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Host and Catermasters Cook Up HCM Group

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...merged business will have over 240 operations and a combined team of more than 1,500 employees catermasters

Independent caterers Host Management and Catermasters have merged to create a company called HCM Group, taking the annual turnover of the new firm to more than £60m. Host boss Bill Toner  will head up HCM as chief executive, with Catermasters co-founder Nigel Johnson  named deputy CEO of the business, which has over 240 operations and a combined team of more than 1,500 employees. According to Johnson, choosing Toner to be CEO was an easy decision: “Bill has a huge amount of experience of growing catering companies to a significant size and therefore our newly merged company will use his skills to the full,” he said.

Catermasters, founded in 1989 by Johnson and Richard Moody, grew to be a national caterer with a portfolio of 120 sites. Moody, who is understood to have been less involved with the day-to-day running of the business in recent years, has sold his remaining share to HCM but is expected to continue to be involved in a consultancy role. Host Management was founded in 2004 by serial entrepreneur Jerry Brand, who brought former-Aramark CEO Toner in as a non-executive director in 2010 following several years of industry speculation that he would join the caterer. Brand handed the reins to Toner entirely the following year in order to concentrate on his catering software management business, Caternet.

Commenting on the growth opportunities available as a result of the merger, Johnson said the size of the combined business gives it the chance to create dedicated business & industry, education, leisure and healthcare divisions. “[It] will be the team’s top priority in the coming months and Bill and I will be working closely on capitalising on these new opportunities,” he added. Toner agreed, emphasising how well the two companies suit each other. “This is a very exciting move for both Host and Catermasters and strategically and operationally, this merger is an excellent fit. “We are similar sized, high quality caterers and we share the same client-focused culture and business ethos. This merger will help us grow much more quickly and we’re all very excited by the future possibilities in our chosen segments.”

Both companies have demonstrated clear ambition to expand through acquisition in recent years, which has enabled them to tender for larger contracts in previously untapped regions of the country. Host picked up concession caterer Couture and leisure retail caterer Juice For Life in 2012, and Style Services Group in  2013. Last year it was awarded the SSE group contract, which added £20m of turnover over a five-year deal and took the company into Ireland for the first time. Its catering contract at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust also added £10m over a five-year deal and in July, Host announced its largest win to date for the eight-year £16m turnover contract at Spectrum Leisure Complex in Guildford. Meanwhile Catermasters, which bought boutique Bite Catering in 2013, has won over £6m worth of business, including Freeman UK, University of Law, Holiday Lettings, and a major five-year contract for the UK headquarters in London of global marketing and communications firm, Young & Rubicam. Despite the changes that the merger has brought about centrally, Johnson is adamant that it is very much business as usual where the clients and employees are concerned.

“However, there are aspects that both businesses can learn from each other so behind the scenes, we will be adopting the best initiatives and systems from both organisations so that all clients and teams benefit from our mutual experience,” he added. Catermasters joint managing director Tony Carr will continue to manage the business, while Host finance director Madeleine Musselwhite, who worked with Toner to broker the deal, will continue in the role for the newly formed HCM Group.

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