Ilona Dávid, Company Manager

With annual sales revenue of almost HUF 40 billion, GVC is a particularly large group of companies, which is growing steadily year on year. The flagship of the company’s multi-sector operations is the Hungast Group, which provides workplace and public catering to nearly 200,000 consumers. “The GVC Group operates like a large company, but with a lot more flexibility; for example, the owner is available, which is an advantage, especially when we have to react overnight to unexpected situations at group level, such as the one caused by the pandemic”, says Ilona Dávid, who has been leading the company since January 2021. Ilona Dávid’s name is not unknown in Hungary, as she has been a long-time head of several of the largest Hungarian companies. Wherever she worked, her presence was a guarantee of success and development.

The legal predecessor of the GVC Group was founded by its owner in 1996. The main activity was catering, typically for  local institutions. In the years that followed, the market and  the size of the company grew steadily: It provided services in Dunaújváros, Esztergom and Pest County. The legal entity, now called Hungast, was later expanded: It has launched services in Pécs, Zalaegerszeg and several districts of the capital. In 2016, Elamen Zrt. and its subsidiary Bakony Gaszt Zrt. also became members of the GVC Group through an acquisition. A year later, the group acquired 100% of the shares of the then market leader Sodexo Kft., thus quadrupling its 2015 size and becoming the market leader.

During this time, the catering market has been transformed, both by regulation and by changes in consumer habits in terms of nutrition. The provision of special diets due to food sensitivities is also expected. “We try to be different by setting an example by innovation. Although it is difficult from an eco- nomic point of view to prove that the Hungarian raw material is better value, because we could get it cheaper from neighbouring countries, but we have always believed in quality, because we know that in the long run it is more profitable and that we are taking the side of consumers. We offer parents an opportunity to taste our food in our serving kitchen without prior appointment. We are also developing our range to meet increasingly stringent nutrition laws, relying on our renowned experts in gastronomy and dietetics.”

“The corporate segment is very different and is much closer to commercial hospitality. We have a broad range, and marketing is also an important part of the service. Consumer needs are varied in this case as well, as “a physical labourers cannot be satiated with a low-calorie green salad, and the same can be said of corporate staff, who do not always go for heavier dishes”. Our chefs who put together the menus are also constantly working creatively in this area.

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In order to keep a competitive edge, it is not only necessary to meet the above requirements, but also to communicate and to update food-related services. “Cooking delicious food is a fundamental expectation. What needs to be competitive is digitisation, streamlining processes and addressing consumers as efficiently and directly as possible.” In the factories, the breaks are short and in practice they only have a few minutes in which to catch their breath. For this reason, you should try to reduce queuing time, for example by paying by employee card or by placing an order in advance. This type of IT development, which is otherwise very expensive, is already underway. The group covers practically the entire spectrum of manufacturing and food services, as it is also involved in crop production, animal husbandry and wine production within the food sector.

“To produce high quality pre-packed and shelf-stable but preservative-free foods, we have recently purchased a factory where product development is ongoing. In agriculture, we plan further acquisitions in the areas of livestock, arable farming and forestry. We are already experimenting with higher value-added crops; for example, we have to buy a lot of potatoes for the time being, so in some areas we are looking at whether it is more profitable for us to grow them.”

In addition to agri-food, the Group is also innovating in other areas. With a focus on sustainable operation, they have also entered the electric boat market with the development of an electric power train, and orders have been coming in since the prototype was completed. “It is also a ‘leg’ where we support innovation and sustainable development.”There are also plans to set up a venture capital investment and private equity fund as a financial service.

The diversification and strategic thinking that characterises the company is also strongly present in sport. Support for sports clubs started from the healthy lifestyle, with catering. “Our aim is to be the main sponsor of top and second division teams, with a presence in management and organisation. On the sports side, we participate at an amateur level but, on the economic side, we want to improve as much as possible.”

To finance continued growth, the company issued bonds under the MNB’s Bond for Growth Scheme, raising a total of HUF 7.06 billion. This is to provide the necessary background for the development of a high and consistent quality food service in line with future trends—the operation of more and larger production plants and factories and the involvement of internationally recognised professionals and intellectual capital. The group anticipates a labour shortage in the coming years, which it hopes to solve partly through automation. The availability of suitable packaging material is also a key issue, so its innovative development and production may also be on the agenda in the coming years.

With its professional experience and business success in various fields, GVC GROUP will be able to be a synergetic company in the future, which will inspire many other companies interested in other segments.