Hobart hasn’t always had the easiest of relationships with distributors, but the manufacturer is out to prove that it is a great partner for the dealer network.
It has concentrated efforts in following the 80/20 principle of ITW, its US-headquartered parent company, which states that 80% of business comes from 20% of customers. “This principle is extended across our dealer base and every aspect of what we do,” explained Chris Birch, marketing manager for the UK warewash division. “We segment the 20% and treat them differently because that is where our core business is coming from.”
The company considers that customer insight is important and has undertaken much dealer research over the past year. “We want to engender ourselves with dealers and grow business with them,” said Birch. “We’ve got an important message to send to dealers about what our intentions are in terms of the market, as there was some uncertainty around that. So a big part of what we are doing this year is finding out what they want and need, and pushing to discover the way they see things going in future, so we can get in front of the curve.”
Hobart is definitely at the cutting edge of technology in terms of product development, as it has a structured cycle where all of its warewasher, cooking and food preparation equipment is redeveloped on a regular basis. “There are checkpoints between major product launches where appliances get facelifts – this differentiates us from our competitors and keeps us moving forward,” said Birch. Usually each product has a 5 year lifecycle and a major refresh around the 2.5 year mark.
How Hobart develops products changed when ITW acquired the firm back in 2000. Previously the development was factory-led, but since then it switched to being market-led. According to Tim Bender, UK warewash sales director: “We do our research, we find out what the market wants and if there are niche markets we don’t currently supply, we tailor products for them.”
There is an entrepreneurial culture at the company, with each of the three main divisions (warewash, cooking and service) allowed to operate independently, reacting to market circumstances and the needs of the people it deals with. Birch commented: “This gives us flexibility in our dealer relationships, as we can decide what our strategy is, or change it, without having to keep running up the chain of command all the time.”
Hobart does take advantage of being part of a large corporation though, as ITW has a research and development facility in Detroit which can take a look at anything sent there. “We can leverage high level intelligence to help us develop and sell our products,” said David Riley, MD of the UK warewash division. [[page-break]]
He is proud of the expertise his division has, with 19 sales executives across the country, reporting to four regional manages, as well as four technical sales exectives dedicated to larger systems. “That’s three people to call on for any one site, nobody else offers that,” he commented. “We also seem to have an image that all of our kit is expensive, but this is only for our Premax premium brand. We have several other tiers and our range means we can supply warewashing to any site at a price the end user can afford.”
Over in the cooking solutions department, its mission is to help deliver an efficient and superior dining experience. “There’s a huge amount of added value we can give people,” said Simon Merrick, director of the UK cooking solutions division. “We can take away the pain of design and installation. Whether you’re a dealer or an end user, those things are valuable.”
This division has seven manufacturing plants in Europe and in the UK employs 12 people in its sales team, six of which are in area sales manager roles. It has also taken on a development chef, Greg Crump, this year to showcase what Hobart’s cooking appliances are capable of, using the firm’s on site demonstration kitchen.
Additionally the department has a CAD design technician. “I know a lot of dealers have their own CAD people, that’s the core of their business. But ours can help them with their CAD design, because some people don’t have them, or it can be a complementary service – we offer this expertise free of charge,” said Merrick. He also sees the firm’s service department as a huge plus, due to its vast spare part stockholding.
Hobart Cooking Solutions is looking to work more with partners. “To increase our sales we want to be known as a preferred trade partner. We want to be known as a go-to product for our dealer partners,” Merrick added. Its product range spans the medium duty to bespoke suite spectrum, which Merrick believes is particularly useful for dealers looking to consolidate their suppliers, as Hobart could provide all the different solutions.
He concluded: “More and more dealers want to deal with one supplier, and so we can work with our warewash division and our sister company, Foster, for refrigeration, to offer a whole package.”