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Who’s who in contract catering

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Compass Group

With an annual turnover of £3b and more than 110,000 employees, Compass Group is the world’s largest player. The group has contracts in airports, staff restaurants, food courts, hospitals and corporate hospitality, and operates well-known brand names such as Upper Crust and Harry Ramsden’s.

Working for Compass: From fine dining for city suits to hospitality for Six Nations rugby at Twickenham, Compass offers a range of environments. Choose from careers in professional cookery or food service, operational and regional management. Other options include accounts, IT, human resources, purchasing and marketing.

In-house training: A wide range of training initiatives and personal development schemes are available, including programmes aimed at middle and senior managers.

Where: UK and Ireland, plus operations in more than 90 countries.

Contact: Compass Group UK & Ireland, Rivermead, Oxford Road, Denham, Uxbridge UB9 4BF. Tel: 01895 554554 or visit


Employing more than 50,000 people at nearly 3,500 locations, Sodexho Catering and Support Services is part of Sodexho Alliance, one of the world’s largest food and management services companies. Markets include business and industry, government, healthcare, leisure, hotels and restaurants.

Working for Sodexho: Employees are expected to adopt the company’s core values: “Services spirit, team spirit and progress spirit”. Potential recruits can take part in a virtual interview via the website, to see if they would fit in.

In-house training: Sodexho claims to invest more per head in central, regional and on-the-job training than any other major company in the industry. Chefs enjoy celebrity chef masterclasses. Induction and development programmes are available for all levels of employees, including NVQs. There is also a graduate training scheme.

Where: UK and overseas.

Contact: Sodexho, Kenley House, Kenley Lane, Kenley, Surrey CR8 5ED. Tel: 020 8763 1212 or visit


Once described as “up-and-coming”, Aramark is now the UK’s third-largest contract catering company. With a broad spectrum of blue-chip clients from sectors including business and industry, education, hotels and the Ministry of Defence, Aramark has grown rapidly over the past two years. It now has more than 1,000 contracts and expansion continues apace. As well as developing its own brands, the company works alongside names such as Starbucks and Java.

Working for Aramark: The company expects drive, energy and commitment, and if you have these qualities there is a diverse selection of job opportunities – with positions from catering assistant through to helicopter landing staff.

In-house training: Continuous assessment and tailored training programmes for different levels. Catering staff benefit from the company’s Culinary University. A 12-month graduate programme turns out future managers.

Where: UK and overseas.

Contact: Aramark, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP. Tel: 020 7963 0000 or visit


Formed in 1999, and backed by French parent company Groupe Elior, Avenance provides food and hospitality to more than 600 organisations in the UK. Services range from cafés to delis, staff restaurants to private dining, retail shops and reception services.

Brands: include Mojo, Flavours.

Working for Avenance: Avenance takes its 6,000 workers’ careers seriously. In a survey by Portfolio International, it was identified as one of the companies catering managers would most like to work for, thanks to good training and development and high standards. Staff also like the fact there is little red tape and less hierarchy than with some larger companies.

In-house training: Every individual has a training plan, and staff are encouraged to gain nationally recognised qualifications – for which financial support is provided.

Where: Nationwide.

Contact: Avenance, City & West End Region, 33 St John’s Lane, London EC1M 4ND. Tel: 020 7324 2800 or visit

Charlton House Catering Services

Set up by Robyn and Tim Jones in the early 1990s, Charlton House is a fast-growing independent company with a mission to change the face of staff restaurants. The company is forecast to turn over £32m in the current financial year.

Working for Charlton House: The company prides itself on being open-minded regarding candidates’ backgrounds, to encourage people to cross over from other areas.

In-house training: The company trains and develops staff at all levels. At least 20% of staff receive formal training each month.

Where: Thames Valley, London, Surrey, Hertfordshire, North-west England and the Midlands.

