This September saw a brand new concept opening in Bristol, that of a permanent catering equipment exhibition.
The National Catering Equipment Centre (NCEC), a new brand in the Nisbets group, was conceived 18 months ago as “a centre that everyone within the catering industry could use – dealers, operators, suppliers and associations,” according to Richard Ebbs, head of Uropa Brands, who has been involved in the facility’s creation.
The 60,000ft2 building used to be owned by Wincanton and was bought by the Nisbets group, which demolished the front third of the space to construct the NCEC.
As the largest commercial catering equipment centre in Europe, the NCEC features a 10,000ft2 showroom as well as a 9,000ft2 retail store. The majority of the showroom comprises exhibition-type stands for over 40 supplier brands. “They have worked with us to design their stand spaces,” explained Ebbs. “While each stand is to their specification, we have restricted the height so that visitors can see across the whole floor.
“Most exhibitions are only open for 2-3 days so if you happen to be on holiday at the time, you miss them,” he continued. “So the idea of the NCEC is to complement other exhibitions. The location is great because there are not many exhibitions around this region and it is at the opposite end of the country to many UK manufacturers based in the north. They now have a place to showcase their products in the south.”
The centre is open to attend 6 days a week and will host regular demonstrations in its purpose-built kitchen, both for dealer and operator training, and chain end user menu development. Ebbs detailed: “Our partner suppliers want to use this building as if it’s their own. They will be bringing down operators or dealers so that they can see and touch the products. Dealers can bring their own customers here themselves, as nothing is priced up, the same way as an exhibition. It’s an opportunity for them to sell – and the sales won’t necessarily be for Nisbets or its brands.”
Space Group, also owned by Nisbets, outfitted the demonstration kitchen, and the centre is within easy reach for the Gloucester-based distributor to use too. The NCEC kitchen will be managed by experienced chef, Dean Starling, who has been a development chef at Carnival Cruises among the prestigious titles he has held through his career. The kitchen set-up is intended to be flexible, with different power sources giving the option to swap equipment in and out or compare several models of the same appliance type.
Ebbs underlined: “The training kitchen is glass fronted, so the public can see what’s going on and it creates theatre cooking.” The facility will host sales and cooking techniques training, plus bespoke appliance training, and CESA has even booked it out for an upcoming CFSP course. Furthermore, any Uropa brand distributors will be able to attend learning days and product launches at the centre.
The centre will be headed up by manager Laura Clarkson. She commented: “Up until now, the hospitality industry has not really had somewhere to call home. Football has Wembley, Rugby has Twickenham and now the hospitality industry has the NCEC. We believe the NCEC will quickly become the place to visit for anyone involved with catering equipment, from dealers to distributors, through to operators, consultants and chefs.”
CESA director Keith Warren has given his full support to the initiative, saying: “The NCEC is an exciting initiative for the hospitality industry. By allowing customers to try equipment before they buy it, it will provide a real service to both operators and the supply chain.”
Clarkson added: “One of the key benefits of having all of these superior brands within one place is that demonstrations can be set up in the kitchen, allowing a customer to test drive a particular oven, blender or induction hob (for example) before making the purchase. As visitors will be able to touch, feel and see the equipment in action, they will be able to make a more informed purchasing decision.”
Brands on show
Chef & Sommelier