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Left to right: Madeleine Musselwhite, Chief Finance Officer – CH&Co Group; Sue Parfett, Managing Partner – Brookwood; Bill Toner, CEO – CH&Co Group; and Kate Martin, Managing Partner – Brookwood

New £200m catering group formed from new merger

ABsolutely Catering merges with CH&Co Group to shake up education catering sector

Posted by Hannah Oakman | July 15, 2016 | Catering & hospitality

Education caterer, ABsolutely Catering has merged with CH&Co Group to become specialist education brand within the Group. Co-founders, Kate Martin and Sue Parfett, will continue in their current roles as Managing Partners.

The merger gives the newly enlarged Group a turnover in excess of £200m and its associated brands will provide catering at over 600 sites across the UK, employing nearly 6,000 in its team.

The education catering marketplace has become increasingly competitive and for Brookwood, merging their assets and team with a larger, well-respected independent company like CH&Co Group provides them with the perfect opportunity to be able to compete more effectively, constantly build on client services, and provide more opportunities for employees.

For CH&Co Group, which currently operates some contracts in the independent and State school catering services markets, the merger gives the Group a much larger foothold in these important sectors.

The deal is the right choice for both companies, according to CH&Co Group’s CEO, Bill Toner. “With the combined assets and team of CH&Co Group and ABsolutely, we have greater strength to compete even more vigorously in the education sector. As we’ve proven over the past year since CH&Co merged with Host and Catermasters, it is possible to have a larger group but maintain the feel and personal contact associated with smaller companies. Our Group is made up of a number of niche brands, each targeting specific business areas, and ABsolutely will operate separately as education specialists. Both of these brands, like the companies within our Group, are established caterers focussed on providing excellent food and service with a reputation for looking after clients, customers and employees; we have a lot of common ground to build on.”

Managing Partner, Kate Martin said, “We began talking to Tim Jones, CH&Co Group’s Chairman, late last year. As we talked, it became clear that our two organisations would be a great fit because CH&Co Group wanted to expand further in the education sector. We would also have greater resources between us to constantly develop and enhance our client service and of course, we both share a similar ethos of food, people and clients.

“We’ve been very impressed with the way that the CH&Co and Host Catermasters integration was handled when they merged just over a year ago. They have maintained a very high client retention rate of 97%, a strong focus on quality food and service, and have still managed to keep the unique feel of the various brands that make up the Group. That gave us the confidence that we too will be able to do the same as part of the Group and this helps us take Brookwood and ABsolutely on to the next chapter.”

Tim Jones, Chairman of CH&Co Group, added, “The existing management teams of both companies will remain in position and focus on the day to day business. Behind the scenes, and as we did last year, project teams will be looking at how both organisations work and we will take the best of both companies to help us further strengthen the Group going forward.

“The company continues to be predominantly management owned and partly funded by CH&Co Group’s investor partners, MML Capital."

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