Compass Group North America
We don’t usually put the largest firms on the Top 50 “companies to watch” list because they are so obvious and prominent, but we decided to make an exception this year for the industry’s largest player, because its substantial presence in just about every onsite foodservice market represents a broadly based barometer for industry recovery as a whole. Granted, Compass NA’s fiscal 2021 numbers were down from fiscal 2020, but much of that had to do with 2020 including five pre-COVID months when Compass was still humming along on a steady growth path that had seen it break the $20 billion barrier for annual revenues in fiscal 2019. Notably, fiscal 2021 fourth quarter revenues were at 90% of the 2019 figure, per the company annual report, showing that Compass is very much getting the hang of operating in the new environment, both by adapting existing operations to new realities and by drumming up new business, which its annual report noted constituted 7.5% of the total. “Of the top 10 new business wins by value, eight were from first time outsourcing,” the report added, indicating Compass has apparently been busy converting self-ops, a development that bears watching to see if it is merely a temporary blip caused by COVID-induced nervousness or part of a larger trend toward outsourcing in general.
We had listed Delaware North as a company to watch in last year’s Top 50 package despite its awful first year in the COVID era because the company was moving so aggressively to deal with the crisis. Its numbers for 2021 are the first result of that vigorous response, as Delaware North posed the 2022 Top 50’s second-largest revenue increase—a 93% jump that may not have totally erased the previous year’s losses but definitely got the company back in the financial neighborhood it had previously occupied. More than though is how Delaware North is doing it, essentially reinventing how retail/concessions is offered in locations like sports venues, airports, parks and convention facilities into an ultra-modern service style that leverages cutting-edge technology solutions like remote ordering, unmanned kiosks and AI-enabled retail spaces in place of traditional labor-intensive practices like grandstand hawkers and manned concession stands.
SAGE mostly operates in a specialty nook of the onsite foodservice world—private and independent schools—where it has been very successful and where market growth going forward may continue following a recent general enrollment bump. The company has established a sophisticated approach to this market that leverages technology—its mobile app offers not just remote ordering and current offerings but ingredient lists and a comprehensive allergen filter—while emphasizing a customized menus for each location.
Quest Food Management Services
Quest is one of the 2022 Top 50’s Top Risers, boasting a 56% jump in 2021 revenues that are the company’s highest ever. It has achieved that by concentrating on meeting the needs of its core K-12 market with drive-through meal pick-ups, neighborhood distribution and its new Questables multi-day meal kit product that led to more than 10.5 million SFSP meals being served through the 2021-22 school year. Meanwhile, to serve its corporate dining and higher education account, it rolled out mobile ordering platforms and partnered with third party delivery providers to serve individual offices and dorm rooms.
Another 2022 Fast Riser, with a 38.5% increase between 2020 and 2021, Better4You hasn’t slowed down its growth trajectory even in the midst of the pandemic, almost doubling its annual revenues since 2018. It did it over the past year by enhancing its home meal service to seniors with fresh sandwich and salad options as well as hot pre-packaged meals and expanding its fleet of refrigerated delivery vans. For its core private/charter school market, Better4You continued to concentrate on providing healthy and nutritious meals through drive-thru grab-n-go service models, as it had done since the onset of the pandemic.
The 2022 Companies to Watch listing can’t be complete without including the year’s top riser, SLA Management, which grew 214% in the past year—and 37% over pre-COVID 2019—by adapting its service to its K-12 client base from traditional models to efficient and flexible alternatives such as classroom delivery, curbside pick-up service and home delivery that accord with current requirements.