Bristol-based catering equipment supplier Nisbets has dramatically expanded its international business in recent years, establishing local sales offices and putting export partnerships in place.
One of the most exciting markets for the company is the Middle East. Simon Garrett, business sector manager at Nisbets Export, about the challenges of supplying kitchen equipment to the Middle East region.
Why are you targeting the Middle East market?
Getting involved in the Middle East market is a key vision moving forward, with Expo 2020 coming up and the Qatar FIFA World Cup. It seems like Qatar is really about to explode, like they’re waiting for the green light to go on.
What Middle East projects have you worked on?
We supply Hilton, IHG and Marriott among others. We’ve done quite a bit of work with Qatar Airways and one of the big hotels owned by Qatar Foundation; a Qatar Luxury Group property. We did about three restaurant openings for them 18 months ago. I knew one of the executive chefs at the restaurants from back home in the UK, so forging those kinds of relationships is really important to us.
Is timing and scheduling projects in the Middle East a challenge for you given that the business is UK-based?
We don’t find that to be too much of an issue because of the range of products and stock holding that we have. We have a dedicated team that pulls all the stock together and consolidates it before sending it, and if that means bringing special order items in from outside or non-stocked items we’ll put it all together before shipping it.
So what is the biggest challenge in distributing to the Middle East then?
The main challenge is the specification of the product. People have very specific views and although we have a huge range it’s not always what they specifically want because the product range in the UK is far different to in the Middle East, so we’re finding very specific requirements, which means we have to go outside our normal range. This all adds time to the overall process.
Also, getting the advice and the quotations back is not really as quick as it should be here — and when you’re relying on other sources that’s where the challenge is. There’s no problem in getting payments, it’s just getting the green light.
What Middle East based distributors do you work with?
Our distributors here are Italia Kitchen & Laundry Equipment and then a couple of smaller ones, and we supply directly. Distributors take a degree of stock holding because a lot of people want to touch and feel the products before buying them, so that’s the biggest problem for us. We work with anybody that’s in the local market who can go out and find business for us; we’re looking for people to bring business into ourselves.
There are no exclusive arrangements really, it’s just as wide as we can make it, but we’re trying to find the right people to drive it forward as we would like to do ourselves.
So being based in the UK, how do you establish loyal relationships with businesses in the Middle East?
I think really it’s trying to get in front of them and I believe that in this part of the world it’s about building that trust and perhaps it’s four or five visits before anything really comes off. By building those relationships, hopefully you’ll be the first person they’ll call when they’re looking to buy things. But it is a lengthy process.
From Barbados and Bahrain to Malta and Mexico…
Nisbets’ growth in the UK market over the past few decades is well-documented, but the Bristol-based company has also been working to expand its presence overseas.
Offices in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Spain have given it a solid presence in mainland Europe, while the launch of subsidiaries in Australia and the US now provide it with true global reach.
Where it doesn’t have a physical presence, Nisbets serves the market through its Export division, which has been processing international orders for the past 21 years and ships to clients based in more than 100 different countries.
Through its dedicated Export quote building website, www.nisbets-export.com, which is priced in US dollars, customers can identify the products they need or request its Export catalogue and a prompt quotation can be prepared for consideration. It currently charges a minimum export order value of $400 (£238) before freight.
Nisbets ships orders by a choice of freight services including air, sea, road or courier, based on the customers’ preferences. It will also work with any appointed UK forwarder they may have.
This article first appeared in our sister publication Hotelier Middle East.