Compass group chief executive Richard Cousins and four members of his close family died in a plane accident in Australia on 31 Dec.
He was due to retire at the end of March and the group said that as a result of his death, Dominic Blakemore's appointment as chief executive had been advanced from 1 Apr to 1 Jan.
Chairman Paul Walsh said: 'We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news.
'The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard's family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.
'It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last few years.
'Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain's leading companies.'