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The Caterer

Don Davenport

12 May 2005
Don Davenport

Overall ranking: 23

Contract caterers ranking: 5

Snapshot

Don Davenport is chief executive officer for the UK and Ireland at Compass Group, the world's largest food service operator. The UK operation generates nearly one-quarter of group turnover and last year achieved an operating profit of £294m on sales of £2.75b.

Career guide

Between 1959 and 1961, Davenport trained as a chef, gaining experience in the Mayfair hotel and Trocadero restaurant in London.

After starting a two-year management course with Trusthouse Forte in 1961, Davenport switched to its contract catering division, Gardner Merchant, where he became an area manager at the age of 22 and then regional director for the South west.

In 1979, he joined P&O's Sutcliffe Catering division as managing director for the South, rising to group managing director in 1990. After Granada bought Sutcliffe in 1993, he became chief executive of the new Granada Services to Business division.

Granada's 1996 acquisition of Forte brought Davenport the new role of group managing director of Granada Hospitality and, in 1998, chief executive of Granada Restaurants, where he oversaw a £1.9b operation covering contract catering, hotels, motorway service area and roadside restaurants.

Davenport became chief executive officer for Compass's UK and Ireland division in July 2000 after it merged with Granada.

What we think

Davenport won the Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey Food Service Caterer of the Year award in 1997 for driving the most dynamic growth areas at Granada - namely contract catering and roadside dining. He was behind key food service acquisitions such as Baxter & Platts, CCG's business and industry division, Bromwich Catering and Shaw Catering.

In 2000 Davenport was in charge of the merged food service businesses of Compass and Granada, which toppled Sodexho from the top slot in the UK. He also briefly presided over motorway service areas (which were retained) along with Travelodge budget hotels, Welcome Break, and the Little Chef and Happy Eater roadside restaurants (which were not).

Compass's UK and Ireland business now employs 110,000 staff across 8,500 sites and serves nearly three million meals a day. Concessions and the business and industry sector account for 40% and 38% of turnover.

Davenport presides over more than twenty UK brands ranging from business and industry giant Eurest to Roux Fine Dining and the Medirest and Scholarest health and education specialists. He also looks after the UK end of five global brands, including Selecta Vending, airport and railway specialist Select Service Partner and Moto motorway service areas.

The UK and Ireland division took a bit of a battering in 2004, when operating profits slumped from £360m to £294m. The transfer of military and offshore accounts to other parts of the world cost the UK £18m in profits. A further £30m was lost due to the demise of a key food supplier, start-up costs at in-store restaurants and - most damagingly - lower-than-expected margins from local authority education contracts.

Davenport has taken steps to tackle the latter problem by demanding board approval for new education contracts in the public sector. In January, he announced that the group would not bid for school contracts worth less than 55p a meal.

In the peer-reviewed Britain's Most Admired Companies 2004 rankings, Compass was listed 20th in the pan-industry top 220 and was second only to Greene King among hospitality firms.

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