Catering equipment brands predict market trends

Catering Insight polled a selection of the big catering equipment exhibitors from the Hospitality Show to find out how they see the market shaping up in 2015.

What key trends do you expect to define the product sectors that you play in during 2015?

Stuart Long, sales and marketing director, MKN: Energy efficiency and touchscreen, ‘iPad’ technology are two of the key trends defining our sector, as demonstrated by our FlexiCombi Magic Pilot, which has a smartphone-style operating system and incorporates technology which reduces energy consumption by up to 40%. As the market becomes more competitive, top-notch service and maintenance is also becoming more important. We offer free service training to an operator’s chosen service partner to ensure the future maintenance of equipment and its performance for years to come, and provide a one-year warranty as standard.

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Tim Bender, UK sales director, warewashing, Hobart: The rise of ‘de-formalised’ casual dining means that consumers are increasingly setting the agenda for the times they want to enjoy food. Horizons reports that the UK branded restaurant market is now attracting an extra 47million visits each year compared to five years ago. This sea change in eating habits means that high quality cleaning power is only one of the requirements of the modern warewasher.

All-day dining requires more ware, and more ware means more cycles, which can lead to a spike in utility bills. Machines that make the washing process quicker, more efficient and use markedly less energy are therefore worth their weight in gold.

Steve Hobbs, managing director, Grande Cuisine: Among Grande Cuisine’s customers and clients considering kitchen upgrades and refurbishments, efficiency is being increasingly prioritised. Optimised energy efficient solutions with reduced servicing costs and lower lifetime costs are being opted for, with flexible components tailored to the needs of a specific client’s kitchen.

Working environment needs are also moving closer to the top of the list when new solutions are being considered. Workflow, streamlining and careful use of space are being considered — modern kitchens are ergonomic and comfortable to work in, with less heat being wasted through modern, energy-efficient offerings, improving culinary work environments no end.

Peter Brewin, marketing and communications manager, Victor Manufacturing: Soaring energy prices are already impacting on restaurants and pubs’ profits, so much so that the Bookatable Dining Index 2014 found that although more than half (68%) of restaurateurs have adopted measures to cut their energy usage, most (90%) admitted that rising energy costs have made them reassess menu prices. With utility costs set to increase by 30% over the next three years, this issue is only set to intensify.

At the same time, pubs and restaurants are being hit hard by rising food prices that have overtaken rent and rates to become restaurants’ biggest overhead, second only to staff wages. We predict a marked trend for energy efficient equipment designed with features to reduce food waste, helping to cut overall running costs.

Kris Brearley, sales director, RH Hall: There is a raft of trends that will play their part in the equipment sector during 2015. One key area is innovation and that is not just the equipment itself, but in menus and food products too — the marrying of equipment and food or menu developments to get the maximum quality, value for money and labour-saving solutions. Equipment life costs and ROI will feature strongly as will green credentials and efficiency of the equipment.

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How would you assess the state of the UK catering equipment market?

Michael Eyre, product director, Jestic: We have found that many operators have seen a more sustained sales increase, in turn leading them to restart projects and refurbishments that may have been put on hold during the recent tough economic period.

The recent sale of a number of high-profile high street restaurant groups and chains to private equity firms has increased speculation of extensive investment, refurbishment and group expansion, something which could prove to be an important indicator of the state of the market as we head into the New Year. We also expect the government will continue to invest in, and expand, the school meals programme.

Steve Hemsil, national sales manager distribution, Manitowoc: In general, the outlook for 2015 is positive. As such we are gearing up for a year of substantial growth. We are seeing the number of consultant specifications for large projects grow as well as enquiries based around our new Convotherm 4 combi steamer. We continue to work with large key accounts and, coupled with our distributors who supply into these, we are seeing continuing work on the next new trend, such as in casual dining, coffee shops and bakeries.

