Uncharted territory and a man with Compass

As the Institute of Hospitality Annual Lunch concluded, we had an opportunity to mingle for a few minutes and I have to thank my friend Melvin Gold FIH (a fine Hotel Consultant who can be contacted here for the best of industry advice. You’re welcome Melvin.) for calling me over to introduce someone he thought I should meet. Knowing I work within Foodservice Catering, he must have enjoyed the look on my face as I found myself shaking hands with Ian Sarson, the Group MD of Compass UK & Ireland. 

Ian Sarson, MD, Compass UK & IRE
Now, for anyone reading this who may be unfamiliar with our industry, Compass is the largest Foodservice Caterer in the UK employing 50,000 people in the sector today. Globally speaking, Compass is the 11th largest employer in the world. So needless to say, I was chuffed at the opportunity to meet and chat with one of the key leaders within our industry.

We talked about the challenges we faced along the way as he mentioned the Disney contract he oversaw many years ago in Hong Kong around the time I was opening my operation in Kathmandu. Coming back to the challenges of today, I thought it was funny, in an ironic way, that we both stood looking at the same crossroads. The road to contract catering Nirvana was traditionally found on the highway of client satisfaction. Now the industry faces a left turn towards retail and direct customer appeal and a right turn off the beaten track towards social media engagement between employees, customers, clients and stakeholders. Suddenly size is not the advantage it used to be and there are certainly no shortcuts.

But here’s the great thing about hospitality and events such as this. Rather than a stilted conversation with no common ground, we both talked about starting out as chefs in the business and how important it was to understand the fundamentals of your craft if you are to progress up the ladder. With a little hard work and perhaps a pinch of luck, the opportunity is there to progress to the very highest levels. This is an industry that rewards the go-getters from every walk of life and Ian Sarson exemplifies this.

Whichever respective roads we take, it was certainly a pleasure to meet Mr. Sarson along this one and I thank him for being so generous with his time. On occasions like this, you can just go along for the lunch, but it’s better to come away with some great food for thought.