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Caterers must be more open with customers

22 May 2008 by

The contract catering sector needs to improve its integrity to become a more attractive career option for graduates, according to the managing director of City caterer Vacherin.

Mark Philpott, the former managing director of Sodexo's Directors Table, said that although he was at last seeing students opting for contract catering as a first choice, caterers still needed to tackle the thorny issue of supplier discounts. These have caused controversy for many years because of the perception that some caterers are making an unfair profit by not passing purchasing discounts on to the client.

Speaking to an audience of contract caterers and graduates at Chess Executive's H Talk event in London last week, Philpott added: "There remain big issues around discounts in the industry - and I say that as a ‘reformed liar'. There's a long way to go if we are to become an industry of choice for the best talent."

Philpott founded Vacherin in 2002 with Clive Hetherington. The business is run on a management-fee model, with cost-price purchasing and no supplier discounts.

However, Nick Howe, managing director of private school caterer Holroyd Howe Independent, said he was surprised the debate around discounts was still rumbling on. "As you grow as a company you naturally get offered discounts," he said. "What is important is that you are open with the client from the off."

Tim West, chairman of Lexington Catering, agreed and suggested the Vacherin model wasn't viable for all caterers. "Not all clients want to see large management fees, and that's because many mistakenly think they represent pure profit," he said.

• See next week's Caterer for the latest instalment of our Vacherin Adopted Business.

Read more at www.caterersearch.com/contractcatering

By Chris Druce

E-mail your comments to Chris Druce here.

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