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Published on: Oct. 7, 2023, 3:45 p.m.
Compass Group India serves the right menu
  • The company is innovating itself to serve its customer in a better manner

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

Compass Group India, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-headquartered £25.5-billion Compass Group PLC, the world’s leading provider of contract food and support services with presence in 40 countries and serving over 55,000 client locations, has significantly expanded its footprint ever since it decided to go solo in the rapidly-growing Indian market in 2008.

The Compass Group PLC earlier had a presence in India through a joint venture with Radhakrishna Hospitality Services Group, which it got through its acquisition of the Accor group unit Eurest in mid-90s. This 50:50 JV ended in 2008 with Radhakrishna buying Compass’ stake as the latter wanted control in the company. Radhakrishna Hospitality was then acquired by French food services giant Sodexo for $100 million in March, 2009. In 2010, the Compass group started its operation afresh in India with the acquisition of Pune-based Tirumala Hospitality Services Pvt Ltd.

Backed by 30,000 employees, Compass Group India is hiring 1,000 people every month. Known for bringing great experiences to the workplace with its specialised multi-sectoral approach, it is serving 600,000 meals a day in India. Having strongly positioned itself as a frontrunner in the evolving landscape of food and facility management in the country, the global brand is today operating in over 450 client locations in India serving the workplace (corporate & manufacturing), education and healthcare market needs. Currently, 96 of the Fortune 100 companies are its clients. The company serves these sectors through a portfolio of multiple sector specific brands.

Renowned for its high-quality service, the brand has received prestigious awards. Compass Group India has won awards such as ‘Most Admired Food Innovation of the Year Award’ for workplace food concepts at the India Food Forum Awards – across all retail & food service categories; and Coca-Cola Golden Spoon Award for FoodBook, for engagement and food ordering platform. It has been listed amongst Great Places to Work in February 2021.

Apart from food services which account for almost 70 per cent of its total business, Compass Group India, having present in over 45 Indian cities, offers a wide range of self-managed and outsourced facility and support services to businesses across industries including manufacturing sector, healthcare and pharmaceutical sector, education sector, BFSI and IT/ ITeS. The company is estimated to have recorded a 50 per cent growth in the financial year ended September 2023 after fully recovering from Covid-related challenges and is now expected to grow at 25-30 per cent per annum in the coming years.

Globally, London Stock Exchange-listed Compass Group plc, the largest contract foodservice company in Europe, employing over 500,000 people, has made an impressive comeback. The group’s revenue has grown 37.5 per cent to £25.5 billion in the full year ended September 2022 and 24.7 per cent to £15.8 billion in the half year ended March 2023.

Whilst the macro-economic environment continued to be uncertain, the group’s model remained resilient and exited the pandemic in a strong position, leveraging the scale and expertise to achieve record levels of new business and retention. While 67 per cent and 23 per cent of revenue comes from North America and Europe, respectively, 10 per cent comes from rest of the world, where India is growing at a rapid pace. 

Also, a Fortune Global 500 company, the group’s strategy is to focus on food services and targeted support services, particularly from first-time outsourcing. It follows a model which is based on its three key strategic pillars of People, Performance and Purpose.

Growth opportunity

“The group’s performance in 2021-22 surpassed our expectations both in terms of net new business growth and base volume recovery, with Business & Industry now operating above its pre-pandemic revenues,” says Dominic Blakemore, group CEO, Compass Group plc. “Our strategic focus is on food, with targeted support services. The addressable food services market is estimated to be worth at least £220 billion. There remains a significant structural growth opportunity from first-time outsourcing, as around half of the market is still self-operated. As the operating environment becomes increasingly challenging due to inflationary pressures, increased client demands and other additional complexities, we have a clear strategy to capture the resultant acceleration in first-time outsourcing based on our focus, scale and expertise”.

  • Blakemore: delivering value to stakeholders

“Being the largest global player, our scale in procurement and focus on cost efficiencies give us competitive advantages that translate into greater value for clients and consumers,” adds Blakemore. “Our sectorised and sub-sectorised approach enables us to provide a tailored offer to meet changing client requirements. We are continuing to invest in our market-leading propositions in digital and ESG which are clear growth enablers in the food services market. Our strategic focus on People, Performance and Purpose continues to underpin all that we do in our ambition to deliver value to all our stakeholders”.

“India is an important market for the group,” acknowledges Vikas Chawla, CEO & managing director, Compass Group India. “Things have bounced back and the market in India is looking attractive again. We are also all ready to capture the emerging opportunities, even as we would like to strengthen our footprint further in the existing areas of our presence. Our sector-focussed businesses give our clients access to unrivalled experience, global best practices and market-leading innovations. Our tailor-made solutions are a combination of quality, innovations, safety and great customer experience. We endeavour to continue to innovate and design relevant concepts to nourish workplaces and aid the transition to better workplace food habits and choices”.

