Compass, the world’s largest caterer, is running remote kitchens to meet the demand of companies that want to order food daily, as the “jury is out” on what office life will look like after the pandemic, according to its CEO .
The move by Compass, whose revenues were hit hard last year by repeated restrictions, highlights how the coronavirus crisis continues to force office-dependent businesses to refurbish their services.
The FTSE 100 group has opened 12 remote kitchens in the UK and offers a similar service in France. Companies can order food from them that is tailored to how busy an office is on a particular day.
CEO Dominic Blakemore said Compass “scales it in different countries” and has acquired it in some local technology companies integrating it with the kitchens.
“The jury is out on what long-term office work will look like until more confidence returns in the spring,” Blakemore said, adding that the group’s business clients were “careful” to bring employees back to their offices.
Increasing appetite for corporate catering on demand came when Compass revealed that revenue for the 12 months to end-September fell by 10 per cent to £ 17.9 billion. Operating profit rose 85 per cent to £ 545m as the group cut costs and emerged from the worst effects of the 2020 restrictions.
Compass also reinstated its dividend at 14p per share, saying it is expected to return to a 7 percent pre-Covid operating margin by the end of its next financial year. In the most recent quarter to end-September, its underlying operating margin reached 5.8 percent and revenue recovered to 88 percent from 2019 levels.
Shares in Compass rose 5 percent in late afternoon trading on Tuesday.
Its healthcare division was a bright spot, with revenues climbing 7 percent higher than those in 2019 as more hospitals sought to outsource catering to focus on clinical care during the pandemic.
Nevertheless, corporate customer revenue remained 38 percent below the levels seen in 2019.
The company, which provided food for the COP26 summit in Glasgow this month, has also seen a significant increase in the number of customers requesting locally sourced food, commitments to reduce food waste or to make net no promises.
More than 70 per cent of new business requests in the UK contain environmental considerations with similar demand arising in France, Denmark and Australia, Compass said.
Blakemore said in the “war for talent” companies see environmental values as a good way to appeal to prospective employees.