Mike Sunley is managing director of Lexington Catering, which was named in the Sunday Times Best 100 Small Companies to Work For list last weekend. He spoke to Amanda Afiya about the achievement and the caterer’s plans for the future
Caterer Why did you decide to enter the Sunday Times competition?
Mike Sunley It had been an ambition since we started Lexington seven years ago and was the inspiration for a number of our team training and retention initiatives. Some of these, such as giving everyone a day off for their birthday and Baby Gap vouchers for all new parents, came from sharing ideas with previous winners.
Caterer How will it help your profile?
MS To be recognised as a Best Small Company to Work For across all sectors of British business, particularly in the current challenging times, is an exceptional accolade. It will add value for existing and prospective clients and team members and endorses the investment we make in our people at Lexington.
Caterer How will you celebrate?
MS There is great excitement, and we plan to hold a celebratory party for all the team and their families in the summer.
Caterer Give us an update on the business
MS After strong growth in 2008 we have had a successful start to 2009, with new contracts increasing our annual turnover to £13m, including a City law firm and a FTSE100 finance company with more than 1,500 employees. We will also be continuing our hugely successful graduate training programme – increasing the intake – and we are looking to expand our apprentice chef scheme.
Caterer How have you seen business change as the economy has worsened?
MS We have a diverse portfolio of clients across the business and industry sector and all have been affected by varying degrees, but it is certainly not all doom and gloom. For example, many of our clients are choosing to entertain clients in their own conference and dining rooms rather than going out to restaurants.
Caterer Could smaller contract caterers hit the wall this year, as predicted in Caterer last week?
MS A sound business with good leadership, strong, engaged teams, great products and a keen focus on cash flow will survive irrespective of size. In our experience it is the larger companies who cater to the biggest financial institutions and group contracts that will be feeling the pain, as these clients will inevitably have to downsize.
Caterer Does Lexington feel any pressure to provide facilities management services?
MS There are great companies out there with the experience to manage reception services and FM. In fact, on many of our clients’ sites, we work successfully alongside other FM services providers. We prefer to stick with our core business and continue to do that well – it is not always in a client’s best interest to put all their eggs in one basket.