EP’s – The Changing Face of a Sector

EP’s – The Changing Face of a Sector

On the 25th of March, industry leaders in contract catering gathered together for a full day of presentations from their peers looking at the key issues affecting the contract catering and FM sector. Speakers included some of the foremost Managing Directors, CEOs and industry frontrunners that were there to engage conversation and debate on central themes in contract catering. There were over 24 CEO/MDs in the room and 5 Chairman. It was sector leaders gathering to discuss key issues.


Click here to see the video from the day:

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  • Jeni Edwards, Chair of A.C.E.
  • Graeme Smith, Partner, Zolfo Cooper
  • Allister Richards, Managing Director, Gather & Gather
  • Bill Toner, CEO Host Contract Management
  • Vince Pearson, Chairman The Waterfall Group
  • Andy Harris, Managing Director Restaurant Associates
  • Tim West, Chairman at Lexington Catering
  • Chris Sprague, Director Elior
  • Andy Chappell, Managing Director ISS Foodservice
  • John Bennett, CEO BaxterStorey
  • Chris Piper, Director Interserve
  • Oliver Cock, Managing Director, Compass
  • Neil MacLaurin, MD of Keith Prowse
  • Doug Tetley CEO Searcy’s
  • Rasmus Bo Bojesen owner Bojesen Catering

Key Points:

  • Graeme Smith, partner at Zolfo Cooper set the tone with a financial market backdrop: “The financing market is buoyant at the moment and the economy is improving. This is causing external investors to take a fresh look at the sector. Private equity has noticed the value the UK has on food and drink and eating out and has highlighted hospitality as a sector that is well placed to benefit from economic growth.”
  • Allister Richards, MD of Gather & Gather spoke about “intrapreneurship” and how he has repositioned MITIE Catering as Gather & Gather. “We learned to find the balance between thinking and behaving like owners of the brand yet also having to care about the corporate infrastructure that gives us the capital requirement to grow.”
  • When talking about partnering with the financial sector, Bill Toner CEO of Host Contract Management highlighted the challenge of finding a bank that understood your segment when you company is looking for finance. “There are some banks that won’t care about the journey your business will take through growth and will only ask for the return.”
  • Vince Pearson, Chairman of The Waterfall Group spoke of expansion through VC channels “Clear communication is necessary with a VC: if you want to buy and build further, you have to be ready to explain to them where you want to go and what exactly you want to achieve.”
  • The “Change in the City” detailed the heightened expectations encountered from clients and the constant competition with the high street. “The most positive outcome from the competition with the high street is that all of us have had to up our standards and learn how to diversify our brands”
  • “The rise of the FM model” panel spoke of the client’s demand for efficiency and increase of companies tactically expanding services offered. “The view that FM companies can’t deliver catering is a view that is outdated and is disproved every day. The competition isn’t amongst ourselves anymore, we are on a ground that competes with the high street and fine dining operators in terms of food offering”
  • John Nugent, CEO of Green & Fortune questioned the whether the concession model was still sustainable. “The sector faces huge challenges: access to finance, clients’ expectations in terms of turnover and investment, consultants’ demands..The business models are very different to where they were 10-15 years ago and they will continue to break up.”
  • How the management of the supply chain has changed and evolved in recent times was covered by Oliver Cock, Managing Director of Compass, who had the view that the level of professionalism and transparency has increased in the last few years.
  • “The challenge of large scale venues” covered problems that can be faced through complex building design, and finding a happy medium between selecting catering for the clients and end consumers.

Overall the conference initiated honest dialogue amongst competitors and highlighted the positive change the sector has faced. Tougher expectations from clients have led to higher standards amongst caters. The recession and competition from the high street encouraged innovation in the sector as pressures were placed on cost and the provision of compelling food offers. As the economy continues its broad based recovery, contract catering will continue to benefit from the increase of private equity and interest from outside investors.

This conference was proudly sponsored by: ACT Clean, 3663, Go Green Tomato, Indicater, Jus de Pommeraie, Central Working, Zolfo Cooper, A.C.E, the British Hospitality Association and Catering in Scotland.

For more information on initiatives run by EP and to get involved with the community please contact Nicole Thompson

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