Steve Hobbs, managing director, Grande Cuisine: We witnessed a huge improvement in 2014 over recent years, with restaurants and chefs feeling more confident about starting to modernise. This willingness to invest is great news for the market, but as an industry we’re still in the process of moving past the austerity narrative. Money is tight and expectations are huge when it comes to the upgrading process. There’s a huge focus on value, with short-term problem-solving seeming to overrule more strategic, long-term upgrades. We’ve noticed an increased expectation for short-notice delivery and installation, with some customers choosing their desired solution and aiming to have it installed and running within two weeks.

Kris Brearley, sales director, RH Hall: We feel the market is entering into a positive state and will be back on the up in 2015 as confidence has returned. We are seeing the signs of this demonstrated through the high number of projects we are working on with our partners. We are conducting more product trials, more development work and that is in both equipment and menu solutions.

Phil Coulstock, commercial business manager, Smeg: As we continue to move away from recession and into a sustained period of growth, all levels of the catering industry will benefit. I believe the product sector is going to see a further increase in energy-saving solutions. Manufacturers and end-users are talking more about cost of ownership again as people look to invest for the future.

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What are the major challenges that the market sector will need to overcome in 2015?

Tim Bender, UK sales director, warewashing, Hobart: One of the biggest challenges for catering equipment manufacturers will be ensuring BIM compliance when tendering for public sector projects, as such tenders will depend upon supplying BIM-formatted designs. It’s a complex transition that will take time to implement. Something that always seems to rear its ugly head is the issue of proper machine maintenance.

Put simply, sound service support can elongate the life of a machine. Cheaper maintenance may look good on the face of it, but less scrupulous suppliers won’t have the requisite training and may have only a limited knowledge of the machine they have been asked to service. This could lead to them recommending replacing parts and, in some cases, even the whole machine when a simple fix could be carried out.

Stuart Long, sales and marketing director, MKN: The lifecycle costing of equipment and the return on investments that can be made by sourcing the right equipment is something we, as manufacturers, need to get across if we want to attract buyers. Equipment is a big investment after all, and caterers need reassurance that it won’t break down every minute and will last for decades, not years.

Phil Coulstock, commercial business manager, Smeg: The most obvious one is certainly expectation. A large proportion of the industry has had a phenomenal year with the roll-out of the free school meals programme and that level of business quite possibly won’t be seen again in 2015. For Smeg, our main challenge is managing growth. As we expand our sales team and open more distributor accounts, we need to ensure our logistics and service networks are prepared to cope with the demands put on them.

Michael Eyre, product director, Jestic: It is imperative to ensure that equipment is continually maintained, particularly if it is going to be worked harder throughout the day. It is also important to ensure that customers have a clear communication and purchase/sales channel. With the purchase of any catering equipment, one of the most important considerations is the continued reliability and ease of use, something which equipment suppliers need to validate and substantiate to customers moving forward.

Steve Hemsil, national sales manager distribution, Manitowoc: Depending on demand and key initiatives this year, forecasting is always difficult — making sure that you have enough of the right products at the right time. Customers are, of course, ever demanding and many people, once they decide to invest in new equipment, need it there and then. We have invested money in increasing our inventory to make sure that we have key lines available to our customers. We have also initiated minimum stock levels for some key account customers to ensure availability of units that are paramount to their business. This allows them to be confident when choosing Manitowoc products.

Peter Brewin, marketing and communications manager, Victor Manufacturing: As energy efficiency and reducing waste have become key priorities for the catering industry, the challenge for equipment manufacturers is to develop products that enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of their customers’ businesses. With heat lamps constantly on during long shifts and refrigerated units being opened and closed to be re-stocked or cleaned, inefficient equipment is costly for operators. As a result, we have invested in research and development to incorporate energy-saving features across our range.

We are very proud that our Optimax SQ SMR100ECT refrigerated display unit not only meets EN 23953:2005 M1 climate class 3 standards, but is Carbon Trust Approved and features on its ECA Energy Technology List — the only product of its kind to be included. The second challenge concerns the launch of free school lunches in Scotland in January 2015, which will see 165,000 school pupils up to the age of seven become eligible for free school meals. For schools this means that it will be essential to have the necessary equipment to cope with increased demand of feeding more children at lunchtime.
 

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