Catering Firm Compass Says It Has Improved Its Supply Chain And Quality Checks

By Dave Simpson
Catering Firm Compass Says It Has Improved Its Supply Chain And Quality Checks

The world's largest catering firm, Compass Group, has said that it has improved its supply chain and quality checks after it received a barrage of criticism for the low standards of children's food packages supplied to homes in Britain.

The British company, which serves office workers, school children, seniors in old age homes and armed forces across dozens of countries, had a tough 2020 and has had to cut jobs and manage its food cost by "careful" menu planning and reducing the number of products that it buys and the suppliers from which it buys.

In a trading update ahead of its annual general meeting, it said that all of the regions in which it operates turned profitable in its first quarter ended December even as organic revenue tumbled by a third, as operating margins rose by 2.7%.

It predicted another 50 to 100 basis points rise in operating margins in its second quarter.

However, its UK subsidiary, Chartwells, faced a fierce public and political backlash last month after images shared on social media showed meagre food packages supplied to children by schools via catering companies during the COVID-19 lockdown.


That led the UK government to warn private suppliers to raise their standards, and Chartwells apologising, saying that it would refund some money to schools.

"In light of the recent events around the provision of free school meal food parcels by our education sector, we recognise that the quality and quantity of some food parcels fell short of our usual high standards," Compass said. "After conducting a thorough investigation, we have taken several corrective measures that include improved supply chain processes, additional guidance and resources for our employees, and stronger quality assurance checks."

Shares in the FTSE 100 company rose by 4% following the margin forecast. The stock is still down by approximately 28% over the past 12 months.

Compass also said that it will cover the cost of providing lunch and breakfast parcels to eligible students during the February half-term break.

Britain provides free lunches to some children in primary schools, and turned to private companies to replace them with food packages after it shut schools last month.


"An Unwelcome Addition To What Is A Torrid Time For Compass"

"From an investment perspective, this chapter has been an unwelcome addition to what is a torrid time for Compass," Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Sophie Lund-Yates said.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.