Catering Scotland

Conferences, Apprenticeships and Recovery: A Year in the Life of Compass Scotland

 Breaking News
  • Graham and Sibbald Announce Directorship Roles OIOpublisher Chartered surveyors and business valuation experts, Graham and Sibbald have announced the promotion of Kevin Hunter and Scott Graham to director. With more than 12 years’ experience, Kevin (pictured...

Conferences, Apprenticeships and Recovery: A Year in the Life of Compass Scotland

Conferences, Apprenticeships and Recovery: A Year in the Life of Compass Scotland
February 14
11:10 2022

While 2020 was widely considered the worst year on record for Scottish hospitality, 2021 didn’t quite turn out to be the panacea that everyone had hoped it would be. Lockdowns persisted, businesses remained paralysed, events were cancelled and most people, bar the fortunate few, continued to suffer in one way or another.

David Hay

However, following the launch of an ambitious new apprenticeship programme and several contract retentions and new-business wins, Compass Scotland has continued to buck the trend of recovery north of the Border. Key to this was the delivery of catering for COP26, when the company organised the food provision for thousands of delegates and dignitaries over the two-week global event in Glasgow last November. David Hay, Compass Scotland MD, reflects on a monumental first year for Compass Scotland...

Sustainability at COP26

Without question, our biggest accomplishment in 2021 was our role as primary catering supplier at the world-famous environmental summit (main picture, above). The scale of the endeavour, which saw our teams serve more than 10,000 delegates each day, was a huge undertaking both in terms of the conference itself and the two years leading up to it.

Last year also saw Compass Group UK and Ireland announce a commitment to reach Climate Net Zero. Alongside this target, we also launched our Roadmap and Charter, which details the journey we will take to reach this by 2030.

With this in mind, sustainability and promoting locally sourced, seasonal food and drink is core to our ethos. This focus, combined with the objectives of COP26, meant that our menus needed to be carefully constructed. Around 95% of the food we served at COP was UK-sourced and seasonal, while 80% of all food on our menus came from Scottish suppliers. To support a low-carbon menu, and the organisation’s switch to plant-based proteins, 60% of the menu comprised vegetarian dishes, 40% of which were vegan.

Incredibly, we served more than 125,000 items of food from our retail menus. The most popular option was our sustainable fish and chips, with over 11,000 portions served thanks to loyal suppliers including The Bay Fish and Chips, and Amity Fish.

Ultimately, our COP26 legacy is to be market leaders in sustainable food. We aim to focus on locally sourced, in-season menus, with a continuous reduction of emissions and waste across our supply chain and service delivery.

Supporting the conference was an incredible opportunity, providing hundreds of staff – including around 30 local college students and apprentices – with the chance to work as part of the blue zone team. This proved a unique experience for everyone involved, especially newer colleagues who now have this large-scale event experience, with innovation in sustainability at its heart, under their belts.


Supporting the next generation of hospitality talent has been a focus for Compass for many years, and it’s a key part of Compass Scotland’s strategy. Having joined the business as a waiter when I was only 19, I quickly realised that with the support of the company, I could find a great career within it. I was given many learning and development opportunities, including doing a business degree, and I want to make sure we continue to provide these opportunities for others.

The Master Chefs of Great Britain launched Scottish Apprenticeship Week last March

Scottish Apprenticeship Week presented an opportunity to celebrate our people and encourage further development and career pathway opportunities for new and existing recruits. Throughout the year we have continued to work with industry partners including Springboard, Skills Development Scotland, Apprenticeship Hospitality Scotland and various others to support talent development and investment in the future of the industry here in Scotland. It’s been wonderful to see the successes of people on our programmes, and to support valuable initiatives that allow them to thrive.

Partnership approach

We developed our Compass Scotland offer to bring together the best of our country’s produce.

Our ESS business, which is the Defence, Government Services, Offshore and Remote sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland, won the Future Maritime Support Programme Soft FM contract for HMNB Clyde, the Royal Navy’s main presence in Scotland and the core of the submarine service. The new five-year deal includes catering, retail, leisure, waste, cleaning and laundry.

Meanwhile, our Restaurant Associates team added another three years to our catering and hospitality partnership with Edinburgh Zoo. Our 10th year of the contract, this extension came shortly after the arrival of five giraffes at the popular visitor attraction. The team did a stellar job creating a new themed menu, including ‘girafternoon tea’ and the introduction of hydroponics, which will grow cress for sandwiches and wheat grass for smoothies to promote sustainability and nutrition while taking inspiration from the diet of the giraffes themselves.

Supporting local communities

Supporting the communities in which we work is core to our business, and our teams have engaged in some fantastic charitable initiatives over the past year.

In December 2020 we partnered with local charities to provide 3,000 hot meals and drinks in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen over three days.

Last December, Graham Singer, Culinary Director for ESS Energy and Compass Scotland, led a team that provided 2,500 meals for homeless shelters in the Aberdeen area. We worked with The City of Edinburgh Council Temporary Accommodation Department to deliver around 400 hot meals to residents in temporary accommodation across the capital.

I myself visited The Larder in West Lothian to deliver 300 boxes of shortbread and 150 selection boxes and gift bags for their Christmas appeal.​

Looking ahead

Among the many exciting developments in 2022, Compass Scotland has signed up as sponsor of the Student Chef of the Year category at the new Scottish School Food Awards. Taking place at Merchiston Castle School – a Chartwells Independent contract – on 27th October, these groundbreaking new awards aim to recognise and reward excellence in education foodservice. The awards are open now for entries at and will close on Friday 18th March.

Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh: The venue for the inaugural Scottish School Food Awards in October

In addition to this, Compass has just launched Feedr in Scotland. An innovative workplace foodservice platform that enables employers to cater for their teams in situ or at home, it’s perfect for businesses without an onsite restaurant facility, or those looking for the ultimate in flexibility for their catering options, especially as hybrid home and office working looks set to continue.

We’re also excited about the launch of KERB in Scotland later this year. Running street food markets, workshops, consultancy, bars and a food hall in Central London, this innovative operator will be expanding north of the Border later on in 2022. We will be partnering with them to support food and drink options at some of our venues and we see this as a great opportunity to diversify our offering and provide a real variety of choice for guests at our venues.

Looking back, it’s incredible to believe it’s been just over one year since we launched as a separate entity north of the Border. Although Compass UK and Ireland had been operating in Scotland for 70 years, we recognised a great opportunity to maximise our regional approach. By creating a distinct Scottish business, we’re looking at long-term growth, bringing together our sectors to focus on developing the best people, celebrating the finest in Scottish produce and supporting the communities in which we operate.

Compass Scotland’s first year has been a real success and a great platform on which to build. People choose to work with us because we offer innovative, sustainable, high quality catering and support services. This is the key to our continued growth, and I look forward to meeting new and existing suppliers, to increasing the opportunities for our apprenticeships and the Scottish hospitality industry as a whole. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months bring.

David Hay is Managing Director of Compass Scotland.

About Author

Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Only registered users can comment.