Serial hospitality entrepreneur Jerry Brand has died at the age of 64 following a short battle with cancer.
Tributes have been paid to a "big character" who was described as a driven and passionate businessman who shook up the contract catering world.
Brand's entrepreneurial career began in 1988 when he set up contract catering firm Russell & Brand, which he built into one of Britain's biggest caterers before selling to Marriott Management Services for a reported £15m in 1996.
After the sale he invested £2.5m in setting up a chain of high street restaurants under the name Orange Balloon, where he worked alongside chef Brian Turner for a time. Brand sold the group's six restaurants to Italian chain ASK in 1999.
In 2004 he returned to contract catering and set up Host Management. Bill Toner took over as chief executive in 2011 when the business had around 86 contracts in the UK, with Brand relinquishing his managing director role to concentrate on his firm Caternet, an e-procurement platform for the hospitality sector.
In 2014, Host Management and Catermasters merged to create HCM Group and in 2015 the business merged with CH&CO, creating a company with a team of 4,500 and a combined turnover approaching £200m.
Remembering his time working with Brand, Toner, now chief executive of CH&CO, said: "It's with great sadness I say goodbye to a dear friend, colleague and business partner. The news of Jerry's death shook all who knew him well.
"Others thought our business partnership was odd, that it wouldn't last - two big characters at each other's throats. We proved everyone wrong, our shared work ethic, ambition and most importantly, very strong family values brought the best out of both of us.
"Jerry and I had a long chat a few weeks ago. His strength of character and his focus on making everything easier for his family made me feel ever so humble. We laughed about the old marketing egg campaign (lots will remember) that made him famous! RIP Jerry. I know how absolutely devastated your family and friends are, you will be sorely missed."
Tim Jones, chairman of CH&CO, described Brand as a "true force of nature" whether he was "on the golf course or chasing a catering contract".
He said: "He was a tremendous character, there was never a dull moment with Jerry. He was very innovative and always out to move things forward and wasn't afraid to shake things up and express an opinion. I had a huge amount of respect for him, he was unique in so many different ways.
"He had a tremendous drive for success and to achieve the things he believed in. He was a true entrepreneur. Some people might describe him as a bit of a Marmite character, but he used to make me laugh because he has not afraid to say what he was thinking."
Caternet was rebranded as Zupa in 2017, and recently Brand worked alongside his son Ollie to develop ZupaPlatform.
A statement on behalf of Zupa said: "Jerry Brand will be sorely missed by all who knew him. A driven, passionate business man, his contribution to the hospitality sector and his achievements will be celebrated and remembered by his family, friends and business colleagues for many years."
29-year-old Ollie has taken over as chief executive of Zupa following his father's passing. The company plans to open an investment round this year, launch the ZupaPlatform and grow into new sectors, as well as expand into Ireland.
Ollie said he was committed to delivering his father's vision for the business: "This was a dream, borne out of 34+ years of entrepreneurship and I'm very proud to be taking the company forward during this exciting period," he added.
The Brand family said in a statement: "We are devastated and [Jerry's] irreplaceable presence will be sorely missed. The number of people who have been in touch with us is overwhelming, it really highlights just how special he was, and it is lovely to celebrate his life. We are so proud of him."
A final statement from Jerry, shared by the company, was full of praise for his son. He said: "It's a swift goodbye from me as Ollie becomes the major founder and chief executive of Zupa. Ollie and I have evolved and enhanced Zupa together. My input has been from the traditional management perspective, and Ollie's has been from a more modernised approach to delivering the cutting-edge, Azure micro-service, SaaS based platform that we both agreed we wanted.
"The truth is, Ollie has been the catalyst across the entire four year project from start to finish, and he certainly shares those entrepreneurial genes that will take the company where it needs to go."
Jerry Brand's career
1979-82 Westminster College – HND in Hotel & Catering Management
1982-84 Grandmet Catering Services (now Compass)
1984-88 Catering by County (sold to Sutcliffe)
1988-96 Russell & Brand (sold to Marriott Management Services)
1997-99 The Orange Balloon (sold to ASK)
2000-04 Completed his MBA plus non-executive work for RBS
2004-09 Host Management (stepped aside to bring in new chief executive and to focus on Caternet)
2009-2017 Caternet (e-procurement platform for hospitality sector)
2017 Rebranded Caternet to Zupa and built ZupaPlatform with son Ollie