Richard Cousins, the former boss of plasterboard company BPB, is the new chief executive of Compass Group.
He takes over from Mike Bailey, whose position was weakened after three profit warnings in a year.
"I am delighted to be appointed chief executive of such a strong business and look forward to working with the board to improve the performance of the business," Cousins said.
Cousins will take up his £750,000-a-year role on 1 June. His performance-related annual bonus is a maximum of 150% of his salary but his basic pay packet is less than Bailey's £977,000.
Compass chairman Roy Gardner said: "Richard will bring to the organisation a valuable combination of senior operational management of a global enterprise and business transformation skills."
The City has given the appointment a cautious welcome.
Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein analyst Karl Green said: "Cousins is probably the best candidate Compass could have laid its hands on. He has no foodservice industry experience but this is no bad thing as the catering industry is in a state of flux and the global number one needs a fresh pair of eyes."
But Green warned that the emphasis placed by Compass on his mergers, acquisitions and restructuring credentials in the appointment release it issued, may make some nervous.
"Few can forget the Granada merger which destroyed value and alienated shareholders," he said.
By Tom Bill
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