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EATClubImage2_copy.jpg Compass Group
Last year, Compass expanded its digital offerings for food delivery through the acquisition of “virtual cafeteria” firm EAT Club, one of a series of moves designed to better position the company in the evolving onsite dining market.

Compass manages through its first full pandemic-impacted fiscal year

While top-line revenue dropped, recovery later in the fiscal year, plus the development and launch of new initiatives designed to deal with COVID and its aftermath, signal optimism going forward for the industry’s largest firm.

In its first full fiscal year operating under the constraints imposed by the COVID pandemic, Compass North America saw full year organic revenue decline by 6.7% from fiscal 2020 (only about half of which was affected by the pandemic), coming in at around 76% of 2019 revenue, but with the fourth quarter exit rate bouncing up to around 90%. According to the company’s annual report, reported new business was at 7.5% of the total, with double digit new business growth in the Healthcare/Senior Living and Sports & Leisure units and continued high retention rates at 96.4.

“Of the top 10 new business wins by value, eight were from first time outsourcing,” the report noted, indicating the company has had some success selling the benefits of third-party management to first-time buyers rather than simply capturing already outsourced business from competing contract firms.

The Sports & Leisure unit “performed well” in the second half of the year, benefiting from improved attendance, particularly of outdoor sports events, with strong per capita spend, the report states, while the Education sector (which includes both K-12 and Higher Education) saw strong reopening numbers in fall 2021 following the summer break and high on-campus spending—though as the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, it missed almost all of the impact of the Omicron variant surge that marred the latter part of 2021 and the start of 2022.

As Compass’ Business & Industry sector is weighted towards white collar business, it continued to be significantly impacted by the pandemic with a slow recovery and gradual return to offices. However, the Healthcare/Senior Living unit “has been resilient throughout the pandemic, particularly in support services,” the annual report states, and continued to trade above 100% of 2019 revenues. The company disposed of its remaining laundries business during the year.

Among initiatives undertaken by Compass and its various operating units over the past year was an increased focus on technology. After COVID-19 changed how the industry looked at keeping customers and associates safe, technology became increasingly critical for the company.

Early in the pandemic, Compass knew digital products like mobile ordering would be instrumental in creating safe and engaging hospitality experiences for customers, clients and sectors to return safely, but that had to be with some nuanced new ways of using digital technology. In response to how operators facilitated digital orders, the company optimized menus for the digital interface, providing safe preparation and fulfillment while still providing exciting culinary offerings as well as options to customers through new menu concepts like secret menus, grocery offerings and meal kits.

Compass evolved signature Market and Market Café concepts to offer both virtual and onsite solutions that add value and create frictionless experiences to meet guests where they are. The Market portfolio of retail models provides scalability based on fluctuating population levels while giving diners complete control from their mobile device and is part of how Compass Group is addressing the future of retail and convenience.

The company also expanded its digital offerings for food delivery through the acquisition of EAT Club, which extends the technology across the Compass portfolio of clients in the business and industry, education and healthcare divisions, enabling individually ordered and packaged meals to be aggregated into one synchronized delivery. EAT Club brings together ordering, food production and on-time delivery into a single operation to create a virtual cafeteria experience, along with expanded dining experience flexibility, serving businesses of all sizes with premium dining options at the workplace without a full on-premise foodservice operation. The technology also makes it easier to reach diners in satellite offices of large corporate campuses.

Compass in 2021 also enhanced its grab and go program with its Jack & Olive brand, which offers ready-to-eat, handcrafted snacks and meals with tamper-proof packaging. Increased demand fueled nationwide expansion of the brand with product availability sourced from local partners in all 48 contiguous states in the US.

Another initiative, Café NXT, sought to reinvent/reimagine food experiences and how Compass provides amenities and operates various dining models and service/hospitality platforms by reversing the model of moving people through space to get to food to moving food through space to reach customers wherever they are. By leveraging mobile and digital technology, optimizing retail principles and creating dynamic spaces that shift based on time of day, Café NXT looks to provide more flexibility and greater opportunities to incorporate the community while weaving in diversity, inclusion, sustainability and wellness. One example of Café NXT is the outlet at WooSox stadium, the first frictionless market in baseball.

