Top 100: Mike Sunley, Lexington Catering

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Mike Sunley, Lexington Catering

Overall ranking: 94 (76 with Tim West in 2012)

Foodservice ranking: 11 (12 with Tim West in 2012)

Snapshot Mike Sunley is chief executive of Lexington Catering, an established City foodservice business now owned by Elior. Prior to Lexington's acquisition by Elior in 2014, Sunley (with the help of chairman Tim West and a strong leadership team) had established the business as a successful boutique operator in the heart of the City of London with a reported annual turnover of £33.2m and pre-tax profit of £1.5m in 2013 – up 25.8% and 29.6% year-on-year respectively.

The strength of this performance, alongside the company's reputation for prioritising people and food in its operations, won Sunley the 2013 Foodservice Caterer of the Year Catey. Growth at Lexington has continued. Revenue was £38.5m for the year ended 30 September 2016, up 16% since before the acquisition, while pre-tax profit was £2.5m for the same period.

What we think

Before setting up Lexington in 2002, Sunley was a board director for Avenance with responsibility for 130 contracts in London. He had also held senior management roles with both High Table and Compass Group.

When he co-founded Lexington Catering with directors Katherine Lewis and Rachel Lindner, it was with a determination "to do things differently" and put food and people at the heart of the organisation. Sunley's belief that business leaders should help support Britain's young talent and invest time to support future careers enabled the launch of the Lex School of Talent in 2011. In 2017 Kal Abate, a chef de partie at Lexington's London Business School contract, was named the 10th winner of Lexington's annual LexChef competition.

What is perhaps most striking about Sunley today is how successfully he has maintained Lexington's well-earned respect from its peers after its acquisition by Elior three years ago.

It hasn't been entirely plain sailing. Last year it quietly lost flagship contract Mann Group to Bartlett Mitchell, which will have been a blow. But promises made in 2014 of business as usual have largely been fulfilled, thanks in no small part to Sunley, as well as his Elior counterpart chief executive Catherine Roe.

Lexington retains the spirit for which it has long been known, as well as most of its leadership team, including Lewis and Lindner, managing director Julia Edmonds and chef director Rob Kirby. And while it has clearly benefited from sharing back of house operations with its parent company, Lexington brings plenty to the table too.

In the past Elior might have talked up its corporate credentials a tad more than its foodieness, but with Lexington in the fold, there is a more balanced perception of what the combined business is about.

Further information

Kal Abate wins Lexington's Chef of the Year 2017 >>

Lexington Catering signs £20m deal with London Business School >>

Elior buys Lexington Catering >>

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