Quality and assurance: why HG Walter is trusted by the country’s best chefs  

HG Walter is an independent family-run butcher committed to providing every professional chef and home cook with an exceptional product and service to create exceptional food. Established in 1972 by Peter Heanen, it has become one of the UK’s most respected butchers, supplying some of the country’s best chefs and restaurants. HG Walter shares the importance of eating quality meat, supporting supply chains, and sustainable farming while striving to be the best butcher in the UK. 

Bitcher moving rack with trays of meat joints on“My dad started the business,” begins Adam Heanen, Managing Director, “as a small, family-run retail operation. By the time my siblings and I joined, while it had grown due to dad’s incredible hard work, it was still nestled within that traditional butcher shop niche. As such, we wanted to see what value we could bring and how we could make our mark. Over the years, several restaurants had approached dad, but he’d always remained resolute about retail. So, we decided the time was right to branch out and start supplying restaurants on a wholesale basis, alongside serving our existing and expanding loyal customer base. 

“In fact, our first and still one of our most esteemed partnerships is with the Michelin-starred River Café, which today, isn’t merely a restaurant in West London but an institution. This was probably a turning point for us, in terms of wholesale. If you do a good job with a client like that then you grow with them and expand your reach and reputation accordingly. To serve those kinds of customers, you must raise your game. 

“We got to the point in 2015, when we needed to leave our location and move to a warehouse. We were operating out of that one original shop with 55 people, which became untenable. When we moved to our bigger space, we were able to expand our operations into a variety of specialties and departments with far superior facilities. This in turn exposed us to an entirely new clientele, from Harrods Food Halls and The Dorchester London to big name chef brands such as Tom Kerridge and Gordon Ramsay. Today, we have a workforce of 170 people. We’re proud of how big we are, but I think we’re particularly proud of how we manage that growth. We bring the right customers on board; those people who want quality and are a good fit for us. We don’t want to be the biggest, we want to be the best,” he explains. 

“I’m very proud of our family business. I work closely with my brother and two sisters, and we strive to maintain quality and consistency in terms of both our products and service. We’re focused on doing what we do, day-in-day-out, to a high level and having a personal relationship with our customers is also incredibly special.” 

People first

With a current warehouse space of 24,000 square feet facilitating the delivery of its quality products, HG Walter’s plans for a larger warehouse are underway. “Our warehouse works well as it is, so we’re looking to replicate operations, but simply on a larger scale,” Adam elaborates. “The new warehouse will be 84,000 square feet. While we will be investing in machinery for packaging sausages and burgers for example, we will, of course, uphold the true values of butchery, which is a very skilled trade not performed by machinery. Our new warehouse will accommodate enhanced facilities for dry aging, smoking, and refrigerating. While our focus is currently very much on London, which is a fabulous market, we want to broaden our reach, which this expansion will enable us to do. The layout is more aesthetically pleasing and inviting for our staff and visitors alike and will include areas for presentations, butchery classes, and dining. We also want to invite chefs into the space for charity demonstrations and cookery events. 

“We work very closely with our staff every day. If we are ever short staffed in any department, then me or my brother or sisters will roll up our sleeves and muck in. I remember when there were only six of us, and while it’s trickier to maintain interaction with everyone all the time, we are present around the business and involved in the day-to-day processes. My dad will pop in and cut steaks or help pack. We strive to resource our managers appropriately so that they can manage their teams. We’ve got a very low turnover of staff. The butcher who started the business with my dad in 1972 still works here today. Likewise, we will always promote from within where possible and facilitate both in-house and external apprenticeship schemes. 

“I’ve always said to people if they have a personal problem then they should forget about work and take the time they need to fix it. We will always pull together to support people when they need it. We have a very young and passionate workforce. People want to learn, and they want to progress. It’s up to us to nurture that, to stimulate them and to give them the right tools to help them grow,” Adam enthuses. 

Quality and consistency 

From product and people, talk turns to the planet and the company’s commitment to sustainable farming and production. “We’re currently analyzing our figures to ensure we have the numbers to back up our claims. That said, we strive to operate sustainably. We use every part of the animal and work with farmers who share our values and practice regenerative agriculture processes. We predominantly buy British, grass-fed stock that has been reared as naturally as possible. Our packaging is also predominantly recyclable or reusable. We can always do better though and continually strive to improve on our performance.” 

Looking to the future, Adam reinforces the desire for HG Walter to continue to deliver on quality and consistency. “We’ll never rest on our laurels,” he asserts. “We’ll keep working to improve on what we do and continue to onboard new customers conservatively. We’re open to bringing in more specialist producers, those people whose values align with ours. When I think back to the early days of working with the River Café, I remember being struck by how happy and engaged its workforce was and I remember thinking that’s what I want for HG Walter. A happy working environment is crucial. Naturally, I’d like us to keep growing but at a controlled rate. I also want people to be able to go out to eat and enjoy good quality food now and, in the future,” he concludes.