Compass Group has appointed Jason Leek as managing director of its newly formed fine-dining division.
Leek, 35, is a lawyer by training and will move from his current role as director of corporate development on 1 December. He will oversee Restaurant Associates, Baxter & Platts and Everson Hewett, which will eventually be merged into a single brand.
The appointment of someone with no food service training has been met with a note of caution by the industry. Consultant Chris Stern said: "He could be a breath of fresh air, but I wonder if Compass is forgetting that they cook sausages. Let's not forget that it's fundamentally not a high-flying business."
Food service consultant Peter Pitham added: "It's a risk to bring in somebody with no specialist food knowledge. Clients are often confused about the way catering works, and they need to feel loved and understood by the top man."
But Leek, who led Compass's sale of its SSP travel concession business, defended his background. "In my career I've done a lot of work with investment banks, law firms and accountants," he told Caterer. "I understand what makes our fine-dining clients tick."
Leek was less forthcoming about a timetable for the brand merger or whether jobs would go as a result of the unification. "Nothing is on the table yet because we want to do things right," he said. "Any change will be done with the clients' interests at heart."
Consultant Jonathan Doughty said the sooner clients were made aware of the changes the better. "Ending the multiple brands is a step in the right direction, but bridges need to be rebuilt with clients, who are impatient to know what's going to happen next," he said.
By Tom Bill