Back in the mid 1990s, a brash young Englishman by the name of Michael Bailey took the foodservice management industry by storm with a radical philosophy: Acquire smaller contract companies and then allow them to operate as discrete units, almost as if they were still independent companies. As president of Compass Group North America, Bailey parlayed that strategy into a multibillion-dollar empire that included such entities as Bon Appétit Management Co., Restaurant Associates, Flik International and Thompson Hospitality. It was a sound strategy, and one that continues to work, with Bon Appétit and its approach to sustainability a prime example.
Bailey “retired” as CEO of Compass Group PLC, the British parent of Compass Group N.A., in 2006. But men like Bailey are restless individuals and they don’t remain dormant for long. So it was no surprise in 2008 when he resurfaced as the co-founder of TrustHouse Services Group. Since that time, Bailey has been hard at work building his new company the same way he developed his previous firm: through acquisition. Last Friday, TrustHouse completed its latest acquisition when it merged with Valley Services Inc., the Jackson, Miss.-based contractor with a strong stable of senior nutrition clients.
And once again, Bailey is employing the strategy that has worked so well for Compass. Valley Services will continue to operate with its name and management team intact. Is another Compass Group-like firm being created? Well, the contract company landscape is markedly different from what it was in the 1990s. One colleague of mine asked whether there were many more food management firms out there worth acquiring. I don’t know, but it will be fun to follow TrustHouse and find out.