According to Caterware MD Mark Drazen, in the future, catering equipment distributors will continue to develop add-on facilities.
“As a result I can see the formation of what you would call ‘super distributors’,” he told the audience watching the ‘Connecting Our Industry – The CEDA Panel’ at last month’s Commercial Kitchen show in the Birmingham NEC.
He continued: “Maybe that comes through acquisition and merger, maybe it just comes through being asked to do further roles within the contracting or supply process and taking those on as well. But I can see what we do becoming even more advanced.”
The debate brought together five ex-CEDA chairs for the first time on stage, the rest comprising: Nick Howe, MD, Court Catering Equipment; Peter Kitchin, MD, C&C Catering Equipment; Iain Munro, then-MD of ScoMac Catering Equipment; and Jack Sharkey, MD, Vision Commercial Kitchens.
Moderated by Catering Insight editor, Clare Nicholls, topics including what it means to be a distributor in today’s market and the future of the sector were under the microscope.
When asked to future-gaze, Munro said: “We are in uncertain times, but I think there’s no doubt that the manufacturer/distributor relationships are going to grow into better partnerships. We are also going to face challenges around staffing issues within the hospitality industry that are going to force us, both manufacturer and designer/distributor to come up with solutions that can cope and manage resource when it’s a bit tight.”
Howe agreed, commenting: “We have to think out of the box as to where we get our staff from. All too often you get a certain recirculation of members’ staff moving from one company to the other, and they are not bringing any real expertise to your company, they are just shifting it round, they are not growing our knowledge.
“We need to look outside our industry to grow it. We are already looking at where we get certain members of our team in different departments, particularly on our servicing side we are looking to young apprentices from the colleges and outside of those marketplaces.”
Sharkey picked up on one of Munro’s points, saying: “Forging stronger partnerships with the manufacturers is going to become more key, and I think adding services as businesses means we will evolve. But the biggest change that we will see in the distribution companies is education, training our people and providing that education in terms of the specific skills that they will need, and looking outside of our industry and bringing in more skillset, and then we can educate those people.”
While Kitchin followed up by adding: “20 years ago we employed no-one with a degree – we’ve now got seven people. That’s how we’ve changed: it’s education, it’s knowledge, and it’s doing the right thing. We always try and be honest, professional and friendly with people.”
To see the full report on the debate, read the August issue of Catering Insight, which will be hitting desks and available online this week.