100: Tim West and Mike Sunley

01 July 2010 100: Tim West and Mike Sunley

Overall ranking: 77

Food service ranking: 7

Tim West and Mike Sunley - Snapshot

In the eight years since setting up Lexington Catering in 2002 Mike Sunley, co-founder and now chief executive, has, with chairman Tim West's help, built it into a successful business and industry caterer with annual turnover of £20m and 400 employees.

Tim West and Mike Sunley - Career guide

Before setting up Lexington in 2002 Mike Sunley was a board director for Avenance with responsibility for 130 contracts in London. Sunley had also held senior management roles with both High Table and Compass, accumulating more than 18 years of experience in the sector.

Tim West left school to work as a kitchen porter at army cadet camps. He abandoned a career in banking at Barclays to take his HND in hotel and catering administration at Oxford Brookes University.

From 1977 West took various catering roles at London NHS hospitals, concluding his time as district catering manager for the Guys Hospital group.

He moved to Compass in 1982, initially as operations manager for the City of London. Eventually he was handling 100 high-profile accounts as regional manager.

In 1987, at the age of 32, West became operations director of High Table, a privately owned caterer in the City of London with a £10m turnover.

He became managing director in 1991 following its acquisition by Groupe Elior of France and grew the group into the UK's fourth-largest contract caterer. It was relaunched as Avenance UK in 2000 - when West became chief executive - and as Elior UK in 2005. West became the group's first chairman in June 2004.

He became chief executive of Lexington Catering in January 2006 - buying out co-founder Clare Prowse in the process - and has just stepped up to the role of chairman.

Tim West and Mike Sunley - What we think

With former sales and marketing director Julia Edmonds taking on the managing director's role and clients such as the London Business School, Man Group and property agent Knight Frank on board, it appears that Sunley and West have built a caterer set to endure, and last year's debut on the Sunday Times Best 100 Small Companies to Work For list suggests it has the sort of culture many will find attractive.

It's grown quickly in the past few years from a £1m turnover company to hit the magic £20m mark, making the dark days after losing its original T-Mobile contract in 2005 seem a distant memory. Against the current trend among larger caterers, Lexington is keeping with catering for now and hasn't gone down the facilities management path. It is concentrating on home-grown initiatives, such as its Lexington Chef competition, instead. With a solid foundation established, the recession negotiated and a strong senior team in place, including chef-director Rob Kirby and co-founders and directors Katharine Lewis and Rachael Lindner, Sunley and West will likely be toasting plenty more success.

Tim West and Mike Sunley - Further information

Julia Edmonds moves up to MD as Lexington shuffles top team >>

Lexington Catering >>

Read more about the 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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