Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Bill Toner, Host

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Bill Toner, Host

Overall ranking: 58 (NEW ENTRY)
Contract caterer ranking: 8 (NEW ENTRY)

Bill Toner - Snapshot

Last year Bill Toner was appointed chief executive at Host Contract Management, replacing founder Jerry Brand at the company's helm.

Host operates catering services across the UK in business and industry, education and healthcare. It also provides cleaning, reception and retail services when added to a catering contract.

This summer, Toner made the company's first acquisition, buying concession caterer Couture for an undisclosed sum and opening up a new market, the heritage sector. Couture, which has an annual turnover of £5m, retains its brand name as a division of Host and took the total annualised turnover to £22m.

Two months later, Toner bought Juice for Life, an operator of retail catering contracts in the leisure sector. It brings £2m-worth of turnover to the firm, giving it an annualised turnover of £25m.
Toner's aim is to get to £30m annualised by the end of the year.

Contract wins in the past year include call-centre Response, fruit and vegetable distributor IPL and beef production company Dovecote Park.

Bill Toner - Career Guide

Toner's CV sets him apart as a heavyweight caterer. Between 1999 and 2005 he was chief executive of foodservice giant Aramark UK. Before that, he had spent 18 years at Sodexo (formerly Gardner Merchant) - the final five of which were as managing director for the UK.

In December 2010, after five years' gardening leave, Toner joined Jerry Brand's Host as a non-executive chairman.

Within a year, Toner and Brand had swapped roles - Brand remaining on the board as non-executive chairman and Toner taking the chief executive seat. The management reshuffle came about as a result of Toner's increasingly hands-on involvement in the business and Brand's decision to take his software business Caternet to the marketplace.

Bill Toner - What we think

It seems that Brand brought Toner on board at the right time to develop this independent caterer. Brand wanted a professional manager with experience and Toner certainly understands contract catering from a corporate perspective.

While there was initially some worry that Toner may have lost his "mojo" after five years' gardening leave, any doubters have been proved wrong. Toner himself said: "Now we've made the decision for me to become chief executive …that means Host is mine really. [Brand is] going to do what he's doing. I trust him and he trusts me to get on with it."

Toner has been steadily raising Host's profile, signing up two-Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie in March 2011 to train and mentor Host chefs at Gleneagles.

On becoming chief executive, he moved up a gear and immediately set about boosting the team. November 2011 saw the appointments of Paul Blacker from BaxterStorey and Alan McDonald from Avenance as heads of operations in the South and Scotland respectively. Blacker was the third member of Host's senior team to join from BaxterStorey in that year, following the arrivals of Jon Fassam, operations manager and food academy executive chef Stephen England.

This management strategy has paid off and in April Host announced £8m of new and retained business across the UK, in line with growth targets set by Toner. This was followed by the acquisitions of Couture and Juice for Life, which expand its remit in the heritage and leisure sectors.

Indeed, it has been an industrious first year for Toner as chief executive and his plans to double the size of the business during the next four years seem more than possible.

Bill Toner joins Host>>

Bill Toner replaces Jerry Brand at Host>>

Contract success 2012>>

Host website >>

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