White Compass Logo

Compass Group UK & Ireland launch ‘Women in Food’ programme


Compass Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest food services firm, has become the first company in the industry looking to tackle the shortage in female chefs through the launch of its “Women in Food” Programme.


The company has made a commitment to have female chefs form 50% of its workforce by 2020.

Compass is one of the UK’s largest private employers with approximately 60,000 employees. The company currently employs 4393 chefs, of which 1537 (35%) are female. This already exceeds the industry average of 18.5%.

Inflexible and long working hours in the traditional restaurant sector has made it a challenging career choice for women who wish to juggle a family life. However, contract catering offers an alternative with the ability to work shifts in a variety of fields, from schools to business and in healthcare and defence.

Compass is seeking to do more in a bid to attain gender equality in a male dominated industry through making an investment in learning and development for female chefs that currently work for the company and those who will be recruited. The company will also be reviewing working practices, to identify areas where shift work and flexible working hours are able to be introduced and further enhanced opportunities for development from entry level through to senior roles.

To launch the “Women in Food” initiative, Compass Group UK & Ireland, hosted an event on 19 April in London with a variety of senior female chefs from within and outside of the company attending. Key speakers during the event included leading female chefs, Prue Leith, Sabrina Ghayour and Emily Roux.

Prue Leith, a well-known restaurateur and caterer, said: “The training of more female chefs is vital if we are to reach gender equality in the catering industry. It is great to see that Compass Group has launched a programme to tackle the issue by making a commitment to increasing the number of female chefs they recruit and also provide the right supportive environment so they can flourish.”

Sabrina Ghayour, the British-Iranian chef, food writer and author, commented: “I am honoured to be invited to speak at the launch of the Compass Group “Women in Food” programme. It is a great initiative as it will not only see more female chefs entering the contract catering industry but it will also give them an opportunity to develop their skills.”

Emily Roux, who recently became a consultant chef for Restaurant Associates, added: “I am passionate about food and cooking and only too aware of the challenges for women to develop in this sector. It is great to see Compass Group taking positive steps towards attracting more female chefs and helping them fulfil their potential.”

Dennis Hogan, Managing Director for Compass Group UK & Ireland, concluded: “We are delighted to have launched a scheme that is actively looking to support female chefs with the right opportunities, development and training. The “Women in Food” programme highlights our commitment to increasing the number of female chefs we employ in the business by a further 15%, ensuring by 2020 we have a 50/50 split of male and female chefs.

“We have worked hard to establish the reasons that are discouraging woman from becoming chefs or continuing their chef career and hope by recognising and understanding the issues, that through the development of the Women in Food programme, we are now able to break down these barriers.”

A “Women in Food” Board has been set up, which will be responsible for the roll out of the programme and monitor its outputs. Members of the board include key personnel from Compass Group UK & Ireland: Chair, Fiona Ryland, HR Director and Executive Board Member; co-chair Matt Gillison, Chief Procurement Officer at Foodbuy; Melanie Hayes, Resourcing & Development Director and Jeremy Ford, Culinary Director, Restaurant Associates.

The launch of the “Women in Food” programme follows on from Compass Group UK & Ireland’s commitment to building the number of Compass apprentices to 1500 by the end of 2017. Already one of the UK’s top 100 apprenticeship employers, Compass has trained 3000 apprentices in the last five years.


Note to Editors:
For more information contact:
UK Communications Team
Compass Group UK & Ireland
01895 554 999

Our inaugural Women In Food discussion panel