Distributor turns back clock to thwart web sellers

Internet selling continues to impact prices and business practices in the catering equipment industry, but one Bristol distributor claims it is countering that threat by “turning back the clock” with an old school approach to business.

QCM Equipment is convinced that despite facing intense competition from web shops offering kit at knock-down prices, it can prosper with a business model based around a strong regional presence, relationships with a small number of leading manufacturers and qualified and specialised engineers.

Gerry Oakley, who runs the business, believes this three-pronged strategy is enough to fend off competition from “faceless” internet companies.

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“Far from being a backward step, we believe this offers our customers the best of both worlds — undoubtedly internet-based businesses have influenced prices but being based locally means we can very easily offer expert guidance to our customers in their own premises,” he said. “It’s also far easier to assess the ‘hidden’ factors which a busy caterer simply cannot be expected to foresee like access into a building and impart our specialist knowledge of areas like kitchen ventilation and gas regulations.”

He added: “We also have all the added advantages of in-house specialist support like kitchen design, ventilation system manufacture, ‘made to measure’ stainless steel fabrication and custom-built servery counters which the internet based dealers cannot easily offer.”

QCM has been operating for more than a decade and was originally set up as a services outfit by Dave Salmon and Alan Truelove. Oakley joined the pair 18 months to form QCM Equipment after serving as a director of Bradford-based Airedale Catering Equipment. QCM’s clients include the University of Bristol, Harvey Nichols and IKEA.

The company has aligned itself with a small number of manufacturers, including Hobart, Rational, Blue Seal, Moorwood Vulcan and Foster, which affords it complete focus on the kit it supplies.

Oakley says that although QCM has embraced digital media by establishing a web and mobile presence, it draws inspiration for its business values by looking “proudly backwards”.

“Above all, working in a small geographic area means we are more reliant than most on repeat business so it’s vital that we work to the highest standards and that customers are happy to keep coming back and to recommend us,” he said. “It’s no surprise then that many of our clients have been with us since the business started and have grown with us — which has got to be good measure of our success.”

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