Catering firm Compass has recorded underlying profit of £290 million and revenue of £8.6 billion for the six month period that ended on March 31.
The head of Compass Group said that food catering volumes will pick up from September as students return to university campuses, audiences attend sports and music events and economic activity recovers.
Margins at the world's biggest catering company have increased over the last year as it managed costs and renegotiated contracts, but volumes are flat at about 70% of pre-pandemic levels.
Compass, which serves office staff, school children, seniors in old age homes, armed forces and events attendees across 45 countries, is expecting revenue recovery to be gradual.
"The real turning point for us will be the full re-opening of the UK on the 21st of June and Independence Day on the 4th of July in the US," Compass CEO Dominic Blakemore told Reuters.
Compass provided catering at this month's BRIT Awards, which was the first major indoor music event with a live audience in London in more than a year.
Over the summer months, Blakemore said that he is expecting live attendance at the Premier League and major league baseball games to further help its volumes.
In common with others in the food services space, Compass was hit by lockdowns that made people eat at home.
Blakemore said that Compass will explore further M&A (mergers and acquisitions) in the digital sector and has already entered the delivery space with acquisitions, including Feedr in London, Eat Club in the US West Coast and SmartQ in India.
"Compass Group's ability to expand into new categories, such as delivery, will be fundamental to its survival," Third Bridge analyst Harry Barnick said.
Compass' underlying profit of £290 million in the six months to March 31 and revenue of £8.6 billion slightly beat analyst expectations.
The group is expecting margins in fiscal third quarter ending June of between 4.5% and 5% compared with 4.2% in the second quarter and a negative 6% in the same period last year.
Above news by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland.
Plant-Based Shift Plan
In other Compass news, the group has announced that it is planning to convert approximately 40% of its meat-based meals to plant-based alternatives by 2030.
Compass said that this is part of its aim to deliver net zero emissions as it joins the UN Race to Zero campaign to "help build a more sustainable food system".
Compass stated, "The shift towards more plant-based proteins and products is part of the company's plans to cut its emissions by 55% by 2025, and by at least 65% by 2030."
ProVeg UK, which is a non-profit organisation that works with school caterers to deliver more sustainable menus, has welcomed the announcement.
ProVeg UK director Jimmy Pierson stated, "We need diet change not climate change, and Compass Group's commitment is a huge statement of intent and positive step in the right direction. We can clearly see the direction of travel of public-sector food. We're moving steadily away from meat and dairy and towards healthier, more sustainable plant-based foods.
"It reinforces the shift we’re already seeing within school food in recent years. We're working with many local authorities that have declared a climate emergency and want to address the crisis through school food. These local authorities are serving less meat and more plant-based food, which they’re also finding to be healthier and often cheaper, and the feedback from children and parents has been overwhelmingly positive.
"Compass Group's plans will no doubt encourage more schools and local authorities to follow suit. It's heartwarming to see one of the country's biggest catering companies taking a lead on such a crucial issue - the climate impact of our food - that is ignored by so many."
Compass continued, "The announcement follows new research published this week by Eating Better and PSC100 that public sector bodies are leading the shift to more sustainable eating by serving less meat and more plant-based food. The research found that 80% of those polled have committed to reducing meat content across menus, with 83% increasing plant proteins (beans, lentils, soya) in dishes by up to 20%, and 60% using more meat substitutes."
Compass Group UK and Ireland general manager Robin Mills stated, "We believe it is our responsibility to contribute to a future of sustainable food production and the commitment to carbon neutrality is an important milestone."
Compass added, "Through its School Plates programme, ProVeg UK works with local authorities, multi-academy trusts, and catering companies, providing a range of services, including menu consultancy and plant-based culinary training - all free of charge - to make school meals healthier and more sustainable."
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