Leaders from across the contract catering industry have paid tribute to Compass Group chief executive Richard Cousins who died this week, describing him as a man “who made us all raise our game”.
Cousins was in Australia with his two sons William and Edward, and his fiancé Emma Bowden and her daughter Heather when the seaplane they were travelling in from a restaurant in Jerusalem Bay went down in the Hawkesbury River near the suburb of Cowan.
The cause of the accident, which occurred on New Year’s Eve, is not expected to be known for some time.
News of Cousins’ death has been greeted with shock by fellow catering business leaders.
WSH chairman and chief executive Alastair Storey expressed his horror at the crash.
“I got to know Richard a little as we used to have lunch together and I thought very highly of him indeed,” he told The Caterer. “He was doing a phenomenal job at Compass and was a really great guy. He was down to earth, straightforward and highlight intelligent. It’s a terrible tragedy and a really cruel blow.”
Storey’s colleague, Noel Mahony, chief executive at BaxterStorey said the business was deeply shocked and praised Cousins’ leadership and results.
He said: “Richard was an exceptional leader who led an extraordinary turnaround at Compass since his arrival in 2006. He was hugely respected within our wider hospitality industry. Our thoughts are with everyone at Compass as well as Richard’s friends and family.”
CH&Co Group chief executive Bill Toner said that it marked a “very sad start to the year” for the industry.
He added: “Richard had a well-earned reputation in business and he had a huge impact on Compass, leading a long period of major sales and profitability growth around the world. He was also a strong supporter of the hospitality sector.”
Meanwhile, Sean Haley, regional chair of Sodexo UK and Ireland said that he was “a driving force within the catering and facilities industry who made us all raise our game” and Elior chief executive Catherine Roe said that he “did much to raise the profile of our industry within the greater business and financial world”.
Bartlett Mitchell executive chairman Wendy Bartlett added that he was “charming” and had time for those running businesses that weren’t on Compass’ scale.
She said: “I only encountered him on a few occasions but I found him to be charming and not someone who was ‘power mad’ and disdainful of smaller company leaders.
“Compass is a gigantic business and therefore to wield it to a different direction and achieve growth and success for shareholders is no mean feat, especially in our industry.
“Although I understand he had a firm hand he probably did ensure a stronger future through the tough love approach.”