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The Caterer

Mike Audis

12 May 2005
Mike Audis

Overall ranking: 32

Contract caterer ranking: 6

Snapshot

Mike Audis was promoted from the role of chief executive officer of Avenance UK to chief executive officer of Elior UK this March following a restructure of the company that has rapidly grown into the UK's fourth largest contract caterer.

Its parent, Groupe Elior of France, operates in 12 countries and has annual sales of €2.54b (£1.76b) and profits of €117.7m (£81.6m).

The UK arm has a £177.2m turnover and employs more than 6,000 staff across 620 contracts. It feeds more than 250,000 people in more than 600 restaurants, of which 460 are staff restaurants in the business and industry sector.

Career guide

After working as a trainee hotel manager for two years, Audis spent the next 25 years with contract caterer Gardner Merchant (now Sodexho).

He worked progressively with Ford at its Dagenham plant, its European headquarters in Brentwood, and its southern operation before integrating vending and catering across 51 Ford sites.

He was promoted to deputy regional director for the North East, and then for the South, before rising to sales and marketing director. After Sodexho Alliance of France bought Gardner Merchant in 1995, Audis served as managing director for Gardner Merchant UK South for four years.

Audis then ran his own consultancy until 2002, when he became managing director of Avenance's two southern regions. A year later he was promoted to director of new business development and, in June 2004, to chief executive of Avenance.

What we think

Audis's new role puts him in charge of a company that is now managed as a single operation. The reorganisation reflects its rapid expansion since Elior of France bought the £14-turnover High Table in 1992 and quickly added Hallmark, Drummond Thompson, Brian Smith and Nelson Hind to become Avenance UK in 2000.

It now comprises two divisions. Avenance is the contract catering arm handling the business and industry sector, which represented 90% of group turnover in 2003, while the specialist markets division combines the concessions business of Eliance Restaurants and its subsidiary brands Digby Trout Restaurants and Azure.

Digby Trout runs restaurants in historic sites such as Edinburgh Castle, the British Museum and the Tower of London, along with 16 in-store restaurants in 13 House of Fraser department stores in London and Edinburgh). Azure is the sports and events caterer in which specialists markets bought a 51% stake late last year.

Specialist markets has also taken over Avenance's education, healthcare and defence contracts, which is a sector Elior wants to grow to 40% of group turnover. Audis installed a new sales team to handle this sector while director of new business.

The concessions business, which holds 98 contracts, has also been earmarked for growth. Although it has pulled out of the motorway service area business due to the puacity of purchasing opportunities, Elior wants to challenge Compass's dominance in airports, railways and museums.

Since the end of last year, Elior has added the high-class patisserie brand Paul to some of its airport and historic sites and has set up a central bakery to support its London sites. It has also opened franchised Puccino's coffee bars at railway stations in Milton Keynes, York and Watford.

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