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The Caterer

Graham Gilbert

21 September 2006
Graham Gilbert

Overall ranking: 56 (new entrant)

Contract caterer ranking: 13

Graham Gilbert is the managing director of OCS Catering & Support Services, a contract caterer active in the B&I, education, healthcare and vending sectors.

The group, which is based in Crawley in West Sussex, turns over £80m a year across 200 contracts that provide jobs for more than 3,000 staff. It operates under six key brands - OCS Education, OCS Healthcare, Eligo, Foodhouse, Just Deli and Chameleon.

It is part of OCS Group, a £600m Surrey-based facilities management firm that is also involved in cleaning and laundry, engineering, hygiene, security, transport and integrated services.

OCS started life in 1900 as The New Century Window and General Cleaning Company. The OCS name initially stood for Office Cleaning Services but, reflecting the group's diversification, is now an acronym for One Complete Solution.

Graham Gilbert - Career guide
Graham Gilbert, who was born in August 1948, started his career as a trainee manager with Forte before moving to Gardner Merchant. He took part in the group's management buy-out from Forte in 1993 and in its subsequent sale to Sodexho Alliance of France in 1995.

His last position at Sodexho was managing director of business and industry for the South of England, where he was in charge of a region with more than 200 accounts and a turnover in excess of £45m.

Gilbert joined OCS in May 2003 as sales director and was promoted to managing director just three months later, in August 2003. He joined the OCS board in 2005.

Graham Gilbert - What we think
Graham Gilbert has doubled the turnover at OCS Catering during his three years at the helm through a combination of organic growth and through some strategic acquisitions that both extended its presence in under-represented markets and added to its developing brands offer.

The OCS Group first set up its catering division in 1990 but changed the name to Sovereign Catering a year later because it found the OCS name - which was then associated with office cleaning - difficult to market in the foodservice sector.

The OCS name was reinstated in 2002 and Gilbert has developed a range of brands to help establish the division's reputation as a caterer.

Gilbert created the Eligo brand for city dining, growing the number of Eligo contracts from zero to 12 in the past 18 months. Eligo clients include Land Securities Trillium, Barings Asset Management and Mearsk.

He also developed the Foodhouse brand now in use across more than 50 B&I sites, including all of Jaguar's plants and development centres.

Perhaps his biggest coup was the £7m-plus acquisition of Reading-based Just Deli in November 2004 - a move that made OCS Catering the sixth largest player in the UK market.

Just Deli was founded by John Duffield in 1996 to offer a High Street-style deli-bar-bistro service to B&I clients, mostly in London and the Thames Valley. It had a forecast £11m turnover, 300 staff and more than 50 contracts across 70-plus sites at the time of its takeover, when it swelled the OCS turnover to £55m.

Crucially, it provided a major boost to the B&I business at OCS which had, to date, operated predominantly in the hospital catering sector.

Just Deli went on to develop the Just Fine brand for city fine dining which has since been absorbed into Eligo, along with the award-winning Chameleon brand. Chameleon, which won the Catering Marketing award in 2005, offers a highly adaptable retail-style catering service for multi-tenanted offices and business parks.

In April 2006, Gilbert bought up Senate Catering's education and city contracts which helped the group consolidate its Eligo brand in the City of London and propelled it into two new education sectors -Universities and independent schools.

Gilbert has also launched a number of internal awards to recognise and reward staff skills - such as OCS Chef of the Year, Barista of the Year and Salon Culinaire - which have proved to be great motivators for his staff.

Graham Gilbert - Further information

OCS Catering official website

Just Deli official website

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