Two contract catering companies have been rated among the top 100 fastest-growing companies in the UK in a new report.
Cater Link, the Kent-based contract caterer which operates mainly in the education and care home sector, was ranked fifth-fastest growing unquoted company by the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100.
Further down the list, but still showing considerable growth, was Artizian Catering services. The Berkshire company, ranked 83rd, focuses on blue-chip and corporate firms in the Home Counties and central London.
Cater Link was founded by former consultant Tony McKenna in 1992. Between 1999 and 2002, its sales grew by 142% a year, according to the report. It has 66 contracts, with annual sales in 2002 of £5.74m, op from £470,000 in 1999.
McKenna was delighted that his firm was ranked so near the top. “I was celebrating in my local newsagents on Sunday morning when I saw how far up the list we came,” he said.
The company has been focused mainly on the education sector, from where it derives 70% of its contracts, the majority in independent schools in the South-east of England.
“Our creed has been to look after the business we have got, and we have no plans for a massive marketing effort,” McKenna said. So far, the company has kept its marketing efforts low key and has won new contracts through world of mouth.
Cater Link has a fresh food policy, which McKenna said was attractive to the education and healthcare markets, even if it was more challenging. “Our managers are not driven by the discount culture,” he added. “They can focus on managing their units instead of bargaining with suppliers.”
Business and industry caterer Artizian was founded in 1997 by Alison Robinson and , since 1999, has grown it sale by more than 67% in each year, from just over £1m to £4.9m in 2002.
It currently holds 19 contracts, including those with Ernst & Young, the HFC Bank and Alfred Dunhill.
Artizian recently won the contract to feed 3,200 staff of Ernst & Young. James Greetham, the company’s sales and marketing manager, said: “It was a real coup for a small company and proves that not all big firms want a large caterer. Some firms do want a personalized service and a quality operation.”
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 11-17 December 2003