AiP Catering

Sector:   Business Services  
Overview:  Specialist education caterer
Investment year 2014
Status Realised 
Headquarters Birmingham

AiP Catering was founded in 1998 as a specialist catering firm supplying fresh and healthy foods to schools in the West Midlands. Today AiP serves more than 75,000 freshly cooked, nutritious and locally sourced meals a day in 400 primary, middle and secondary schools as well as colleges throughout the UK.

It felt like the Key team was a natural extension to the senior management team at AiP and we enjoyed a great relationship with them.

Working with AIP...

Investment process

In 2014, with increasing public interest in child nutrition and the introduction of universal free school meals, the management team developed an ambitious growth strategy.

We invested £5.3 million and raised a further £5.5 million of bank debt to support the management team in buying out their absentee shareholders. The deal would enable the management team to focus the business on growth, rather than generating dividends for shareholders who had lost touch with the day to day running of the business.

Growth process

To support these growth aspirations, we appointed an experienced Non-Executive Chairman and supported the team as they expanded both the sales force and operational management in the business to cope with rapid growth. Focus was also placed on the reduction of customer churn through the creation of a customer retention team, and helped design and implement operational reporting systems to identify and remediate underperforming contracts.
Additionally, we identified two complementary businesses for acquisition (Class Catering and The Contract Dining Company) and assisted management in negotiation, due diligence and integration.

Exit process

AiP received significant interest from a number of larger catering businesses as its rapid rate of growth became apparent. At the time of exit, sales and profits had nearly doubled and the number of schools using AiP had risen from 170 to over 400. In 2018, we engaged advisors to run a targeted sale process from which two attractive bids from multi-national catering business emerged. In December of 2018, AiP was sold to French catering giant Sodexo for an undisclosed sum. Management received cash for all their shares and continued in their roles on enhanced terms.

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