Charvet’s pocket rocket set for take-off

Times are changing in the commercial restaurant scene. Operators want the best quality equipment they can get for their money, but increasingly they must squeeze it into the smallest physical footprint possible.

It is a trend that has not been lost on heavy duty cooking suite manufacturer Charvet, so much so that the company has announced one of the most significant developments in its 80-year history: the creation of its first ever 700mm series.

Pierre-Alain Augagneur, CEO of Charvet, admits the new range fills a noticeable gap in its portfolio. “It is something that was missing from Charvet’s offering — smaller equipment, but heavy duty at the same time. We are a specialist in horizontal cooking equipment so we needed to be able to provide this kind of equipment.”

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Wayne Cuomo, managing director of Charvet Premier Ranges, which manages the brand in the UK, says it is impossible to ignore the trend for compact ranges.

“If you look at the market then you clearly have the small kitchen scenario, particularly in London, where the actual footprint of the range is getting contracted because they want to put more seats into the restaurant. There are also a lot of gastro pub-type operations that require a more compact range, while still remaining heavy duty. Kitchens are getting smaller and tighter, and there is a need for something that is robust but in a smaller footprint, not just here but globally.”

Both Augagneur and Cuomo stress that the most important point as far as they are concerned is that the 700 series retains the values that the company is known for. “Charvet is not going down the route of a medium duty range of kit,” says Cuomo. “The 700 Series is everything you would expect from a Charvet, but in a more compact form.”

From a production point of view, Augagneur notes that the 700 series contains the same chassis design and quality of components as the other ranges it builds.

“Everything you can find in a Charvet, you will find in the 700 series and we also have the capacity to customise the product,” he explains. “We haven’t had to adapt the manufacturing process — it is the same process as for the others — we just have to reorganise the production schedule to prepare for the increase in production that we expect. The quality and the finish is very important to Charvet.”

Charvet continues to expand its distribution network in the UK and it is confident that the availability of the 700 line will make it more attractive to prospective partners as it should appeal to a broader range of end-users.

Not only should it make Charvet a viable option for operators managing a smaller kitchen footprint, but it will also match those with a budget that might not normally stretch to a Charvet. Augagneur says that, on average, the 700 series will be 10% to 15% cheaper than its 800mm counterpart.

“The price consideration is an important aspect of it but, as I said, the main target was to have a heavy duty equipment offering for the 700 series. This is not competing with the cheap stuff but, at the end of the day, I think the price is competitive for the quality.”

For Charvet, the next few months are about raising awareness that the 700 series is available, before actual orders in production start in January.

The company prefers not to talk about sales forecasts, pointing to the fact that it needs to allow time for the market to digest the offering.

“Generally speaking, when we launch a new product it can take a while to establish itself as the market is quite conservative and people want to see before they buy,” says Augagneur. “But for this kind of equipment, the launch could be quite quick because the brand is there, the equipment is more or less known already, and hopefully customers will be confident of selling and buying it.”

As long as customers’ kitchen budgets are bigger than their footprints, Augagneur’s hunch could very well lead to 2013 becoming a lucrative one for Charvet and its partners.

Kick that can cope with a kicking

One of the biggest challenges with creating a compact suite is working out which individual items of equipment, if any, become surplus to requirement for space reasons. With Charvet’s 700 series, some items such as boiling pans and bratt pans will not be developed to the extent that they are for the 800 series and above, although there are plans to offer modified versions of these specific appliances at a later date next year.

This is also one of the reasons why Charvet says the kit is more suited to routine cooking operations than production style kitchens. “With the compact market, you are not really into the production equipment,” comments Wayne Cuomo, managing director of Charvet Premier Ranges, which markets Charvet in the UK.

“In Dubai, for example, the consultants are asking me for heavy duty equipment for pool bar kitchens and things like that. It is a call order-type operation but they still kick seven bells of hell out of it every day and medium duty kit gets trashed in a year or so. The 700 series very much fits that sort of front-of-house scenario rather than full production kitchens,” he adds.

The theme of robustness is a recurring one in Charvet’s approach, and it would certainly seem pivotal to just how well the series fares. “The chassis life is 15 years, even on a 700 series,” says Cuomo. “Our biggest problem is ensuring that people don’t envisage this as being medium duty — it is a heavy duty, compact range.”

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