Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robyn and Tim Jones, CH&Co

06 December 2012 by
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robyn and Tim Jones, CH&Co

Overall ranking: 30 (ranked 39 in 2011)
Contract caterer ranking: 5 (ranked 5 in 2011)

Chief executive/co-founder and chairman respectively, it seems that husband-and-wife team Robyn and Tim Jones can do no wrong, with CH&Co - posting a record annual turnover of £77m for the year ended March 2012, up 6% on the previous year. The independent caterer also predicted that sales would rise by "at least" another 20% to well over £90m by March 2013, with turnover reaching £145m by 2017 as part of its five-year growth plan.

This looks likely as the company continues to scoop blue-chip contracts, many of which have yet to be reflected in the full-year accounts. Its biggest win in 2011/12 was Historic Royal Palaces - worth an estimated £60m over five years. It has also won the equivalent London Zoo public catering contract.

Other recent wins include Thames Water, Virgin Atlantic Airways, the Royal College of Art and Hilton Hotels contracts. CH&Co was also retained by Sony UK - a contract that it has held for more than 21 years.

Robyn and Tim Jones - Career guide

Robyn Jones started as a graduate trainee for Grand Metropolitan (now Compass Group) in 1981, rising to chef-manager at a private school in Suffolk by 1983. She then spent two years with Gardner Merchant as catering manager for two big London clients before serving as catering advisory officer for the Potato Marketing Board from 1985 to 1987.

She spent the next year with High Table (later Avenance and now rebranded as Elior) as operations manager for 12 directors' dining room contracts. From 1988 to 1990 Jones worked for Compass, first as operations manager, then senior operations manager.

Jones then took the role of business development manager at Gazeway Catering, a subsidiary of construction company Higgs & Hill. After being made redundant she set up Charlton House Catering Services in July 1991. She was made an OBE in 2011.

Tim Jones trained as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse and was financial controller of Marvel Comics between 1986 and 1990.

By the time CH&Co began he was financial director of RWS, one of Europe's largest technical translation companies, until relinquishing this role in 2000 to concentrate full-time on CH&Co.
In 2007 the firm made its first acquisition, high-end caterer Chester Boyd.

A big change came in May 2010 when the company restructured and started operating under the parent company name of CH&Co. The firm now has two arms - Business and Industry, and Commercial, which in turn run six specialist branded businesses. For instance, the Charlton House brand focuses on staff catering and the business and industry sector; Lusso provides fine-dining services in the City of London and beyond; Chester Boyd, which was set up by Charles Boyd and acquired by Charlton House in 2007, operates in London's livery halls and private venues; while Ampersand looks after the catering at iconic venues such as the Law Society, the Royal Institute of British Architects and London Zoo. It's The Agency, which was part of Chester Boyd, was relaunched as a venue-finding service covering the entire business.

The company continues to grow. In June 2011, it launched a new reception-services brand to train clients in all aspects of managing a guest's journey in and out of the building. And in January 2012, CH&Co acquired a 50% stake in Apostrophe, as well as a master franchise agreement that will allow it to deliver the high street brand at its client sites, including visitor attractions and B&I.

The business is now gearing up to build on the £20m growth in turnover achieved since its rebranding two years ago. Earlier this year (2012) it created two new chief executive roles, promoting managing directors Caroline Fry and Alison Tyler to head the business and industry and commercial divisions respectively in a bid to focus the infrastructure of CH&Co.

Robyn and Tim Jones - What we think
Since hitting the big time with a breakthrough deal to cater at Sony's headquarters in Weybridge, Surrey over 20 years ago, the Jones duo have skilfully guided CH&Co through sometimes choppy waters and several recessions. Indeed, the company was born out of the recession in 1991, and the current economic gloom can be seen as providing as many opportunities as it does problems for caterers.

The business today is - excluding BaxterStorey - the only independent of a size that can mix it with the bigger boys who dominate the sector. For years there's been speculation that perhaps a sale would make sense as an exit strategy for Robyn and Tim Jones.

That might still happen, but Tim Jones has stressed that the company's independence is fundamental to its success, so selling to one of the 'Big Boys' sounds unlikely. Similarly, the reorganisation of the group, the purchase of Apostrophe, launch of Via 360 and promotion of two executives suggests there's no lack of ambition within the group.

The growth of CH&Co speaks for itself. Robyn Jones is clearly a successful company leader, but she acknowledges the support of her husband Tim and his financial background. Working together, the pair seems unlikely to make any wrong decisions any time soon.

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 2011: Robyn Jones and Tim Jones, CH&Co >>

Charlton House restructures into five specialist divisions >>

CH&Co >>

Most recent results >>

New chief executives appointed >>

Purchase of Apostrophe >>

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