With cooking equipment that boasts striking designs and bold colours, Inka Charcoal Ovens is a new brand in the UK market that is determined to stand out. Here’s what you need to know about its products, prices and dealer plans.
1. New brand, seasoned owner
Inka might be a new name on the circuit but its Spanish parent company has been making charcoal ovens since 1962. “Inka ovens are in 200 Spanish barbecue restaurants at the moment and what we are doing is offering them as an alternative to a chargrill or salamander,” says Franco Sotgiu, MD of Inka Charcoal Ovens UK.
2. Jostling with Josper
As a charcoal oven-focused brand, there is no disputing who Inka is up against as it bids to make headway in the UK market. “The competition is the Josper, as well as any other indoor open chargrills,” acknowledges Sotgiu. “We have noticed in the last year that barbecuing and grilling is on trend. In London you have got all the street food people barbecuing, Jamie Oliver has done the Barbecoa restaurant and we are now seeing the barbecue being brought to the front of house, so we think there is a good market for it.”
3. Targets in place
With list prices that start from £4,000, Inka believes its grills represent better value for money than existing brands on the market. Sotgiu is hoping the affordability of the units will ensure the company meets its launch-year sales forecasts. “We have got a UK and Ireland target of 200 ovens in the first 12 months,” he reveals.
4. Colouring the kitchen
In a sector accustomed to the ubiquitous tint of stainless steel, Inka is bidding to attract attention with a stunning array of coloured ovens that can be proudly positioned in front-of-house locations. “For the trade shows we have ordered red, white and blue ones given it is the Olympic year, just to show that you can get them in any colour you want,” says Sotgiu. “If you have got a bright yellow one then it is going to be the talking point of the kitchen.” For the record, Inka ovens are available in traditional stainless steel too!
5. Eye for design
It’s not just the colour of the ovens that Inka is hoping will woo prospective customers. It also offers them in a range of sizes — up to a capacity of 150kgs an hour — to suit all types of operator, while customers can choose to have the firebreaker ‘hat’ positioned on top of the oven or inside. “The other key difference is that the ovens have got glass on the front of them that can withstand 750°C temperatures, so the public can see the food being cooked through the window and chefs don’t have to constantly open the door to check the ‘doneness’ of the meat,” notes Sotgiu.
6. Powered by coconut fuel
Inka ovens are designed to use coconut charcoal, a natural by-product of the coconut husk which produces a ‘flameless’ burn and is virtually smoke free. “It burns hotter than wood charcoal and the key thing is it doesn’t flare up, even if you drop fat on it,” says Sotgiu. “It is a wonder fuel for barbecuing, but historically it has been more expensive. We are bringing 40-foot container loads in and making it affordable for the restaurants.”
7. Searching for dealers
Inka’s immediate priority as it launches the brand in the UK is to build a strong and reliable dealer network to market its ovens. Sotgiu explains: “We are looking to introduce between six and 10 distributors in the UK. We are not just going to give the brand to anybody — we want to work with people that can help us take it forward, understand the message and have good contacts with restaurant groups and kitchen designers. What we don’t want is to see it on every catering equipment website on the internet.”
8. Keeping dealers happy
Although Inka initially plans to handle the biggest accounts directly, it accepts that transparent channel management is required from the start. “If somebody came to us direct they would have to pay full list price — we would never undercut a dealer,” insists Sotgiu. “To be honest with you, it is quite fluid at the moment. If a dealer came to us and said they are not happy with us selling direct and they want it to be through dealers then that is something we would consider.”
9. The margin opportunity
By limiting its dealer network to fewer than 10 key companies, Inka claims it will be able to guarantee healthy margins for channel partners that come on board to sell its ovens. “We are looking at margins of up to 30% and they are going to be making a minimum of £1,000 per oven — and that is on the cheaper model,” says Sotgiu.
10. Two-week turnaround
Inka will have examples of its grills on display at its Manchester showroom for customers to view and says products can be delivered on-site within a fortnight of orders being placed. “Each unit is built to order and we can turn them around in 10 days from the confirmed order because most of the parts are interchangeable,” says Sotgiu. “Then it takes four days for shipping. We also keep about 12 to 15 in various colours in stock at any one time.”