successful business. But Jan wanted more. He decided to follow his dream of opening a restaurant and extended his bakery with a dining room. After the war, this dining room was called a lunchroom: De Vier Bogen (The Four Arches). And those four arches could literally be found in the lunchroom’s interior. In 1951, there was another refurbishment and the building was completely rebuilt into a café-restaurant with the first automat in Veghel. Now Jan no longer had to do all the work by himself. Together with many family members, he worked hard every day to make the café-restaurant a success. Jan and Marietje had a total of six children. Their eldest son Piet was born in 1932. Together with his brothers and sisters, he worked in the family business, doing tasks like starting the preparations of snacks for the guests at home.
Piet was an adventurous man who travelled the world and worked in other restaurants for a few years before taking over his parents’ business. In 1957, he returned to work with his father, and they immediately started a substantial renovation. In this same year, they opened the remodelled café-restaurant: De Parel van de Meijerij (The Pearl of the Meijerij). This was when Piet met Ria, his future wife. In February 1962, the couple got married, and they also turned out to be perfect business partners. In 1962, Piet took over his father’s business. By now, he had become a top chef and he made sure that the Hutten café-restaurant became a household name in the area. The guests were his number one priority. Piet worked for people for whom a party or dinner was an exception. It wasn’t only about the food, but also about the atmosphere, the ambiance, and the mood, as well as the sense of togetherness. Piet was genuinely interested in customers’ personal stories. He didn’t see them as a way to make money, but rather as people whose wishes he should satisfy. The party room behind the restaurant also became a popular meeting place. With great consideration for the guests, and a traditional artisan touch, the first buffets and dinners were served here for wedding parties, birthdays, and receptions. Piet made a name for himself in the region with his new culinary creations, which were crafted in his traditional kitchen. And, to this day, some of his recipes – like his famous Canadian ham – are prepared by the kitchen staff in that same distinctive way.
During the late seventies and early eighties, Piet was increasingly asked whether Hutten could deliver buffets and dinners to people’s homes. Of course he could, so the Hutten restaurant added a new service: party catering. A large, new kitchen was added, so there would be enough room for extra-large groups. Soon, people wanted to order more than just buffets and dinners, but also tableware, cutlery, glasses, linen and furniture. Hutten’s catering branch quickly developed. Around 1987, Piet’s son Bob graduated from hospitality school and officially started working for his father.
Bob, born in 1966 and named after famous Manchester football player Bobby Charlton, is all about the hospitality industry. His crib was kept in the kitchen, and he quickly learned to help his father with making salads and meatballs. Just like his mother Ria, Bob has always loved working with the public. Organising and serving are his talents and that’s where his heart is. The family works very hard, seven days a week, nearly around the clock. Bob starts with the administration and quotations in the morning, arranges the parties afterwards, and then prepares the restaurant. Then he moves on to the bar. In the mid-nineties, Piet Hutten handed the company over to his son Bob. For a long time, Bob was primarily interested in the restaurants, but the longer he worked in the business, the more he started thinking about the future and sensed that he should redirect his focus to catering big parties. In 1994, he decided to close the restaurants and completely focus on catering. Hutten became Hutten Catering.
With Bob as director, Hutten developed further. In 1995, Hutten moved into a building in the Corridor. In the late nineties, Hutten started catering for businesses. Their first client was Vanderlande, a Veghel-based company where grandpa Jan had once delivered sandwiches with his DAF lorry. It isn’t just the clients and guests that are important to Bob, his employees are important too. In 1998, he decided to start calling them co-operators because they have to do the work together. Their wellbeing and happiness are one of Bob’s biggest motivators. Happy co-operators can create moments of happiness for others. For Bob, one of his biggest challenges is maintaining a company that doesn’t see financial growth as its primary objective. Making money is important, but it’s not Hutten’s most important goal. But, it is necessary in order for the company to keep renewing and innovating. Having a genuine impact on guests, clients, co-operators and society: that’s what Bob wants, as did his father and grandfather before him.
In 2002, Hutten Catering moved to the Mountbattenweg, to the Hutten Culinary Centre. By this time, the number of co-operators had increased to 200. In the middle of the building is a traditional kitchen that covers 900 m2. The four large glass arches that decorate the interior and exterior of the building hark back to the Vier Bogen lunchroom where Jan Hutten laid the foundation for their catering activities. In the meantime, Hutten continues to grow. Business catering in particular is increasing exponentially. New paths were forged as Hutten developed its own sustainable private label with its own certification. In order to do this, Hutten goes all the way back in the supply chain and only works with famers and suppliers who comply with strict requirements. Hutten participates in the open innovation network Foodsquad, which is striving towards a new food system. In the Bernhoven hospital, Hutten takes care of all the food and beverages for patients, guests and staff members. In mid-2015, Hutten started running the Kentalis Compas bakery. The bakery’s staff members have language or speech challenges and thus find it difficult to enter the labour market for a variety of reasons. In 2016, Hutten opened The Surplus Food Factory, where delicious soups and sauces are made from surplus vegetables. The name Hutten Catering hasn’t expressed the scope of all the company’s activities for a long time. Now, they have a total of nearly 2000 co-operators who are making a genuine impact in five markets: Meetings & Events, Business Catering, Reception & Hospitality Services, Food Services & Food Retail, as well as Care & Cure.
‘What happened when grandpa Jan fell off his bike in front of the Pennings butchery?’
‘What tradition preceded carnival in the café-restaurant every year?’
‘Where did Hutten take advantage of an event location for the first time?’
You can read it all in the book: ‘The story of a family’s business’.