By Helen Conway
Nearly 10 years after resigning as Sutcliffe area managers to set up their own contract catering firm, William Baxter and Robert Platts have sold the business to their former employers.
Granada Food Services, of which Sutcliffe is now a part, is understood to have paid £15m for Baxter & Platts, which is viewed as high for the £23m-turnover company.
Eight accountancy staff based in the company’s Buckinghamshire headquarters face redundancy as a result of the acquisition because their department will relocate to Granada’s Stockport accounts centre in August. Efforts will be made to find them alternative posts.
Mr Baxter said there would be no further job losses among the 1,200 staff. As part of the agreement with Granada, both he and and Mr Platts will continue as joint managing directors for the foreseeable future.
“We will have a high degree of autonomy to take the company forward and we will still be vying with all the other Granada group companies for business,” he claimed.
Granada Food Services managing director Alastair Storey said there were no plans to integrate the Baxter & Platts business.
“The reason we bought them was because they are a high-quality niche player. We want to give them the investment and support to help them flourish in the future. We operate on a very hands-off basis,” he claimed.
Baxter & Platts, named Food Service Caterer of the Year in the 1996 Caterer and Hotelkeeper Awards, has 130 contracts. Clients include Whitbread, Price Waterhouse and the Financial Times.
Some key clients have already been given assurances that it will be business as usual.
Mr Baxter admitted: “There are sensitivities, especially where a client may have replaced Granada with us, but people buy people, generally, and those people are staying in place.”
Chris Scott, director of facilities management at Whitbread, said: “I would have preferred for them to stay independent. Clearly one of the benefits of working with a smaller independent company is that we can influence the service and value for money directly with the top men.
“It may be slightly more difficult to deal with Granada at that level, but I have no reason at this stage to believe we will not be able to continue a close relationship with Baxter & Platts.”
The acquisition gives Granada Food Services a turnover of around £630m, over 3,200 contracts and more than 30,000 employees.