Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Tim West and Mike Sunley, Lexington Catering

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Tim West and Mike Sunley, Lexington Catering

Overall ranking: 45 (ranked 77 in 2010)

Contract catering ranking: 6 (ranked 7 in 2010)

In the nine years since setting up Lexington Catering in 2002 Mike Sunley, co-founder and now chief executive, has, with chairman Tim West's help, built it into a successful business and industry caterer with annual turnover of more than £20m and 400 employees. Late last year Lexington moved to a new London office having outgrown its home near Mansion House setting up at Queen Street, effectively doubling their space and adding a training room.

Tim West and Mike Sunley - Career guide

Before setting up Lexington in 2002 Mike Sunley was a board director for Avenance with responsibility for 130 contracts in London. Sunley had also held senior management roles with both High Table and Compass, accumulating more than 18 years of experience in the sector.

Tim West left school to work as a kitchen porter at army cadet camps. He abandoned a career in banking at Barclays to take his HND in hotel and catering administration at Oxford Brookes University.

From 1977 West took various catering roles at London NHS hospitals, concluding his time as district catering manager for the Guys Hospital group.

He moved to Compass in 1982, initially as operations manager for the City of London. Eventually he was handling 100 high-profile accounts as regional manager.

In 1987, at the age of 32, West became operations director of High Table, a privately owned caterer in the City of London with a £10m turnover. He became managing director in 1991 following its acquisition by Groupe Elior of France and grew the group into the UK's fourth-largest contract caterer. It was relaunched as Avenance UK in 2000 - when West became chief executive - and as Elior UK in 2005. West became the group's first chairman in June 2004.

West became chief executive of Lexington Catering in January 2006 - buying out co-founder Clare Prowse in the process - and has just stepped up to the role of chairman.

Tim West and Mike Sunley - What we think

With former sales and marketing director Julia Edmonds taking on the managing director's role and clients such as the London Business School, Man Group and property agent Knight Frank, it appears that Sunley and West have built a caterer set to endure. Ranking11th on the full Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work For 2011 for in March (having featured on the SME list in 2009) shows that looking after the staff which make the caterer what it is hasn't been forgotten in the pursuit of growth.

Nor has focus been lost with Sunley telling Caterer last year "we've always taken the view that we're a caterer and food is what we do, not facilities management", when asked if the business felt the need to diversify.

Instead Sunley and West are concentrating on home-grown initiatives, such as its Lexington Chef competition. With a solid foundation established, the recession negotiated and a strong senior team in place, including chef-director Rob Kirby and co-founders and directors Katharine Lewis and Rachael Lindner, Sunley and West will likely be toasting plenty more success.

Tim West and Mike Sunley's ranking in the 2010 100 >>

Lexington's Rob Kirby writes charity cookbook for Great Ormond Street Hospital >>

The Caterer Interview: Mike Sunley >>

Lexington awarded Investors in People gold status >>

Lexington Catering website >>

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