Contract caterer Crown Group has set up a new division to target the sports and leisure market after winning a £50m deal to run the catering at 75 leisure centres across the UK.
From next week, the newly created Leisurextra division will run the café, bar, function and vending facilities at the centres on behalf of Leisure Connection, which runs the properties.
The contract, which is expected to generate £50m turnover over its 10-year duration, involves mostly local authority-owned centres. A handful belong to independent trusts and private members' clubs and three are PFI projects.
Leisurextra is headed up by managing director Dale Wild, who has clocked up more than 25 years in public leisure facilities management. He has been poached from Leisure Connection, which he joined 12 months ago to review its catering operation.
According to Wild, public leisure centres represent a potentially huge market for contractors, as 90% (or 4,000) of the existing 4,500 centres are currently run by local authorities.
Although Leisurextra hopes to become a key player in the sector, it is locked into a three-year exclusivity deal with Leisure Connection.
"This ensures we don't approach or react to approaches from Leisure Connection's main competitors, such as DC Leisure, SLM and Parkwood," Wild said. "But, in the interim, we can ply our trade to local authorities and independent leisure organisations.
"Being a member of the Crown Group will allow us to draw on the skills and expertise of the member companies to provide a first-class service that is competitively priced," he added.
Russell Morgan, Crown Group chairman, said the group would be making a substantial investment "over the million mark" in Leisurextra over the 10-year period.
Crown Group's large stable of brands includes Cambridge's Michelin-starred fine-dining venue Midsummer House, B&I specialist Missing Ingredients and Crown Venue Catering.
By Angela Frewin