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Chris Chidley, our Chief Growth and Innovation Officer, on how 2022 was for the business and the industry.


This year has been a rollercoaster. It started with great optimism, as we all sought to get back to “normal” after two years of managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those parts of our business that were closed or scaled back, such as our sports and leisure and workplace divisions, roared back to life. However, it wasn’t as straight forward as anticipated – Omicron slowed some of our sectors initial return and the Ukraine war has been impacting supply chains, energy costs and inflation.   

However, paradoxically, as we end the year in the midst of a recession and having experienced months of political and economic volatility, the outlook for outsourcing remains positive. This year we have seen a period of significant growth. In addition to achieving strong retention of our clients, we have won more new business than previous years, with a higher proportion as a result of first-time outsourcing. I believe this is due to more and more organisations post-pandemic wanting to solely focus on their core business, recognising that outsourcing partners can deliver better value and services which support them.

Modern outsourcing should now be seen as a core part of our client’s innovation strategies. Our clients expect us to be more than just a food and support services business. It’s about our ability to create amazing experiences, enduring partnerships and the value we can deliver in relation to people, planet and wellbeing. It’s this shift in attitude, that is bringing an extraordinary growth opportunity for our industry.

We have also embraced innovation and technology, enabling us to introduce smarter and more efficient operations. Whether it’s frictionless purchasing, digital ordering solutions or cleaning robots, sites across the country are adopting new ways of working and continuing to deliver great services for our clients and customers, despite the economic volatility.

We have remained focussed on making progress on ‘Our Climate Promise’ – our ambitious target to reach Climate Net Zero by 2030. With around 80% of our emissions attributable to food, one of our primary areas of focus has been to look at how we can redesign and reduce our carbon footprint of our dishes, without compromising quality or taste. No mean feat when you consider we’re engaging with our 5,000+ suppliers, across 70 different categories, whilst reformulating our 87,000 recipes.

It is also critical to us all that we attract and retain the best people – we’re a barrierless industry to enter, that once part of you can learn and develop, to navigate an exciting and successful career. Earlier this year we launched ‘Mission to a Million’, which promises to provide support to one million people, from both within and outside the organisation, by 2030. It aims to enhance opportunities and change lives through job creation, education, training, community and charitable engagement.

While change has been the one constant for the past few years, I remain optimistic about the opportunities that 2023 will bring.

As featured in the December issue of Contract Catering magazine.