The EP Weekend People Story: Alex Buchanan

Alex Buchanan is the co-owner and editor of Catering in Scotland. It is 10 years since he bought the magazine with his business partner Gordon Clark, during which time he has built a unique and loyal following in the Scottish market and established the CIS Awards as one of the key industry events. In this people feature we look at his journey

“I thought I would end up being a travel or motoring writer in Scotland”, says Alex (pictured with his wife Lucy) in his typically reflective and humble style, “I had no idea that I was going to work in the hospitality and catering industry.”

Having been at the helm of Catering in Scotland for 10 years Alex has developed a deep passion and interest for the sector. He is currently overseeing a process to take the magazine 90% online supplemented with the publication of an Annual positioned alongside the annual Awards dinner. The magazine, too, will be rebranded Catering Scotland. “We are still a resource first and foremost and we are creating a hub of information to support the magazine’s move online. People don’t read everything online, but it’s more the case than before and will continue to be in the future.”

Born in Edinburgh, Alex studied at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen majoring in communications and French. He observes, “I was interested in studying communications as opposed to pure journalism as I was interested in the concept of communications; my degree was a mix of philosophy and journalism.”

Alex then travelled and lived in both South Africa and the US, where he was a travel writer. On his return to Edinburgh he was a freelance journalist for a variety of publications in Scotland including The Edinburgh Evening News and The Scotsman before working with Firm Publications, initially on a freelance basis before becoming Features Editor across three of the magazine titles, including Catering in Scotland, along with publications in property and business and finance. “For me CIS was the most interesting title and the one I enjoyed the most.”

Firm wanted Alex to take on CIS full time, but instead, he submitted a proposal to buy the magazine alongside Gordon Clark, who had been asked to join the magazine as sales director and, a deal was struck in August 2003.

“Although I had had some summer jobs in bars, I knew nothing about the hospitality industry or the Scottish market, which is very different to other industries in Scotland and also different to the English hospitality industry as it’s more self-contained.

“However I’ve learnt that you do not need have all the knowledge at the time, you can start at the bottom and work your way up. It’s just that in this case I was put in at the top!

“It was a steep and quick learning curve. Very early on I began to make contacts and found that this was easy to do. At the time Catering in Scotland covered contract catering and was missing hospitality and tourism industry by way of coverage. That seemed a bit disingenuous as they are all inter-related.”

Fairly quickly work began on planning for the CIS Awards and the first Awards were held in May 2004, just eight months after Gordon and Alex bought the magazine. “It was a stab in the dark but we had a partner with the Federation of Chefs Scotland and they were well received.”

So what is the major enjoyment for Alex in his role?

“It’s the interaction with people. I like the editing aspect, but it’s always the people I meet who know what they are writing about. My job is just to edit it and put it together for readers. I think we have always been good at attracting and interacting with our partners whether it’s sponsors, nominees or readers and we are approachable. I’ve always recognised that it’s the people who speak to you that are the voice of authority; I’ve not pretended to be one.

“Honesty and hard work are very important to me. I think a little bit of honesty goes a long way and if you are upfront about a problem and what you can do to fix it then this goes a long way. We would never walk away from something. Some of our sponsors have been on board for the seven years of the Awards and I believe it’s because we are clear about what we can offer. Very often they are friends, not just clients.”

What are his views on the Scottish market at the current time?

“It’s very buoyant at this time in Scotland and 2014 will be our biggest year ever with the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the Homecoming, it’s a massive opportunity. Now is the time when businesses need to start getting in gear and looking forward. My only fear is that what will happen on the 1st of January 2015? The scale of this opportunity won’t happen again in our lifetime.”

For more information please contact Heather Gibson on heather.gibson@epmagazine.co.uk or 020 7025 1874.

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