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The Brookwood Partnership and ABsolutely Catering merge with CH&Co Group

15 July 2016 by
The Brookwood Partnership and ABsolutely Catering merge with CH&Co Group

Independent education caterer, the Brookwood Partnership, and its sister company, ABsolutely Catering, have merged with their larger competitor CH&Co Group to become specialist education brands within the company.

The merger gives the newly enlarged group a turnover in excess of £200m, and its associated brands will provide catering at over 600 sites across the UK, employing nearly 6,000 people.

Brookwood's co-founders, Kate Martin and Sue Parfett, will continue in their current roles as managing partners in the newly merged business.

The deal is expected to allow Brookwood to compete more effectively in the increasingly competitive education catering marketplace with the clout of the bigger CH&Co behind it. Meanwhile, the merger gives CH&Co, which currently operates some contracts in the independent and state school catering services markets, a larger foothold in the sector.

CH&Co Group's CEO, Bill Toner said the deal was the right choice for both companies: "With the combined assets and team of CH&Co Group and Brookwood, we have greater strength to compete even more vigorously in the education sector. As we've proven over the past year since CH&Co merged with Host and Catermasters, it is possible to have a larger group but maintain the feel and personal contact associated with smaller companies. Our group is made up of a number of niche brands, each targeting specific business areas, and Brookwood and ABsolutely Catering will operate separately as education specialists. Both of these brands, like the companies within our group, are established caterers focussed on providing excellent food and service with a reputation for looking after clients, customers and employees; we have a lot of common ground to build on."

Brookwood's managing partner Kate Martin said: "We began talking to Tim Jones, CH&Co Group's chairman, late last year. As we talked, it became clear that our two organisations would be a great fit because CH&Co Group wanted to expand further in the education sector. We would also have greater resources between us to constantly develop and enhance our client service and of course, we both share a similar ethos of food, people and clients.

"We've been very impressed with the way that the CH&Co and Host Catermasters integration was handled when they merged just over a year ago. They have maintained a very high client retention rate of 97%, a strong focus on quality food and service, and have still managed to keep the unique feel of the various brands that make up the group. That gave us the confidence that we too will be able to do the same as part of the group and this helps us take Brookwood and ABsolutely on to the next chapter."

Tim Jones, chairman of CH&Co Group, added, "The existing management teams of both companies will remain in position and focus on the day to day business. Behind the scenes, and as we did last year, project teams will be looking at how both organisations work and we will take the best of both companies to help us further strengthen the Group going forward.

"The company continues to be predominantly management owned and partly funded by CH&Co Group's investor partners, MML Capital."

The Brookwood Partnership was founded in 1996 with the aim of putting chefs back into school kitchens and offering modern food styles that children wanted to eat. It acquired the educational contracts from Graysons Education in 2013 and moved into the publically funded schools sector under the brand of ABsolutely Catering. Today The Brookwood Group provides a fresh food service to nearly 170 schools, serving 65,000 fresh meals each school day.

Meanwhile, the CH&Co Group was formed in June 2015 through the merger of CH&Co and HCM (Host Catermasters) Group. The company is a leading independent catering and hospitality group with a number of specialist businesses: Ampersand (public catering at visitor attractions, event catering & venue sales), Charlton House (catering in the workplace & higher education), Chester Boyd (livery hall & private venue catering), Host & Catermasters (catering in the workplace, healthcare and education), Lusso (corporate fine dining & hospitality), ITA* (venue booking agency), and Via 360 (reception & front of house services).

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