Tim West

21 September 2006
Tim West

Overall ranking: 93 (new entrant)

Contract caterer ranking: 17

Tim West built Elior into the UK's fourth largest contract caterer and then quit to seek the new challenge of building up the much smaller Lexington Catering group in the role of chief executive.

Lexington is an up-and-coming London-based caterer with 220 staff working on around 16 B&I contracts in the South-east of England. It anticipates a turnover of £60m for 2006.

It provides healthy, seasonal meals through large staff restaurants, express service delis, cafés and coffee bars that are informed by a "Fresh is Best" and "Buy Local" policy.

Tim West - Career guide Tim West, who is now 51, left school to work as a kitchen porter at army cadet camps. He abandoned a career in banking at Barclays to take his HND in hotel and catering administration at Oxford Brookes.

From 1977, West took various catering roles at London NHS hospitals, including that of district catering manager for three infirmaries.

He moved to Grand Metropolitan Catering (now Compass) in 1982, initially as operations manager for the City of London. Eventually he was handling 100 high-profile accounts as regional manager.

In 1987, at the age of 32, West became operations director of High Table, a privately owned caterer in the City of London with a £10m turnover.

He became managing director in 1991 following its acquisition by Groupe Elior of France and grew the group into the UK's fourth largest contract caterer. It was relaunched as Avenance UK in 2000 (when West became chief executive) and as Elior UK in 2005. West became the group's first chairman in June 2004.

He became chief executive of Lexington Catering in January 2006.

Tim West - What we think
Tim West won the Catey Food Service Caterer of the Year award in 1998 for his success in growing High Table from a £10m turnover in 1987 to a £60m operation by 1999 - but the best was yet to come.

Following Elior's acquisition of High Table in 1991, West masterminded a series of mergers and acquisitions that propelled Avenance into the big league to become the UK's fourth largest caterer with a 2005 turnover of £117m, 620-plus contracts and more than 6,000 staff.

Between 1995 and 2002, West forged a partnership with Catering & Allied and added Hallmark, Drummond Thompson, Brian Smith, Nelson Hind and Digby Trout Restaurants to the fold.

Having reached the heady heights of the corporate world, West decided to turn his attentions to a smaller operation with 30-80 contracts.

His choice, Lexington Catering, may have come as a surprise to many as the fledgling four-year old group had suffered a major setback in June 2005 with the loss of a £5.5m contract wiped out half its turnover.

West, however, sees great potential in the group and believes it has established solid foundations for future success.

"It has a culture of excellence and it embraces new technology and cutting-edge ideas. I thrive in that sort of 'can do' environment where people are focussed on delivering superb service to the customer," West explained.

It must have seemed like a home from home as the group was set up in January 2002 by former Avenance employees - Mike Sunley and Clare Prowse, the joint managing directors who privately raised the £100,000 start-up funds.

Within eight months the group secured its first contract, winning from Avenance a £1.5m deal to feed 950 staff at telecom giant T-Mobile's new head office in Hatfield. By December, the contract grew in value to £2m after £1,000 more T-Mobile staff had moved in.

The group doubled in size in January 2003 when it won (again, from Avenance) the contract to feed 6,000 staff at all T-Mobiles sites around the country. The loss of this contract in June 2005 prompted the departure of Prowse, who sold her 45% stake in the company to West in October.

West believes the company is now re-emerging as a major player - it has opened six new outlets in recent months and is shortlisted for several large and high-profile clients.

West is also a fellow of the HCIMA, a past chair of the food and service management panel; of the British Hospitality Association, a patron of the Association of Catering Engineers, a Springobard supporter, and chair of Alumni for the Oxford Brookes hotels, tourism and leisure school.

Tim West - Further information

Lexington Catering official websiteRead more about the CatererSearch 100, the list of the most influential people here

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