OpEx Awards winner EMEA: Partners Group – Vermaat

With the support of Partners Group, catering services company Vermaat added more than 172 high-footfall food and beverage locations, and entered the German market.

Established in 1978 as a delicatessen store, Vermaat is a leading provider of premium catering services to corporate, leisure, hospital and travel locations, as well as events. The company is headquartered in the Netherlands. Global private markets investment manager Partners Group, on behalf of its clients, developed a relationship with the family owners and management, positioning itself as an experienced succession partner with a track record of working with family businesses.

Partners Group was attracted to Vermaat based on the growing and resilient Western European catering segment where it operates, driven by an ongoing outsourcing trend. The company also had long-term client contracts with impressive renewal rates, as well as a strong financial track record.

Nonetheless, Partners Group had a clear value creation plan to leverage organic and inorganic growth opportunities. The firm set about professionalising what had been a family-run business while maintaining its entrepreneurial approach. It institutionalised financial and operational reporting and controls, as well as budgeting, strategic planning, training and development.

Next, it helped management to invest in growth and increased Vermaat’s number of high-traffic food and beverage locations, both organically and through a series of accretive acquisitions. Vermaat increased its high-footfall locations by more than 172 to around 360. It was also awarded a Michelin star for its RIJKS restaurant.

Environmental, social and governance considerations were also a central tenet of the investment philosophy. In particular, Vermaat was focused on using healthy sustainable food while reducing food waste by collaborating with suppliers to purchase imperfect ingredients and working with seasonal fruit and vegetables to reduce its carbon footprint.In order to support this growth, Partners Group added seasoned retail experience to Vermaat’s board, alongside its own industry and investment professionals. The firm also installed a project management office to drive digital strategy, including a KPI dashboard for location-by-location insights and management, and like-for-like growth.

International expansion was next on the agenda. Partners Group analysed different avenues from when it first invested in Vermaat to 2018, and created a platform to enter the German market.

Vermaat generated annual sales of €138 million at the time of Partners Group’s investment in 2015, and this rose to more than €300 million last year, when the private equity firm exited.

Vermaat was acquired by Bridgepoint in 2019. Partners Group remains a minority investor.

“This story represents an outstanding journey of creating the leader in sustainable premium catering,” a member of the judging panel commented. The judges also noted the company displayed strong growth while maintaining margins, and that it had been convincingly focused on ESG.