David Jenkinson and Nick Jones founded Restaurants at Work in 1995, together with Helen Pezaro, a colleague, when their previous company, the Catering Guild, was taken over by Granada. ‘The culture was completely alien to us,’ says Jenkinson, managing director. ‘It was impossible to stay.’ They were placed under a six-month embargo by Granada but netted their first client, Chelsea Building Society’s Cheltenham headquarters, as soon as they were able to start trading. Much of the Surrey company’s 94% annual sales rise, from £536,000 in 1996 to £3.9m in 1999, has come from offering clients high levels of customer service in an industry dominated by larger players, such as Granada and Sodexho, which have a more standardised offering. Restaurants at Work offers a bespoke contract for each client and provides everything from a butler for a corporate headquarters to a 22-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week catering service for a national newspaper group.
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