The recession presents a "great opportunity" for contract caterers to showcase their worth, according to the chief executive of Elior UK.
In an exclusive interview with Caterersearch, Mike Audis said that, with employees shunning the high street and returning to staff restaurants in significant numbers to save money, contract caterers had the perfect chance to shine.
"It's a great opportunity to reinforce the benefits we provide both for clients and customers," said Audis, although he conceded that the business and industry (B&I) market was tough as many clients were "battening down the hatches".
In response to the downturn, Elior has cut its head office team, with 17 voluntary redundancies since the start of its financial year in September.
Departures include Alison Avis, who previously headed up the company's Marks & Spencer contract, and more recently corporate responsibility; Bruce McLauchlan, internal communications manager; and Sandra Coulson, who had previously been an operations director.
However, Audis said the union of B&I caterer Avenance and concession business Eliance Restaurants in 2005, creating Elior UK, had proved a great success with a target of doubling the size of the business in five years surpassed last year with a turnover of £280m and profitability improved eight-fold. Elior UK now employs some 10,000 full-time workers.
Audis confirmed he was looking to find a replacement for Lynn McClelland, who left her role of managing director of its Contracts division last November.
But Andrew Mortimer's vacant role as managing director of Elior Integrated Services is frozen for now, according to Audis, as facilities management (FM) growth outside of four major Ministry of Defence contracts had been a "slow burn" since the FM division was formed in 2007.
The company is currently in the process of launching a host of new concession brands to boost its presence in the travel retail market.
Elior UK contract wins and contract retentions in financial year from September 2008
Technology company 3M
Law firm DLA Piper (North)
North London Schools
Extensions Investment firm Fidelity
National Museum of Wales
Duxford Imperial War Museum
Rugby School, Warwickshire
Malvern College, Worcestershire
Law firm Linklaters
Extension of Tesco staff restaurant deal by two sites to 110
By Chris Druce
E-mail your comments to Chris Druce here.