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Caterersearch.com 100: Ian Sarson

01 July 2010

Overall ranking: 40

Food service ranking: 3

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 Group is staggering in its reach, and Sarson - as group managing director, UK and Ireland - now has a pivotal role to play in its future success.

It 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 has recently returned to the acquisition trail again with the purchase of both Southeast Service Corporation, a US provider of soft support services operating in the education and business and industry sectors, and French education and healthcare caterer Caterine Restauration.

Group pre-tax profit for the 12 months to 30 September 2009 rose 36.6% to £773m, up from £566m the previous year, with revenue up 17% to £13.4b. Sales in the UK and Ireland, which account for 13.6% of Compass's group revenues, fell 5% to £1.8b, which still leaves it as the largest caterer in the territory by some way.

Ian Sarson - Career guide

Managing director for specialist markets, including healthcare and education, before stepping up to 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 - 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 - What we think

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

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.

The City currently sees Compass as a star buy, reasoning that it has endured the downturn well and should see a strong bounce-back as global economies return to growth. The caterer's prospects in the coming years prompted one analyst recently to release a note on the company entitled: "This was recession? Hold on to hat for recovery." Compass's interim results (to March 2010) showed that the company had maintained its momentum, with revenue up 2.6% at £7.1b and group pre-tax profit at £462m. Sarson is a safe bet to deliver on this potential and keep the Compass machine rolling on.

Ian Sarson - Further information

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

Compass makes new senior appointments >>

Compass Group website: Executive team >>

Read more from the Caterersearch.com 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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