Charvet is a promise,” the manufacturer’s CEO Pierre-Alain Augagneur tells Catering Insight during a visit to the company’s factory, set in the picturesque French Alpine foothills. This emotive sentiment filters right through the company to the factory floor, and is something that Charvet takes very seriously.
“The Charvet brand means something to chefs, and we make very chef-oriented products,” underlined Augagneur. But that doesn’t mean that the manufacturer’s cooking ranges are reserved for the upper echelons of the restaurant community, far from it. Since it unveiled its modular Charvet One range at the beginning of 2015, it now provides options stretching across the catering equipment market, but still bringing the same technology quality as on its prestigious bespoke series.
According to Augagneur: “One of the ideas behind Charvet One was to introduce a disruptive design and to evaluate this market disruption to see if it could be used on other series. The success of this has been confirmed, so there are things on the Charvet One we can expect to see on new developments in other series in the future.”
The latest additions to the One series are a six burner range with a gas oven underneath and a four zone induction top over a 2/1 GN electric oven. Augagneur reported that these developments were made due to demands from the new markets the manufacturer entered with its modular series: “Users’ expectations, the restaurants and the cooking habits are different towards the entry level. There were a few gaps in the catalogue, such as the gas pasta cooker we are introducing, as we only had an electric version. This is something we developed for a few series in our brand. We will always need to innovate.”
The new six burner with the oven is aimed at being a good compromise between requiring a wider oven and the constraints of small kitchens, as it has a 1,000mm width compared to many competitors’ 1,200mm. Even the burners, at 6.5kW each, are said to be highly rated compared to competitors.
On the specifications of the four zone induction top over an electric oven, Augagneur said: “The design is a bit different as until now we didn’t have enough space to properly ventilate the induction generators, but as the Charvet One design differs from our Pro series, there was an opportunity to have more space for the ventilation.
“It’s the first proper multi zone induction range in the modular equipment sector. It can accommodate a big or small pan, or lots of smaller pans. It’s very innovative and saves space.”
All of these innovations have caused a massive increase in sales for Charvet, with the last 6 months of 2016 seeing a 20% uplift. “This was far higher than we could imagine – I have never seen such a year,” remarked Augagneur.
Charvet has pinned this success on the One series growing in tandem with its existing Pro and bespoke series.
Ian Clow, sales director at Charvet Premier Ranges, added: “This was a very healthy factor. If users think they can’t afford a Pro series, then they can still keep a Charvet with the One series. It’s a big mistake to think they can’t afford a Charvet, because it’s not as expensive as a lot of people imagine.”
Another element of the recent achievements is the manufacturer’s attention to detail, combining the factory’s mechanical processes with a high level of hand finishing. This is demonstrated in the production staff total of 90 people, with around 114 people working in the headquarters overall.
Augagneur commented: “I can’t imagine the type of equipment we produce without the hand finishing. It’s the only way to ensure the equipment is long lasting. And even the most precise machines wouldn’t be able to construct the ranges the way our team does. That’s why we need well-trained staff – a lot of our employees are here for more than a decade, and it’s easier to keep people when they have the chance to work in the countryside!”
He emphasised: “People love it here, they are proud of the brand, which is why we never want to devalue the product. There is also great, permanent communication between the production and the design office; relations are very smooth.” Furthermore, he commended the factory’s flexibility: “For example, in a recent new project, one chef changed their mind about what type of meals their restaurant will produce, so we suggested a modification, and that was made.”
Charvet has also invested a lot in machinery to support its production staff, with one of its most recent purchases being a laser cutter. And it did not shy away from investment, even when the recession hit in 2008. According to Augagneur: “It was quite a long journey to recover from 2008 to the turnover that we expected to have. We never reduced investment or manpower and in the last 4 years we developed two full new series, the Pro 700 as well as the Charvet One. All the new machines arrived at the same time in a way, and in the last 2 years the new series matured and that created a boom.
“If you believe in it and if you do it right, you create a new demand because there is always some space in the market.”
Furthermore, he lauded Charvet Premier Ranges’ role in the UK dealer market. “What has been done in the UK is quite unique – the way the market is addressed is the highest quality. The quality of the sellers, the service and the people there, the relationship is very special. The level of expectation they have is always challenging us.”
Clow backed this up, saying: “If the factory doesn’t meet our expectations we will criticise them and say how we want it done. There are certain products within the modular range that we have specifically asked for over the years and the factory have taken them on board. We try to get as high a quality to the marketplace as possible – we stand and fall by what we do.”
Augagneur said of distributors: “Dealers work with us because they feel confident with the product, the service and our company policies. They trust us. Dealers are very important because they are a part of our reputation. We have to respect them, listen to them and hear their difficulties. We are there to help them find a solution.”
Looking to the future, he predicted: “We are still expecting to grow, but not as much or as fast as we have done in the last 2 years – it’s been a crazy year.”
A Charvet bespoke range was recently installed by Berkeley Projects at British fine dining restaurant Core in Notting Hill, London. This is chef Clare Smyth’s first solo venture, having been chef patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London from 2012-2016. She’s also the first female British chef to hold and retain three Michelin stars.
Berkeley Projects, Charvet Premier Ranges and Smyth worked together to specify and develop the range, which features a logo plate and salamader control plate made by the Charvet’s own enamel factory to match the colour of the Core logo. They ensured the suite fitted the space and style of the restaurant, included incorporating an Ox grill into the suite. Smyth and head chef Jonny Bone even visited the Charvet factory in France to see the suite during the production process and to do any fine tuning.
CEO Pierre-Alain Augagneur welcomed the visit, saying: “Once you have the product in front of you, you see details you couldn’t anticipate. I would prefer to spend time to make changes in the factory rather than have a disappointed chef.”