Bon appetit Group AG

Bon appetit, with revenues of $2.1 billion and over 5,000 employees, gets to call itself Switzerland's largest listed food company. I get to call it disappointing. The address I had for the head office was in Moosseedorf, a town 10 miles north of Bern. It turns out to be offices above one of their wholesale cash & carry stores AND it's only the registered office and not where top executives hang their hats-that's near Zurich.

So, that's why I'm here in an industrial park area in Volketswil, a community about 10 miles southeast of Zurich. Bon appetit operates several supermarket chains, cash & carry stores and delivers food supplies to over 4,200 customers (kiosks, gas stations, and restaurants). It also has a joint venture and is the licensee for Starbucks in Switzerland.

Corporate offices are comprised of two similar brownish-colored five-story buildings built in 1982. I show up right before lunchtime and hurry into the lobby because come noon, the Swiss lock-up and are out the door. The receptionist speaks little English as I ask her to call up CEO Edwin Scherrer.

After a few minutes wait in the tiny no-frills lobby Heinz Brun appears. I explain what I do and how several months earlier I showed up at their Moosseedorf offices. He agrees to answer my questions but it doesn't go well since Brun shows little interest and gives the impression he doesn't understand the questions.

Around 300 employees work in the two buildings. Parking is plentiful, smoking is allowed in designated areas, the company's art collection is limited to Swiss artists, it's a few blocks to the nearest freeway and 20-minutes to Zurich Airport. Though a food company, Bon appetit doesn't have its own cafeteria there's an arrangement with a company next door to use theirs. Any employee perks? Discounts on purchases at Bon appetit retailers. My request to see CEO Scherrer's top floor corner office is declined because "he has a meeting". It isn't possible to see the boardroom since they don't have one. So, counting the five minute wait for Brun plus the four minutes it took to whisk through the questions I was in and out of there in 10 minutes. Heck, not even enough time to finish drinking a Starbuck's coffee.

The title on Heinz Brun's business card reads, "Leiter Gruppenkoordination" and I didn't understand when he described what he did. Later while thumbing through an English edition of the annual report I come across a flow chart showing management hierarchy. Brun's name and title (Group Coordination) is listed just below CEO Edwin Scherrer's-meaning he's the number two or three guy in the organization.