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Top 100: Chris Bray, Sodexo Sports & Leisure

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Chris Bray, Sodexo Sports & Leisure

Overall ranking: 99 (new entry)

Foodservice ranking: 13 (new entry)

Snapshot

Chris Bray has been chief executive of Sodexo UK & Ireland's high-profile sports and leisure division since January 2016. He oversees a business with responsibility for more than 50 venues, including Ascot Racecourse, Newcastle United FC, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Hampden Park as part of the Prestige Venues & Events collection in the UK and Ireland. His division also provides services at events such as Royal Ascot, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Henley Royal Regatta and even the Tour de France. Bray has worked for Sodexo for more than a decade, initially as retail director for Sodexo Defence, before becoming managing director of the division's Cyprus operations. On his return to the UK, he became divisional director for Sodexo corporate services before taking on his current role.

What we think

Sodexo is a huge organisation, with global revenues of £17b, which makes for a considerable number of senior figures in the UK and Ireland arm of the business from which to choose for The Caterer Top 100. There aren't enough places to feature them all, but Bray's high profile in the industry means that he makes the cut.

Bray is probably best known for helping to broker the foodservice giant's acquisition of Peyton and Byrne out of administration in October 2016, less than a year after he became chief executive of Sodexo's sports and leisure division. The very different cultures and relative sizes of the two companies raised eyebrows in some quarters.

But Bray had faith that the tie-up could work and accompanied Sodexo director Nathalie Bellon-Szabo, daughter of Sodexo founder Pierre Bellon, to meet the Peytons to make sure the fit was right. He also recognised that Peyton and Byrne needs to retain its soul and independent spirit. The reward has been several blue-riband contracts to add to the sport and leisure division's growing portfolio, including the National Gallery's National Dining Rooms, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Imperial War Museum, the ICA and the Wallace Collection.

Meanwhile, the rest of the division looks to be in rude health. Last year, Sodexo launched Bateaux Windsor, with a new vessel offering memorable river cruises, as a sister operation to Bateaux London. In Scotland, the business has a deal with Aberdeen FC, recently extended for three years, as well as a £20m contract at Hamilton Park racecourse near Glasgow, recently extended for 10 years.

The company has cultivated some promising-looking relationships with high-profile chefs, including Tomos Parry of the newly opened Brat in London, who hosted supper clubs with Peyton Events last year at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Soon the spotlight will be on another of the high-profile contracts Bray oversees, when Hampden Park stages games as part of the 2020 European Championships.

Meanwhile the acquisition of Centerplate at the tail-end of 2017 has expanded Sodexo's sports and leisure reach in the UK considerably, suggesting there will be very few dull days at the office for Bray any time soon.

Further information

Sodexo appoints Chris Bray as CEO for sports & leisure >>

Sodexo opens new restaurant at Brighton's Amex Stadium >>

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