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Little Chef bosses bid for Compass's travel business

17 November 2005

Little Chef owners Simon Heath and Lawrence Wosskow have tabled a bid for Compass Group's SSP travel concession business.

The pair, who have secured backing from Icelandic bank Kaupthing, plan to buy the whole operation and sell off the European division to a third party. They have lined up two companies to bid for SSP's European business.

"SSP is the perfect scenario for us," Wosskow said. "It represents all we want to do in one go." He added that they had previously considered buying Welcome Break and RoadChef but didn't make an offer because both roadside groups "were too over-borrowed".

Compass Group this week sent out details of the sale to all interested parties, thought to include French caterers Elior and Sodexho, Italian roadside operator Autogrill, and Terra Firma, the investment vehicle of hotelier Guy Hands.

But Wosskow said he believed his and Heath's background as founders of the Out of Town restaurant group would put them in a strong position. "We dealt with millions of people in a food court environment. The only reason we didn't get into airports and railway stations before was that Compass was already there."

Food service consultant Jonathan Doughty said SSP's future owner would face tough challenges. "There is strong competition in airports and train stations from High Street brands such as Eat, Krispy Kreme and Yo! Sushi," he said. "A lot of work will need to be done to make SSP into a market leader and not just a ‘me-too' player."

By Tom Bill

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