Contact: Charlton House Catering Services, Bryants Farm, Kiln Road, Dunsden, Reading RG4 9PB. Tel: 0118 946 6300 or visit

Wilson Storey Halliday

The business has come a long way since the early days, when it was based in a Maidenhead attic. Directors Linda Halliday, Keith Wilson and Alastair Storey scooped the Food Service Caterer of the Year trophy at this year’s Caterer & Hotelkeeper Awards (the Cateys. Half-year turnover is already 30% up on last year and the firm has about 140 contracts in the bag.

Working for Wilson Storey Halliday: The company looks for people with a great attitude towards hospitality in preference to formal qualifications. In return they offer a “dynamic” environment and opportunities to grow within the business.

In-house training: A structured training and development programme is in place for all staff.

Where: Nationwide, plus Dublin

Contact: Wilson Storey Halliday, Imperial House, Oakland’s Park, Wokingham, Berkshire RG41 2FD. Tel: 0118 989 0330or visit

Initial CateringServices

Initial Catering Services is part of the giant business service company Rentokil Initial Group. Formed in 1991, it is the largest provider of school meals in the UK. Its business and industry wing, Autograph Food Service, offers bespoke office restaurants to more than 150 blue-chip clients, including Telewest, Honda, BOC and Bayer.

Working for Initial: The company is relatively small, allowing for easy access to central functions – which many staff find refreshing. It is also growing organically (rather than by acquisition) which tends mean good career prospects.

In-house training: The company has training kitchens throughout its contracts, allowing for practical, on-the-job training. Participants also get the chance to experience different units.

Where: Nationwide

Contact: Initial Catering Services, Bridge House, Mathisen Way, Colnbrook, Berkshire SL3 OHH. Tel: 01753 561730 or visit


This young catering company manages and operates employee restaurants and executive dining rooms for corporate clients from the business and industry sector. Established in the South-east in 2000, it has recently opened sister company, BaxterSmith Scotland. Clients include Marks & Spencer, Daimler Chrysler, Powergen, Scottish & Newcastle, Marriott and Selfridges.

Working for BaxterSmith: Because it is a young, lively and expanding company, staff have the opportunity to make an impact quite quickly here, and chefs are encouraged to be creative. It also boasts a thriving social side.

In-house training: BaxterSmith offers industrial placements of six and 12 months for people to learn the business. Eventually they choose an area to specialise in, and are then given bespoke training.

Where: Home counties and Scotland

Contact: BaxterSmith, 4 Market Square, Amersham, Buckinghamshire HP7 ODQ.

Tel: 01494 432900 or visit

Just Deli

The Just Deli concept is far removed from the meat-and-two-veg canteen dining of old. By bringing casual, deli-style food to the workplace, it aims to give the client’s employees a feeling of “going out to lunch, without going out”. With more than 40 clients, the company, which has been included in the Sunday Times’s Fast Track report for two years running, is forecasting a turnover of £9.5m by the end of 2003. It also has an executive dining room division.

Working for Just Deli: Potential employees, the company says, are encouraged to get very involved with the business and are always asked for their views.

In-house training: Training tends to be on-site, always at a pace to suit the individual.

Where: Mainly within the Thames Valley/M25 area, but starting to expand.

Contact: Just Deli, Oakbarn House, Sandford Farm, Perimeter Road, Woodley, Berkshire RG5 4TE. Tel: 0118 944 5000 or visit

Cygnet Catering

An offshoot of food production company Cygnet Foods, Cygnet Catering was formed in 2000, to specialise in traditional eating in the workplace. The young, privately owned company now services 196 food outlets and 60 caf‚ operations.

Working for Cygnet Catering: The workforce consists of about 300 staff. There are always new opportunities, with plenty of chances for those who want to work their way up.

In-house training: Catering staff learn all the basics. However, specialist training is available depending on individual requirements.

Where: Nationwide.

Contact: Cygnet Catering, 11 Easter Court, Europa Boulevard, Warrington, Cheshire WA5 5BZ. Tel: 01925 712107 or visit


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