“We see ourselves not just as contract food service operator, but also responsible for understanding and fulfilling the functional, emotional and social needs of our end consumers,” adds Chawla. “In India, we are also focussing on sectoral growth (sectors including HoReCa for food and BFSI/Data Centres for support services), diversification into adjacent businesses and regional market expansion in the next big cities of India.”

Having joined the company in March this year, Chawla has charted out an aggressive plan to multiply the business in the coming years, where both organic and inorganic routes will play their role. He is also focussing on expanding the business in the hitherto much smaller sectors like education and healthcare. 

Chawla brings valuable experience as a seasoned professional. He is known for building highly engaged and winning teams and achieving breakthrough growth. Before joining Compass India, he was the entrepreneur who built a healthy beverage brand, Raskik, a coconut water-based juice, scaling it to over 35,000 outlets, before it was acquired by Reliance.

Prior to that, Chawla had a fulfilling tenure at The Coca-Cola Co, where he excelled in mergers and acquisitions and held diverse leadership roles across India and Europe. He led the operations for Coca-Cola in India for seven years and tripled its retail penetration. His last role at Coca-Cola was that of managing director for Southeast Europe, leading the business to double-digit growth across a dozen countries. His educational qualifications include an MBA from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA and the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School, Boston.

For the education sector, Compass India has recently introduced India’s first nutrition-based food solution for school cafeterias, promoting overall student wellbeing and fostering healthy eaters for life. The nutrition-first solution for the K-12 segment by Chartwells by Compass, focusses on food nutrition with an in-depth understanding of their emotional, functional and social needs at school. Chartwells is a leading provider of food services in the education sector globally. Chartwells by Compass India offers innovative, nutritious dining solutions for educational institutions, ranging from K12 schools to colleges and universities.

  • Chawla: capturing emerging opportunities

    Chawla: capturing emerging opportunities

Experts believe that the education sector in India has undergone a massive change, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a heightened focus on emotional and mental health and an emphasis on overall wellbeing. Parents’ expectations for their children’s development and learning have soared and millennial parents today expect schools to take a holistic learning approach and this is where Compass India’s food solution is expected to help Indian K-12 schools in that journey with a comprehensive approach. 

Compass India’s food solution is powered by Chartwells Proprietary Nutritional Guidance Platform that has a comprehensive taxonomy of macro, micro nutrition data and allergens for all ingredients by dish and menu. This scientifically designed food solution has been developed with an in-depth understanding of students’ unique nutritional, developmental, emotional and social needs. As part of its experiential learning programme, Compass India’s Chartwells platform expands the food exposure of children through new immersive experiences like Teaching Kitchen, Farm to School programme, and Food Club.

In the healthcare sector, Compass India, through its brand Medirest provides an array of services from patient dining to environmental services and facility management. Besides, the company offers tailored services that include patient transportation, clinical equipment management, and laundry services. The company is at the forefront of dining, facility management, and environmental services for the healthcare sector, serving hospitals across the country. 

 An array of services

The services range from food to patient support with operational and process excellence. In hospitals, food can touch lives, promote healing, and transform the experience – for patients, visitors and the medical staff. With its expertise, experience and passion for food, the company ensures patient food is nutritious and safe. It also ensures that the medical practitioners and other medical staff also get their bit of nutrition and variety for them to be able to cater to the demanding work nature.

While serving the corporate sector, Compass Group India, competing in the Indian market with players like Sodexo, Aramark Services and others, invests considerable resources in conducting on-site research and gathering insights into the unique needs, values, and behaviours of its corporate clients. With a portfolio ranging from exclusive, company-owned brands to collaborations with local and global entities, the firm creates customised food and beverage solutions.

Inspired by the French word ‘Choix’ which means choice, ChoixMeals is a brand born out of the desire to address the needs of the young and aspirational Indian workforce. Inspired by the philosophy of `you are what you eat’, the DIY concept of Choix Meals aims at offering an opportunity to co-create with infinite possibilities.

Similarly, there are brands like Two Good, Responsible Biryani, Turmeric, Claybowl (Indian food), Darshini (South Indian tiffin concept), Tandoor, Pandeyji (North Indian snacks), Global kitchen, Rassa (Marathi cuisine), Delimarche (Indian Premium coffee brand) and Kaapi (authentic South Indian Filter Coffee brand).

“In addition to our exciting proprietary workplace brands and concepts, Compass India also partners with a variety of leading international and local brands to bring rotational variety and high street experience. Compass Group’s brand concepts offer complete station makeovers to complement and enhance our core food offers,” says the India CEO.

