Compass is a global food services organisation that operates in 90 countries and has overall revenues of £12 billion and a 410,000 strong headcount. But in the UK, where it is particularly strong in outsourced education catering, its revenue for 2005 was £3.3bn.

The business is split into six key sectors: business and industry (workplace catering); education; healthcare; travel and retail concessions; vending and defence; offshore and remote site location. The company provides no less than three million meals a day at
over 9,000 locations.

Its financial years for 2003 and 2004 disappointed investors however, to the point where its now departing chief executive Michael Bailey initiated what he dubbed “a root and branch review of all aspects of our operational and financial performance”. This process is still ongoing, but may settle down now the company has sold off its travel concession business.

The fact that so much of Compass’ work is cooking for clients on-site – through such brands as Caffè Ritazza, Upper Crust and Harry Ramsden’s, – is the major reason its use of IT is comparatively modest compared to other organisations of a similar size. But that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t invest in, or get value from, technology. In November last year it announced a move to a hosted email and messaging service that it estimates will save 60 per cent on its annual messaging spending, as well as allow managers access to their email via BlackBerries, a rollout that covers 1,800 internal users.

Compass is also leading an industry-wide initiative in the food services sector called Optimum Foodservice Supply Chain Initiative, which involves the use of AS2 as the standard communications protocol around electronic data interchange. The company has claimed that once such traffic had been migrated to this delivery format, the company saw a 95 per cent plunge in value-added network costs. A new e-procurement system, that allows outlets to order stock online managed as a remote service, has also been introduced. However, it hasn’t always been an easy ride in e-procurement: along with Whitbread and Bass, Compass was one of the main backers of the Jupiter Exchange, which was shut in 2003.