Equistone-backed CH&CO combines with Blue Apple and Pabulum

Equistone-backed CH&CO combines with Blue Apple and Pabulum

22 Aug 2023

Equistone Partners Europe (“Equistone”) today announces that it has supported its portfolio company, CH&CO, the independent caterer and Royal Warrant holder, in the bolt-on transactions of Blue Apple and Pabulum. These two bolt-on transactions expand CH&CO’s workplace and education portfolios and represent a continuation of the growth strategy the company has pursued since Equistone first invested in the business in May 2019. They also complement the strong organic growth achieved by CH&CO over the past two years following the pandemic-era shutdown of the catering market. The financial terms of these transactions remain undisclosed.

Blue Apple is a workplace caterer that operates across the South East, home counties, Midlands and South West, serving 58 locations. With a turnover of £14 million and employing nearly 300 people, the company has an extensive and diverse range of clients. This transaction further strengthens CH&CO’s position within the market, with Blue Apple joining a portfolio which also includes workplace businesses Gather & Gather and Vacherin.

Pabulum, based in Fleet, Hampshire, is an education caterer that operates in over 100 schools throughout the South of England. Having a turnover of £28.5 million and over 800 employees, the company serves a range of primary and secondary institutions, including single sites, multi-academy trusts and federations. Both companies will share best practice across the combined portfolio of education sites, and Pabulum will gain the extra support that a larger organisation like CH&CO supplies, especially from its support teams and the learning and development opportunities for team members.

CH&CO offers premium contract and hospitality catering services throughout the UK to a broad range of sectors, including workplaces, venues, tourist destinations, independent and state schools, further education, healthcare and events. The company has a prestigious client portfolio, including some of the UK’s leading companies, charities and organisations, and has held a Royal Warrant since 2013. 

Equistone’s role in supporting these two transactions is part of the ambitious buy-and-build strategy on which the firm is working closely with CH&CO’s management team, following on from the company’s acquisition of Gather & Gather and Creativevents, the workplace catering and events businesses of Mitie in 2019. The addition of Blue Apple and Pabulum will strategically position CH&CO as the catering sector accelerates after the Covid slowdown. 

Ed Baker, Investment Director at Equistone, said: “CH&CO has an exceptional senior management team who have an incredibly strong track record of M&A. It is fantastic to see the support we provided to the business during the Covid lockdowns result in a strong recovery and a continuation of its buy-and-build strategy.”

Bill Toner, CH&CO CEO, added: “We’re extremely delighted to welcome Blue Apple and Pabulum to the CH&CO family.  These mergers are a key part of our growth plans and will further strengthen our workplace and education portfolios. As the level of confidence increases within the hospitality industry, we are very excited about the opportunities these recent mergers provide to all our team members and partners.” 

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