There is more awareness on food safety and hygiene: Richard Cousins

Interview with Chief Executive Officer, Compass Group

Richard Cousins
Richard Cousins

After focusing on the US and Europe, Richard Cousins, chief executive of UK-based catering and facility management company Compass Group, with a global annual revenue of £17.6 billion, has turned his attention to India and China. Reason: These countries see 25 per cent growth in the foods business, Cousins tells Rohit Nautiyal. Excerpts:

How high is the demand for outsourced catering globally and what is the penetration level of Compass Group?

Globally, half the catering is outsourced. While we operate in the facility management space, our core business is feeding blue- and white-collar employees at various organisations. The US accounts for 43 per cent of our business, followed by UK (10 per cent). France is our third-largest market, followed by Australia, Brazil, Japan and Canada. Our clients include Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and IBM. Healthcare and education comprise 30 per cent of our business. We are also present in defence, and sports & leisure.

What are some of the recent changes in food consumption at workplaces around the world?

Increased concern over food safety and hygiene is one; this has also been Compass Group's priority since the group's inception. Standardisation is a more subtle debate. For instance, the eating habits in Manhattan have no similarities with those in southern California, which has a sizeable Hispanic population. In the last 10 years, many of our clients have demanded healthy and innovative food. Besides, consumers are also interested in technology integration with daily meal consumption. For example, our clients like to share their eating habits on various social media platforms.

With North America and Europe reaching a saturation point in foods business, what are some of the promising emerging markets for Compass Group?

Till 2012, we had certain legacy challenges to resolve. Currently, we are growing six per cent year-on-year in the US. While our growth rate is negative in Europe, we are hoping food business will pick up soon, helping us achieve the growth target of three per cent year-on-year in the next three years. Through the last five years, we have turned our focus to emerging markets by making a slew of acquisitions across Turkey, Brazil, South Africa and India, among others. In fact, we are very excited about the opportunities in India and China because at this point, these two markets alone have the potential to grow at 25 per cent. In these countries, we are investing in standardising processes, training and information technology, especially in enhancing enterprise solutions. But executing this could be challenging in China, where state-owned companies meet their catering requirements in-house.

What are your hiring plans for emerging markets in the next five years?

With 200,000 employees, we are the 11th largest employer in the US. About 13,000 employees are working for us in India. In the next four years, we will be hiring about 40,000 employees across our offices in Asia.