by Nigel Bartlett
A french court has thrown out a move to prevent Eurotunnel signing a deal with Compass Services to operate the catering outlets at both ends of the Channel Tunnel.
Aer Rianta Bewley, the joint-venture company set up by the Dublin-based Campbell Bewley Group and Aer Rianta, claimed it had previously been awarded a 10-year contract by Eurotunnel. It turned to the court seeking an order restraining Eurotunnel from signing a deal with any other catering company.
But the judge said that he was unable to grant the order because a five-year deal with Compass had already been signed, and ordered Aer Rianta Bewley to pay costs of Ffr20,000 (ú2,440).
Patrick Campbell, chairman and chief executive of Campbell Bewley, said the joint-venture company would appeal against the ruling. If it wins the appeal, Eurotunnel will be forced to put the contract out to tender again.
Mr Campbell added that the company was still pressing ahead with a separate action for damages against Eurotunnel, although that could take up to year to be heard.
A year ago, Campbell Bewley announced that Aer Rianta Bewley had been awarded the catering contract at the Folkestone and Calais Channel Tunnel terminals. But Eurotunnel said no deal had ever been signed, and in November awarded the contract to Compass Services.
In both terminals Compass will operate a Burger King outlet as well as a coffee shop in conjunction with Nestlé. Third outlets at both sites will open in the middle of next year, although the brand has yet to be decided.
Apparently unaffected by the legal battle is the contract awarded to Campbell Catering to feed 350 staff at Eurotunnel's customer services offices near the Folkestone terminal. It is one of 15 new contracts won last year by Campbell Catering, the contract catering subsidiary of Campbell Bewley, bringing the total to 125 contracts, the majority of which are in Ireland.
Mr Campbell said the company had also been carrying out research into the contract catering market in Northern Ireland, and expected to announce its plans there soon.