Moving with the catering equipment market

With almost 38,000 employees and 1,700 vehicles, Norbert Dentressangle is a major player in the global transport and logistics field. It has also just identified the UK catering equipment sector as a key focus area for the next 12-18 months.

Catering Insight caught up with the company’s general manager of specialist services, Damien Oliphant, to find out why it believes it is better at moving commercial kitchen equipment from A to B than anybody else.

Why the emphasis on the catering equipment sector now?

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Norbert Dentressangle is very keen to expand in the UK so at the beginning of last year we put together a strategy and five-year plan. The first part of that was to identify our core sectors and the next part was to target some of the big players in each market.

And catering equipment is one of those sectors?

Yes, it is one of four core sectors where we are putting a lot of focus. The others are vending, heating and ventilation, and air conditioning. We’ve focused on those as core areas during the last six months and will continue to do so for the next 12 to 18 months as well.

We exhibited at Hotelympia this year, which led us to start talking to some of the major brands in the market place and we have developed leads from that. The product is a great fit for our network model and we have got proven expertise in the sector from working with some leading brands. It’s an area we are really targeting to grow over the next 12 to 18 months.

Which catering equipment brands are you already working with?

Our longest-standing account in catering is Hobart, which we have been working with for 13 or 14 years now. They were onboard when I transferred across from Christian Salvesen in 2007 when it was acquired by Norbert Dentressangle. In the last 12 months we have brought Blue Seal on board and Valera. Those are our main catering equipment brands at the moment, and we are also doing some work with Electrolux as well.

What does the Electrolux partnership entail?

We are not doing all Electrolux [products] at the minute, we are doing about 40% or 50% but we have got some plans to do more for them. It is general distribution but we are working quite closely with them and we’re hopeful of doing more.

Talk us through the specialist services you offer?

From working with our partners we have got a good understanding of the market place and what customers want in terms of a range of services, and we have therefore been able to pull together a good, broad range of services. We offer a fairly standard single-man delivery — which is the entry level if you like — as well as a two-man delivery to point of use, even three- or four-man crews for really big items.

It could be ground floor, upstairs, downstairs — we will literally deliver it to the point of use, including the removal of packaging and taking away pallets. We also offer time-specific deliveries, including early mornings and nights, and reverse logistics, so the collection of items going back to their warehouses. We’ll also manage any units for WEEE recycling. What we are aiming to do is provide a one-stop-shop.

Where is your main hub?

We operate a hub and spoke model, with the central hub in Birmingham. Everything goes into that of a day and then we move it out to our other sites during the night. Our Birmingham site is reaching its capacity now so we are about to move to a slightly bigger site in Brownhill, which is only about 10 miles away but will be able to support our future business unit growth. We operate six sites in the UK to give us the right coverage. Predominantly we collect from our customers on a daily basis. With Hobart we collect two trailers every day out of Peterborough.

Why do you think your services are a good fit with the catering equipment sector?

As I said, we are working with a number of leading brands, we have developed a good understanding of their requirements and we have created a range of services accordingly. Our aim is to be a one-stop-shop where they can come to us for all of their various needs, whether that be meeting an installation engineer and assisting with what we call ‘engineer liaison’ through to just a simple collection or delivery. We can do all those things for them so the need to get multiple partners is hopefully reduced.

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What do you believe you can offer the market that other transport providers can’t?

In terms of the specialist services market place for the delivery of this kind of equipment, we believe we have got true national next-day coverage. In a normal standard pallet network there are companies that can do that, but to handle this type of product that is fragile, expensive and has a high customer expectation we feel we have got the best network coverage. It allows us to give customers the flexibility to ask us to collect today and deliver it across the UK tomorrow. And we can offer that true mix of logistics solutions from basic delivery to complex installations.

How do you price your services?

We’ll very much take the lead from the customer, so it could be they would like a geographic tariff — which will be competitive locally but increase in cost the further away you get. We typically operate a sliding scale, so 10 pallets would be cheaper than one. Some companies prefer a national tariff because they tell us that when they are selling to customers they like to put a fixed price in for delivery regardless of where it is going. We can also give a pricing scale based on the length of time we have to move it through the network, be it next-day delivery or 72-hour delivery.

You said you spoke to a lot of catering equipment brands when you exhibited at Hotelympia. What impression did you get about the logistics arrangements that companies currently have?

I think it is quite a fragmented market place at the moment. It is driven by expectation, so with some of the wholesalers it is all about price and they will use some of the national pallet carriers, but from our perspective we are looking at providing the full range of services. We have some competitors in the market place but quite a few of those are regionalised, they’re not so much national providers.

What are the biggest challenges that the business faces when it comes to the UK market?

The Norbert Dentressangle brand is a huge one but in the UK we still aren’t as well known for what we do in terms of specialist services so we are working to increase our brand in terms of that portfolio. We are very proud of what we do and our focus is on trying to extend it to more market places and customers really. Our target over the next six to 12 months is to start to nurture the relationships we have just begun to build. Hopefully in 12-18 months time we will be recognised as the market leader and logistics partner of choice.

Norbert in numbers

Annual turnover: €4bn (£3.2bn)

UK turnover: £1.2bn (£960m)

Sales from Europe: 97%

Total year-on-year growth: 3.9%

Total net income: €70m (£56m)

Vehicles: 8,000

Trailers: 11,500

Sites: 520

Warehouse space: 7.8 million sqm

Headcount: 37,700

UK headcount: 14,700

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