Freelance catering equipment engineer, Darren Sharpe, discusses how to start a business in this sector.

To become a catering equipment engineer takes a lot of hard work and years of learning due to the range of skills required, which are very varied. It is however a greatly enjoyable job as no two days are ever the same.

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The skills required, in order of importance, are: electrical/electronic qualifications, Gas Safe registration, plumbing, mechanical and then any manufacturers’ training courses.

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Once these qualifications and courses are completed, which could take a minimum of 6 years, along with financial investment, only then do I feel that as freelancers are we able to call ourselves catering equipment engineers.

If a catering equipment engineer is considering going freelance, many other considerations need to be taken into account.

The skill set involves excellent customer service, negotiating contracts for work, organisational skills, book keeping, self-discipline – the list goes on. This is why it may not suit everyone.

The day to day life of an engineer can be quite lonely. It is usually an early start in the morning and can be hundreds of miles to cover, but a cup of tea is guaranteed and a warm welcome from the kitchen staff, because you’re going to fix their problem – hopefully!

Their working day becomes much easier and this gives me great satisfaction.

My own work comes from many sources such as manufacturers, distributors, facility management companies and kitchens in all sorts of establishments.

I have worked with a number of distributors for many years and they rely and use my knowledge and customer service skills to increase their own business profile services.

Just calling me, when required, saves them a large financial cost compared to employing their own engineer.

Having been self-employed for most of my 25 years in the industry I still get calls every week requesting my services from people unaware of my catering equipment service business.

Therefore I decided to create a website aimed primarily at promoting catering equipment engineer services to help people find us easily.

www.catersafe.org started as an engineers’ directory just a few months ago, but as its profile increased, other specialist skills and services were added.

Most recently, some manufacturers and distributors have requested listings, so now it’s an appliance and service company directory.

The site will allow catering managers, hotels, restaurant owners, distributors and manufacturers to search for equipment and service providers in any area of the UK and Ireland.

I have a customer wanting to use the directory to find engineers to support their products across the UK and another looking for a catering engineer in the Cambridge area to carry out combination oven work.

I’m getting great feedback from people who have already used the site, so any engineers who want to be found more easily for local jobs may want to seriously consider joining the listing.