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Compass Group copes with COVID in a tough year

Among its responses to the pandemic, the contract management company developed a new café program, adapted its FoodWorks unit to the new realities and leveraged technology solutions.

After years of steady growth, Compass Group North America experienced a down year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted most of the industry. The company saw an 18.5% decline in organic revenues for the year, mainly because of a 40% decline over the second half of the fiscal year that coincided with the breakout of the pandemic.

“Encouragingly, new business for the full year was 6.9%, with significant levels of growth from first time outsourcing and wins from smaller regional players,” the company noted in its annual report, adding that “retention rates were high at 96.4%”.

Among individual markets, the Sports & Leisure business saw most venues remaining closed throughout the second half of the fiscal year while Education (both colleges and K-12) were impacted by the March lockdown and in the fall saw “a mixed approach to reopening, especially within our Higher Education sub sector where many clients are offering a hybrid curriculum with online as well as live classes”.

With the B&I portfolio weighted towards office-based accounts where the return to work has been slow, revenues dropped 22%, from around $6.4 billion in fiscal 2019 to $5 billion in fiscal 2020, but the Healthcare & Seniors business actually grew by 4.5%, driven by double-digit new business wins, the annual report notes.

Among responses by Compass to the pandemic and the restrictions it imposed on onsite dining programs were the development of new models and adapting of operations based on shifts in workplace trends and what diners are looking for, all while keeping safety at the forefront.

Among the highlights is Market Café, a contactless platform that enables guests to browse the mobile menu, customize their order, pay ahead and select a pickup time based on traffic volumes. Guests can also visit the café and use their phone to shop-scan-and-pay for fresh prepared grab-and-go and grocery essentials, reducing the number of touchpoints and extra stops on the way home.

Seamlessly integrated with Compass Group’s retail programs in a single digital platform, the scalable concept can adapt to fluctuations in population and shifts in demand with solutions for breakfast, lunch and take-home meals as well as grab and go.

The modular design and programming allows for both existing and new floor plans to be transformed to meet evolving needs. The different programs include:

  • Market Outlets, unattended satellite locations with curated snack, beverage and grab-and-go items that serve as designated remote pick-up locations for options preordered on the app and customized in the virtual kitchen;
  • Market on Demand, which enables consumers to get their orders delivered direct to their doorstep through Compass’ network of locations, supply chain and last-mile-delivery partners;
  • Market Pop-Up, which transforms high-traffic areas into branded retail spaces, making it easy for customers to pick up in-demand grocery items without having to stop at the store;
  • Market On The Move, a mini market on wheels that incorporates mobile POS to meet guests wherever they are with beverages, shelf-stable and fresh foods; and
  • Coffee, Espresso & Tea, which provides barista-quality coffees and teas with full equipment solutions ranging from low-tech to cutting-edge technology, all ensuring great experience in multiple settings with minimized contact.

The company also adapted its FoodWorks onsite dining platform, which partners with local restaurants—many minority- or woman-owned—to bring them into its client operations and help expand their reach, to the Market Café platform, opening the first location in New York in July and following with another launch in Chicago later in the year, with additional markets like Houston, Austin, Denver, Phoenix, Miami and Los Angeles slated to follow.

Compass has also leveraged new technology solutions ranging from robotic and automated delivery to food lockers and mobile pick-up options are designed to create a guest-focused experience along with opportunities to reduce the number of touchpoints while streamlining both front- and back-of-house operations.

Meanwhile, the company’s ChefNet network of local and celebrity chefs and restaurateurs moved to a 100% virtual model and since October, celebrity chefs such as Elizabeth Falkner, Aarti Sequeria, Damaris Phillips, Amanda Cohen and Jet Tila have hosted virtual events for clients.

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