Elior UK is the fifth largest contract caterer in the UK and is owned by Paris-based Groupe Elior, the biggest player in France and the third or fourth ranking player in the world (depending on category).
The parent company was founded in 1991 by Francis Markus and Robert Zolade, former employees of leading French restaurant and commercial catering group Jacques Borel International (JBI). They created Bercy Management to buy out Accor’s commercial catering arm, Générale de Restauration, which the hotel group had bought from JBI in 1983.
Bercy changed its name to Elior in 1998 ahead of a initial public offering and flotation on the Euronext Paris stock exchange and regrouped its activities under the Avenance (contract catering) and Eliance (commercial and concessions catering) names. The group delisted in 2006 when UK private equity firm Charterhouse bought it out for £2.1b to become the majority shareholder.
An attempted sale in 2013 was put on hold as the group made its long-planned move into the USA. As subsequent bids failed to match expectations, the planned sale was shelved in favour of a return to the Euronext Paris stock exchange that raised €785m from the initial public offering.
One of the fledgling group’s first steps was to gain a foothold in the UK with the 1992 partial purchase of High Table, a London-based high-end executive dining and catering company whose operations director, Tim West, presided over its UK development until his departure in 2005.
The UK acquisitions continued, adding in Manchester-based Drummond Thompson (1994), Hertfordshire-based Hallmark Executive Catering (1997), Leicester-based Brian Smith (1999) and stadia caterer Azure Support Services (2004).
The biggest buys involved Catering & Allied (C&A) and Nelson Hind. Bercy bought a 25% stake in C&A in 1995 via a joint holding company called Eurocater. C&A was the UK’s third largest contract caterer at the time and was a trail-blazer that helped pioneer the move from canteens to staff restaurants – it was also one of the first caterers to offer hotel-style services and to set up in Europe (with a Dutch subsidiary). It owned Digby Trout Restaurants, which was responsible for introducing hot food to museums.
The UK company became the UK’s fifth largest contract caterer when it completed the acquisition of C&A in 1999. The following year, it shot into third position with the acquisition of Nelson Hind, the UK’s largest independent contract caterer.
With so many company names in its portfolio, the UK arm has undergone a number of restructures. In 2005, Avenance UK was renamed Elior UK and split into two divisions – Avenance for business and industry and Specialist Markets comprising Eliance concessions, Digby Trout, Azure, education, health and defence.
In 2007, it was reorganized into three divisions - Elior Integrated Services facilities management business (including Avenance Defence Contracts); Concessions (travel and retail contracts, Azure, Digby Trout and new venue-finding service Venue-Elior); and Contract Management (Avenance B&I, and the newly-separated education and healthcare businesses).
In 2011, Elior UK elected to rebrand under the Elior name, ditching names such as Avenance and Digby Trout by the end of the year and phasing out Azure over a longer period
However, it did launch the Ellipse name for its new contracted reception services in 2013 and intends to retain the Lexington Catering name that it snapped up in 2014. Lexington – a boutique London firm founded in 2002 by a quartet of former Avenance senior managers – also returned former Elior chief executive Tim West and chef-director Rob Kirby to the Elior fold.
Chief executive, Lexington Catering Mike Sunley
National sales director Robin Givens
HR director Arran McDowell
Marketing and external communications director Carl Morris
Non-executive director and chairman Tim West
Elior UK operates in three key areas:
- Food services (business and industry, the City, healthcare, education, defence, public sector)
- Leisure (venues and attractions, stadia and retail)
- Support services (integration, cleaning, reception and security, mailroom, defence and housekeeping).
Elior UK employs around 10,000 people across 650 client sites.
Groupe Elior is the leading contract caterer in France: worldwide it is the third largest player in concession catering and travel retail and the fourth largest supplier of contract catering and support services
Grouple Elior employs 106,000 staff serving 3.8 million customers each day across 18,000 restaurants and outlets in 13 countries in Europe and the Americas.
Full year to 30 September 2014
Revenue €5.34b (2013: €5b)
Ebitda €447m (2013: €424m)
Revenue - contract catering and support services €3.774b (2013: €3.488m)
Revenue - concession catering and travel retail €1.567b (2013: €1.529b)
France accounts for €2.8b of total revenue
Half year to 31 March 2015
Revenue €2.8b (2014: €2.67b)
Ebitda €204 (2014: €196)
Pre-tax profit €67.9 (2014: €40)