Ali Group gears up for catering equipment recovery

AFE Group CEO Tim Smith remains optimistic about the company’s future.

One of the Ali Group’s top executives predicts that a recovery in global market conditions will command an “agile and lean” approach to catering equipment sales in future.

Tim Smith, CEO of the UK-based AFE Group, which is owned by the Italian foodservice giant, said it was essential for the company’s brands to respond to the changing needs of customers around the world.

Writing in the latest edition of Ali Group’s corporate magazine, Smith said: “Globally, economies are emerging from a slowdown, and that means we have to be agile and lean across all the businesses in the group.

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“That turn in the business cycle brings change and accelerates interest in innovation among customers, too. For example, as hotel development expands, we’re seeing a real upsurge of interest in front-of-house display refrigeration and more open plan kitchens.”

Smith said that while foodservice has always been a competitive market, Ali Group was seeing “renewed vigor” in the sector as global economies tune up.

“The quickening pace of life is a huge factor,” he said. “It’s meant, for example, that ‘grab’n’go’ has become a huge trend in foodservice. We’re time-poor, eating on the go — and that presents a huge range of opportunities that every part of Ali Group can help customers deal with, whether it’s in accelerated cooking, refrigeration, bakery, coffee or ice.”

Smith also offered a global view of how the Ali Group sees the world market panning out, citing growth across different continents.

“There are enormous opportunities in China and South-East Asia, for instance. The Gulf Cooperation Council countries have developed extremely fast and are pushing ahead with some incredible infrastructure projects and events such as Expo 2020 in Dubai.

“We have had a long-term commitment and permanent physical presence in these markets — a must to ensure we harvest the opportunities that present themselves. Major global sporting events also drive up activity — so we can expect some fascinating opportunities in Latin America, particularly for our sister brands in Ali Group North America.

“But whether the opportunities are in UK, Dubai or India or in the massive expansions underway across African markets, we have to be local.”

Smith has worked in the industry for more than 22 years, starting out as finance director at Williams Refrigeration. The refrigeration manufacturer is one of five AFE Group members, alongside Falcon, Mono, Serviceline and Miller’s Vanguard.

AFE Group operates 15 locations worldwide and employs 1,500 staff.

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