Key Foodservice Industry Events 1993-2017 Timeline

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03/01/2018 - 07:00
To mark the 25th anniversary of our publication, we have put together a timeline covering the major events that have helped shape the industry over the last quarter of a century.

1993 – UK contract catering industry turned over £2bn (BHA); 19 Direct Service Organisations (DSOs) that organised a £40,000 TV ad campaign to promote school meals agree to ‘carry on the work’.

1994 – Compass moves into the US in a big way by buying the struggling Canteen Vending company for £300m. Dorothy Newman, the ABSSC’s first female chair, negotiated for suppliers to become full members of the care catering organisation.

1995 – Gardner Merchant was acquired by Sodexho (later changed to Sodexo) for £780m. Prime Minister John Major supports National School Meals Week by eating cottage pie at a Huntingdon school.


1996 – Head of prison catering Tony Frith labels ‘inadequate’ the £1.36 daily feeding allowance for breakfast, two hot meals, a supper snack and drinks. Health Minister John Horam held talks with Bateman Catering MD Chris Goff on the role of private contractors in the NHS.

1997 – ABSSC chair Roger Denton delivers a meal to the Queen Mother to mark National Meals on Wheels Week. The Post Office plans to sell off 49% of its staff feeding organisation Quadrant, which employs 2,800 and turns over £70m a year.

1998 – With annual turnover of £4.2bn Compass was now large enough to join the top 100 companies in the FT 100 index. The Hospital Caterers Association marks its 50th anniversary.

1999 – The new Labour Government replaces the concept of compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) with ‘best value for public sector contracts. Elior further develops its UK portfolio with purchases of Brian Smith plc and Catering & Allied.

2000 – The first Welfare Cook of the Year competition was run by the ABSSC, which also launched its first website, while Loyd Grossman heads the Better Hospital Food campaign. Granada (value £12bn) and Compass (value £6bn) agree merger.


2001 – First trials in 32 schools in London and the Midlands of Government-funded scheme to provide free fruit to children. Halliday Catering Services and Wilson Storey join forces to create the UK’s largest independent contractor.

2002 – The Advisory Body for Social Services Catering (ABSSC) votes to change its name to the National Association of Care Catering (NACC). The MoD sets up pay-as-you-dine trial sites with contractors Sodexo, Aramark and Eurest (part of Compass).

2003 – Hospital food survey by Sodexo and the Patients’ Association shows 71% prefer British dishes, followed by Chinese and Italian. Lindley Catering lands a £50m, 10-year catering deal at the City of Manchester Stadium (now the Etihad Stadium).

2004 – Hull City Council wins Government agreement to introduce free meals for all its primary school children; HCA launches protected mealtimes initiative. BHA survey shows contract caterers serve 1.6bn meals a year generating sales worth £3.8bn.


2005 – Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in Greenwich for Channel 4’s Jamie’s School Dinners programme, removes processed foods, including the infamous ‘turkey twizzler’. Aramark wins first Super MAC (multi activity contract) with MoD worth £200m.

2006 – New Nutritional Standards for School Lunches and Other Foods introduced by Education Secretary Alan Johnson. The UK military’s £750m operational food supply contract is won by a new consortium called Purple Foodservice

2007 – Now the world’s largest contract caterer, Compass Group reports £10.8bn annual turnover, with pre-tax profits of £363m. NACC launches its new care home menu planning guide at the House of Commons.

2008 – BaxterStorey consolidates its position as the fifth largest contract caterer with the acquisition of Holroyd Howe and Benugo. The Welsh Assembly announces ban on crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks in hospital vending machines.

2009 – Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust becomes first hospital to be awarded the Soil Association’s Food For Life catering mark. Compass pulls out of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), calling it ‘too broad-based’.


2010 – NACC report highlights that one in 10 older people are at risk of malnutrition; it launches its Nutrition Standard in response. London 2012 Olympic Games organisers ‘expect to serve 14m meals’.

2011 – Sodexo and Compass among first backers of the government’s new Responsibility Deal to improve public health. LACA conference hears school meal uptakes rises 3% in primary schools and 2% in secondaries.

2012 – Cost Sector Catering launches PS100 group to promote the ‘health and nutrition’ agenda of public sector caterers. New standards on what patients should expect from NHS hospital food announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

2013 – Cheap horsemeat being passed off as beef is found in the retail and foodservice supply chains. The School Food Plan makes a series of recommendations on how to make school food better for children across England.

2014 – Universal Infant Free School Meals are introduced for all 5-7 year olds in England and Scotland. All caterers bound by new EU Food Information Regulations on 14 common food allergens.


2015 – Foodservice operators now serve 4m people a day generating annual sales of £83.9bn, according to the BHA. NACC reverts to using term ‘meals on wheels’, which has more public recognition than ‘community meals’.

2016 – Public Health England updates the classic Eatwell plate, adding more fruit and veg and cutting back on foods high in fat, salt and sugar. WSH, whose brands include BaxterStorey, CaterLink and Holroyd Howe, reports £650m sales for year.

2017 – The NACC, formerly the ABSSC, marks 30 years since its formation; a funding shortage forces the Children’s Food Trust charity to close. After the acquisition of Harbour + Jones and Concerto Group, CH&Co projects group turnover at £300m-plus.

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