Francis Robert Brake was born in 1933 in Holborn, London. The son of publicans, he was the middle of the three older Brake brothers (William, Frank and Peter – Paul being born after the war). Their early lives were disrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939, requiring the brothers to be evacuated from London and separated from their parents for the majority of the war.
Out of necessity, they become strongly independent and self reliant, the boys attending various wartime schools (in Worthing, Ealing & Banbury) until their final school years at the Licensed Victuallers School in Slough (now relocated to Ascot). Many decades later he and his brothers Peter and William marked their gratitude to the LV school by the building of a 6th Form centre.
After leaving school Frank enrolled on a course in Hotel and Catering Management at Borough Polytechnic – now South Bank University. In recognition of his subsequent business achievements Frank was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at the University in 2012 and his Frank Brake scholarship program has sponsored many deserving students.
In 1952, Frank served his compulsory National Service in the RAF; initially as a trainee pilot, and then being posted to London and then Cardington, in Bedfordshire. In 1954 he subsequently resumed his training in hotel management, working in all roles at hotels in Morecombe (the Grand Hotel) and London (the Park Lane Hotel) and experienced the highs and lows of all aspects of hotel life. He was always aware how hard some peoples lives could be, and consequently has always been determined to treat people with the utmost respect and compassion and to help others.
About learning to be independent…
Even the worst experience is valuable!
It is for one’s own benefit to be exposed to hardship
His older brother William was by now running a pub in Swindon; on the advice of a local farmer they were also buying, processing and selling chickens. Frank was asked to help out during one busy Christmas. They saw an opportunity to increase this production and he never returned to the hotel business. Working all hours, it was hands on, unpleasant work, but eventually joined by younger brother Peter, they grew out of their town centre premises and moved to Kent.
After some lean times and extremely hard work, their poultry packing business began to grow and the first fledgling Brake Bros (Poultry Packers) business was registered in about 1958, supplying chickens to pubs, restaurants and hotels. They also soon started to supply freezers and frozen foods. In 1972 a decision was eventually made to stop chicken processing and concentrate fully on supplying a much wider range of frozen foods. Brake Bros are widely acknowledged for changing the food landscape in British pubs and restaurants.
On business success…
The key to success is attention to detail and to retain control
Innovative products, rapid expansion and a strong focus on high quality, efficient procedures and advanced IT systems ensured Brake Bros grew rapidly in the UK and also into France. It became the leading distributor of foods in the UK, with a sophisticated network of rapid distribution centres and an enviable reputation for reliability. A highly successful public flotation was achieved in 1986, permitting further expansion, acquisitions and success. Sadly Peter died unexpectedly in 1989 and William’s health also declined, leaving Frank as Managing Director to run the the business. When Frank retired and the company was sold in 2002, Brake Bros was the leading food supplier to the food service industry in the UK, with a comprehensive range of products and was also a leading national supplier of chilled and frozen food in France, with a turnover of £1.5bn and employing 9250 people.
In his personal life, Frank made significant contribution to charities, both through generous personal donations, through his Charitable Trust, and with personal project involvement. Major involvements included project leadership and matched funding for the building of the Kent Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre, significant contributions to Parkinson’s UK and Cure Parkinson’s, Ashford Pilgrim’s Hospice, and many smaller local charities in Kent, where Frank lived for well over 50 years, and where he remained very well known and deeply involved in local life.
He also spent much of his time in London, a city he loved, both in his working and personal life, attending conferences, talks, galleries, concerts and dinners. A vibrant city which reflected his thirst for knowledge, his energy and enthusiasm for life!
A lifelong Arsenal supporter, he was always a passionate sports fan; rowing, cricket, soccer and continued to play golf and tennis regularly well into his senior years. He married his wife Evelyn in 1959 and has three children, Michelle, Phillip and Richard. He placed great emphasis on family strength, creating and supporting initiatives for young people to work hard, better themselves and to create and take opportunities in their lives, values which he always encouraged in his grandchildren and beyond.
- Former President of the British Frozen Food Federation
- Entrepreneur of the Year (South East finalist)
- Honorary Fellow of London South Bank University
- Member of the Guild of Freeman of the City of London
- Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts
- Former President and long serving member of Ashford Rotary Club
- Patron of the British Library
- London life
- Communication and inspiration of others