  • The company addresses the needs of the young and aspirational Indian workforce

“India has a fast-growing and vibrant workforce and food at the workplace presents a great opportunity to connect with this young workforce. In corporate cafeterias, the occasion is more ‘everyday’ and, hence, consumers typically look for lighter, healthier, wholesome food.  There is a visible shift from traditional home food towards more functional meals with nutrition and lightness. We offer thoughtfully designed, responsible workplace Food concepts and equally importantly, with the right language and values in its presentation and service. Compass India endeavours to continue to innovate and design relevant concepts to nourish workplaces and aid the transition to better workplace food habits and choices,” adds he.

In manufacturing, the company caters to diverse industries right from automotive Industries to fashion & clothing and many more. Some of the other industries, it serves are: electronics and electricals, oil & refining, chemicals, power and paint sectors. Its brand Eurest caters to the manufacturing sector, specifically large scale and labour-intensive production facilities. It has associated with the leading organisations to deliver food services to their extensive workforce, with utmost care, in terms of safety, nutrition, operational and process excellence.

“We understand the value of time in any manufacturing unit and endeavour to bring to our partners innovative methods, to address this most crucial aspect. Compass India is working towards the use of technology to bring in automation in kitchen operations like chapati making machines, high pressure rice steamer, etc,” says Chawla.

Tech-based solutions

The company has always been innovating itself to serve its customer in a better manner. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Compass India introduced three different solutions to manage workplace effectively. Workplaces used these apps to avoid gathering at a place in the office. The OnSafe app was basically a tracking app that helped in implementing social distancing protocols at the workplace. The app also offered real-time tracking and helped businesses in preventing crowds in the office. Basically, the app is a contact tracing app for the workplace with detailed analytics that is relevant to the workplace.

The cafeteria was another place where people gather especially during lunchtime. To avoid gathering at Cafeteria, the company launched the Café Pass app. The app made sure there were no more than a certain amount of people at the cafeteria. The app let employees choose their preferred time to eat, pre-order meal, and book their café pass.

There’s also a FoodBook app that let one chose ones favourite recipe from the Chef’s table. The app also curated items according to one’s taste by using intelligent algorithms and one’s past orders. 

In March 2021, Compass India acquired a majority stake in Indian Foodtech Start-up, SmartQ, to utilise SmartQ’s technology offerings such as the mobile app for food ordering at the workplace, self-ordering kiosks, cashier-less cafeteria and PoS solutions.

The workforce in India today is increasingly made up of people who have either grown up or are deeply accustomed to personal technology. Tech solutions that deliver seamless, enhanced experiences like menu discovery, pre-ordering, payment and post-order support have become an increasingly important part of the food experience at work.

Compass India has also forayed into the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering (HoReCa) sector, where it provides backend support to its clients. The company handles the intricacies of kitchen management, procurement, and licensing, allowing them to focus on their core business operations. Besides, it has flexible engagement models that range from delivering ready-to-eat meals to providing intermediate offerings like gravies, marinades, and batters.

  • Compass group offers thoughtfully designed, responsible workplace food concepts

Beyond food

The company also helps clients beyond food with a range of hospitality-led services including events, pantry solution, vending solution and so on. In addition, it offers superior support services such as building and office support, workplace hygiene and landscape services. The company has a dedicated team that provides support and facility management services for clients in manufacturing sector, healthcare and pharmaceutical sector, education sector, banking and financial sectors and IT/ITeS. These services include Upkeep &Hygiene Solutions, End to end on-site technical services, business support services and horticulture & landscaping.

“Our approach to sectorisation and sub-sectorisation remains right for our business. Winning in different sectors requires different skills and processes, and increased customisation at scale will continue to be a key driver of our success,” states Chawla.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the India Foodservice Market size is estimated at $69.78 billion in 2023, and is expected to reach $125.06 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 10.21 per cent during the forecast period. It is expected to be driven by quickly developing business-to-business (B2B) events sector and food and beverage services being offered at a growing number of corporate events. Growing health consciousness such as being vegan and eating green food in Indian cuisines is affecting an individual’s order pattern, which is one of the major driving forces creating demand for catering services in the country.    

Moreover, the market for catering services will be growing because of factors including hectic lifestyles and difficulties associated with cooking at home. Also, hotels and restaurants are coming up with innovative catering services, which are expected to fuel the catering service industry. The market will also expand because of the increased focus on implementing technology to enhance the customer experience and minimize time spent waiting for food. Specialised catering services are increasing in demand as global multinational corporations are quickly expanding in emerging regions of India.

With all these developments in place, Compass Group India is all ready to expand its presence in the Indian market where contract food as well as support services business is growing quite rapidly. Businesses, post-Covid, has become more conscious about the well-being of their workforce and here provision of quality food and hygiene plays a big role.

The company is focussing on new business growth in the food services market, which is benefiting from an increase in first-time outsourcing due to additional operational complexities and inflationary pressures. The company utilises its scale, experience and digital capabilities to offer its clients attractive cost benefits, tailored menus and a wide range of innovative dining solutions that can add flexibility to their operating models. All in all, the company’s sectorised approach is a key differentiator.

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