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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Ian Sarson, Compass Group

01 July 2011

Overall ranking: 16 (ranked 40 in 2010)

Contract catering ranking: 3 (ranked 3 in 2010)

Ian Sarson - Snapshot

Quite simply the UK's largest caterer, which all in the food service industry will have worked for or competed against at some point in their career,Compass is the market leader in terms of scale, and Sarson - as group managing director, UK and Ireland - plays a pivotal role.

Compass operates across a diverse range of sectors that include business and industry, fine dining, education, healthcare, vending, sports and leisure, as well as at military, remote and offshore sites.

It owns a raft of brand names, such as Eurest Services, Restaurant Associates, Roux Fine Dining, Chartwells (education) and Medirest (for hospitals and care homes).

Compass Group UK and Ireland has turnover of £1.8b with 50,000 employees working at 7,000 client sites. The group saw turnover climb 7.6% to £14.5b in 2010.

Ian Sarson - Career guide

Managing director for specialist markets, including healthcare and education, before stepping into his current role in April 2010, Sarson's background has been exclusively in the food, support services and hospitality sectors.

As managing director for specialist markets at Compass from 2006, he is credited with having played a key role in the UK and Ireland leadership team, successfully developing the business in areas such as healthcare and education. The fact that he's a caterer at heart became something of a rarity in recent years at Compass with a raft of outsiders such as his predecessor Ian El-Mokadem - and current boss Richard Cousins (who sits one higher in this year's contract catering list) - joining from outside the industry.

Sarson joined Compass in 2004 as managing director of healthcare. Before joining Compass he was at the caterer's arch rival Sodexo as managing director of Sodexo Hong Kong and China. Sarson has worked in the public sector, defence, local government and healthcare arenas during his career and is a hotel and catering graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Ian Sarson has risen to where he is today by the most old-fashioned of approaches: good, honest, hard work and ability.

A few years back when taking on Compass's health and education and defence and government (HEDG) interests - a significant amount of the caterer's UK business - many industry observers tipped the man for the top, noting he was quietly getting on with it and making a success of running the Compass machine's engine room.

His appointment has been read by many as an indication that, with the required operational restructuring complete, the focus at the world's largest caterer will return to food, as well as the increasingly important and lucrative provision of support services, something Sarson is perfectly equipped to deliver. While the UK market remains somewhat stagnant, in-keeping with the malaise affecting the wider economy, Sarson heads an operation in apparent rude health and his continued participation in the Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 looks assured.

Ian Sarson's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Compass boosts support services with acquisition of PPP Infrastructure >>

Ian Sarson outlines a new direction for Compass >>

Ian Sarson to replace Compass boss Ian El-Mokadem >>

Compass Group website >>

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