Kitchen suppliers picking up good vibrations

Conversations with trade customers and end-buyers suggest signs of a recovery in the catering equipment market, according to suppliers at Hotelympia this week.

With the market deep in recession last time the event was held two and a half years ago, manufacturers said they have been buoyed by what they have heard over the past four days.

The activation of new projects in 2014-2015, coupled with a growing appetite for flexible, efficient kit among chains and independents, has raised hopes of improving market conditions.

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Steve Loughton, managing director of Jestic, said: “There is a much greater feeling of confidence in the industry. Investment is happening and, more importantly, investment is coming from outside of the industry, such as private equity. That is always a good thing because private equity companies are usually very focused, determined and they get on with it.”

He added: “A lot of visitors to our stand this week have come here to see what’s new. We’ve had a lot of very serious people on from chains and groups, and we’ve been able to talk to a lot of distributors.”

Jon Usher, marketing manager at GDPA, supplier of Burco and LEC kit, also believes things are looking good for the second half of the year.

“Everybody we have spoken to has been feeling quite positive and saying things are improving. There are lots of factors for that, but certainly the fact it is now spring and we are having some better weather helps, and we shouldn’t underestimate that. Once customers get a bit more money in the tills, you see the confidence returning and people are prepared to invest money in equipment again.”

Robin Candy, brand director at Nisbets, has noticed a lot of interest in the newer products it has launched this week.

“The tube strike didn’t help, however those most interested in coming here still did so and we’ve made connections with lots of people who are doing something new in the industry. We have had people on who are setting up wholesale businesses and are looking to source product from us, as well as people looking to open new restaurants, especially in the south-east. People with restaurants already are expanding and looking for more equipment. Generally the feeling seems to be that we are out of the worst and the recovery is happening, and you tend to see that happening in London first.”

Glenn Roberts, managing director of Gram, said: “The show has been good for us and despite the trials and tribulations of the tube issue I have been pleasantly surprised by footfall. The upturn is happening. Nobody is going to get fat and rich this year but there is a groundswell of hope and expectation, certainly this year and looking towards next year. It is good to finally see that after the gloominess of the last five or six years.”

Over at Winterhalter’s stand, marketing manager Paul Crowley said the company had received a good number of visits from distributors this week.

“We have had a lot of dealer activity and the feeling has been that they are in a positive frame of mind. Many are seeing sales picking up, especially the guys in the south east, and generally there seems to be quite a lot of activity going on. The guys in Ireland also say they are seeing investment in the market again. What we have also noticed this week is a better understanding of running costs. Dealers have been coming to the stand to talk more about the operational cost of equipment, while BIM has also been a popular topic.”

Simon Aspin, commercial director at Hubbard Ice Systems, the Scotsman ice machines distributor, said he had been impressed by the strong turn-out of distributors at the show.

“We’re an ENSE supplier, so we have had a lot of dealers come on the stand and it has enabled us to see the sales people from those companies as well, rather than only the directors,” he said. “We have also had four or five dealers on that haven’t done anything with us in the past but are now contemplating selling Scotsman.”

Hotelympia 2014 officially comes to a close at 4.30pm this afternoon.

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