In response to the consumer trend toward specific eating patterns and diets, Compass in 2021 launched MyFX as a subscription-based, personalized fresh and healthy meal program guided by its Registered Dietitians and chefs. It takes an individual’s dietary needs, preferences and patterns from which the RDs then create a custom meal program with meals that can be brought home to heat and enjoy throughout the week, all aligned with the individuals’ lifestyles. MyFX members also receive food-as-medicine education resources and can join live chats with Compass experts.

Yet another 2021 initiative is Krafted, a digital marketplace that features select Compass Group catering programs and unique models available regionally and nationally, across all lines of business, to create additional visibility for its off-premise services. The programs are made available online at through a quick, easy zip code search. Through the program, clients can, for example, support their team’s well-being with curated snack boxes and guests can enjoy interactive demonstrations led by expert chefs while in their homes.

Technology was also leveraged through the opening of ghost kitchens on university campuses nationwide in 2021 by the Chartwells division, with the concepts providing menu offers that customized to local student preferences and made available at convenient hours for delivery or contactless pickup through the Chartwells mobile ordering app.

Another company unit focusing on technology is Levy, which continued to pilot and expand frictionless food and beverage experiences at stadiums, sporting events and convention centers with a series of tech partners. It launched new checkout-free markets at Javits Center (Fresh and Fast Market, powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology), Ford Field (Ford Field Express Shop, powered by Verizon and AiFi) and Gainbridge Fieldhouse (Fast Break grab & go markets, powered by Zippin). The year culminated with Levy launching a new innovation studio, DBK Studio, in January 2022 to identify, test, and scale emerging technologies across its portfolio.

On the menu end, Chartwells Higher Ed last year introduced 100% plant-based dining halls and pop-up events to accommodate the increasing desire of students to practice a more meat-free diet. Meals incorporate global flavors and ethnic spices to craft cutting-edge, made-to-order meatless food items such as Braised Lentil Quinoa Burgers, Pomegranate Cauliflower Chickpea Salads and Thai Spiced Marinated Tofu.

Meanwhile, Chartwells K12 continued adapting feeding models to serve students in classrooms, cafeterias and at home through the second year of the pandemic, including the rollout of two new, completely customizable menu concepts: Mac & Cheesyology and Revolution Noodle.

On the catering front, when colleges began sending students home at the start of the pandemic, Chartwells Higher Ed revamped its proprietary Carved and Crafted catering program to provide new contact-free catering options, such as individually packaged meals of vegetarian and vegan options made available through mobile and online ordering for contactless pick-ups and drop-offs.

Also, at a time when clients and consumers alike were hyper-focused on wellness, the Morrison Healthcare division launched five root to stem concepts—Beet Root, Carrot Greens, Cauli Club, On the Vine, and Silver Kings—that feature 100% vegetable entrées while highlighting the healing power of the featured vegetable. Additionally, it launched Garden Made, a 100% veg-centric, plant forward station designed for the Mayo Clinic at its Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center locations.

Another 2021 Morrison Healthcare launch, in partnership with celebrity Chef Bal Arneson, was Basmati & Spice, which spotlights the healing power of food by boosting immune health and supporting local farmers and regenerative agriculture. Basmati & Spice has a flavor-packed menu featuring veg-centric, plant-forward options that model the Morrison platform of “Food is Medicine.” It focuses on four signature dishes, often replacing the unhealthy elements of Indian food with healthier alternatives.

The Morrison Healthcare Retail Culinary team also began examining existing concept menus in an effort to identify meat items that could be replaced with a more sustainable, plant-forward alternative. It piloted BIPOC farming programs in the Atrium Health and Novant Health systems across North Carolina, with the partnership extending beyond purchasing to helping plan the life cycle of the farm, from when to plant what crop to when to harvest, part of the unit’s effort to support Compass Group’s goal to be carbon net zero by 2050.

Also part of that effort is Morrison Healthcare’s partnership with Alaskan Seafood, Highliner Seafood and Barton Seaver to promote sustainable seafood and underutilized seafood on our menus

Morrison Healthcare also developed a robust Medically Tailored Meal (MTM) program to address the growing trend toward post-discharge and at-home patient care programs, for which quality food designed to improve patient outcomes is a critical component. An MTM program solves this need by providing dietary therapy for patients suffering chronic health issues, living in America’s food deserts or participating in health maintenance programs at home.

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