Design for life: ABDA chief talks business

If the year carries on in the same vein as it has done up to now then 2013 should turn out to be a good one for ABDA, the Northamptonshire kitchen house that specialises in both front- and back-of-house projects.

The company is celebrating its 18th anniversary this year, so signs that the general market is picking up is even more pleasing for the business.

“We have seen a growth in enquiries and more confidence from clients,” reveals the firm’s MD David Summers.
“Our work in the private education and contract catering sectors has been encouraging, but our current projects for state schools in London have been an area of great growth with some strong, exciting schemes that combine functionality with inspiration for the staff and children.

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“We have good orders and prospects for the autumn with new enquiries anticipated in September and thereon to be buoyant for the remaining months and into 2014,” adds Summers.

ABDA’s experience of dealing with all the hundreds of elements that make up a project, from innovative catering and interior design to listed building application and stringent site health and safety, has meant its team is well-versed in all the intricacies that encompass a hospitality project.

Over the years it has worked on niche one-off projects right through to multiple site template design, high street retail concepts, restaurants and English heritage sites. You’re as likely to find the company carrying out its work at a motorway service area as you are a charming boutique cafe.

Earlier this year, for instance, it was appointed by art house cinema group Curzon to design and fit out the interior of a new foyer and cafe bar at a site it acquired in Knutsford.

While business appears to have been brisk, there is no denying how competitive the landscape is, especially when it comes to winning tendered project work.

“All businesses in our sector need to make commercial decisions to suit their circumstance and we are no different,” admits Summers. “Margins are tight on all projects and abortive time spent on unsuccessful projects eats further into these. We believe our service works best when working in partnership with clients to meet their objectives, both physically and financially, so competitive tender work is the minority but still an important element of our work.”

Fortunately for ABDA, Summers says that the “majority” of ABDA’s work comes through referral, which usually gives it direct contact with the client. He insists this works best for the company, as it relishes setting challenges for the client and itself to ensure the best results.

“Kitchen design for the modern times needs to work functionally but also inspire the catering team. Therefore we engage thoroughly with the client’s team on the coalface to bring creativity. We have a very good blue chip client base, which gives us a great deal of opportunities, but budgets are tight, so we spend a lot of effort to value engineer projects to make sure expectations are met. But we do feel confidence is returning.”

It design service, in particular, remains firmly in demand from clients seeking creativity and inspiration to keep them ahead of the competition, but also a practical solution. Support from equipment manufacturers and fabricators is also key to the company’s success, acknowledges Summers.

As ABDA works on both sides of the pass, it has a wide range of partners. On the fabrication side, it works closely with names such as Proline, CED, Ventserv and GKF, while for refrigeration it uses Foster and Williams. In terms of catering equipment it lists Falcon, Rational, Meiko, Winterhalter and Alpeninox as core suppliers.

“We have always had very good support from the manufacturers with some great people in the industry,” he says. “New product knowledge and the increasing discussion around efficiencies is what we look for.”

Those suppliers will be hoping that ABDA’s sanguine outlook for the rest of the year ends up coming true.

10 key ABDA projects

1. Arts Club, Mayfair
Design and installation of main commercial kitchens and bars at exclusive members club.

2. Aurelia Restaurant, Mayfair
Creation of an open plan kitchen with rotisserie and grill, with upstairs bar area.

3. Bickley Park School, Kent
Fit-out of expanded kitchen facility, including new extraction, walk in cold room and prep area.

4. Curzon Knutsford, Cheshire
Interior fit-out of theatre’s foyer and cafe bar.

5. Manchester High School for Girls
Refurbishment of dining area, including addition of new counter with theatre cooking station.

6. National Football Museum, Lancashire
Interior design for Manchester tourist attraction’s catering areas and restaurant.

7. Roadchef, Nationwide
Co-ordinated the revamp of Roadchef’s Clacket Lane East/West motorway service area.

8. Samba Swirl, London
Created a unique and fresh brand for self-serve yoghurt concept.

9. Shrewsbury School, Shropshire
Design and interior fit-out of a practical yet stylish restaurant for staff, students and visitors.

10. The Moat Restaurant, Hever Castle, Kent
Contemporary design to give the restaurant a bistro feel and installation of main servery counter.

Channel profile

Name: ABDA
Address: Chapel Studio, Chapel View, Hall Lane, Little Brington, Northampton, NN7 4HX
Tel: 0845 873 8102
Email: info@abdadesign.co.uk
Website: www.abdadesign.co.uk
Twitter: @designabda
Headcount: 14
Founded: 1995
Expertise: Commercial kitchen design and installation; interior design and branding; build and interior fit-out.

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