Q&A: Nick Pendlebury, Pantheon Catering Equipment

Pantheon Catering Equipment was launched as an independent company in 2006 and is run by the same experienced team behind Monarch Catering Equipment, which was established 30 years ago. Managing director Nick Pendlebury discusses the importance of offering value without compromising quality.

Tell us about Pantheon Catering Equipment’s background in the market. How long have you been supplying commercial catering equipment?

Through Monarch, we spotted a gap in the market for simple-to-use, high quality, plug-in equipment and decided to explore it. All our kit is easy to use so it is good for all sorts of operations. No extensive training is required — just plain common sense. We shy away from complex, digital controls and multi-programmable functions. Our equipment really does do what it says on the box! No frills, no complexity — but definitely quality!

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What proportion of your products are sold direct to end-users? Or do you solely supply through the trade?

100% of our sales are through dealers. They are located throughout the UK so we have a ‘local’ presence in most areas, though we are always looking for more! We believe in supporting our dealers to the best of our ability as it is vital that they are familiar and happy with our products. We provide them with all the sales support they need, answer queries rapidly and ensure we always hold a good stock of equipment and spare parts.

You have added quite a few new products to the portfolio this year. How would you best describe Pantheon’s range of kit?

There is nothing gimmicky about our range and we don’t make claims about unique items. What does set us apart is our quality, attention to detail and empathy with our market. Caterers genuinely like our products — they’re reliable, easy to use, functional and durable. Everything we sell is highly specified and has undergone rigorous trials before we bring it to market.

Is it correct to say that Pantheon’s equipment is designed in the UK and manufactured in China? What are the advantages of this model and how do you ensure quality control?

Because we know that value is important, it makes sense to outsource manufacturing — but we never, ever compromise on quality. The initial design process is lengthy and rigorous. Following this, we run extensive trials of prototypes prior to commissioning. Then, when equipment is manufactured, we have on-site representatives who visit the overseas factories and carry out detailed quality control checks. Only then do we accept delivery.

How much stock and spare parts do you hold in the UK?

We have generous warehousing facilities so are able to hold a large amount of stock and spare parts, though the actual quantities vary from product to product. Also, our relationship with our dealers helps us to estimate anticipated sales and, thankfully, we have never been in a position where we can’t provide the necessary spare part or an item of kit.

What have been the highlights for the company this year?

It has been great to see a renewed confidence in the economy which has manifested itself in an increased investment in our catering equipment products. Purchasing involves much more caution these days as people want to know that the products they buy will last, and 2014 has seen Pantheon even more firmly established as a brand that is synonymous with cost-effective reliability and durability.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the business?

I don’t see a ‘challenge’ specifically but I am aware that, as Pantheon grows, we have to have the infrastructure to support it. Therefore, we have made changes to some of our systems to accommodate the potential for an increase in the dealership and the sales this will generate.

Pantheon must face a lot of competition from other catering equipment brands selling similar items in the UK. To what extent do you attempt to differentiate yourself?

Of course there’s always going to be competition but, in many ways, this is what drives us. We will always try to go that extra mile to make our equipment perform better and last longer than the other ranges out there. It’s also about customer service and making sure our dealers have absolutely everything they need when they need it!

What are the key priorities and plans for the business in 2015?

The Pantheon range has been developed, improved and perfected around market demand, so as that demand changes we will be ready. We have plans to expand our dealer network, too, to make sure our products are available everywhere.

Distributor connection shapes product choice

Pantheon supplies a wide range of cooking, serving, prep and beverage equipment and the company intends to build on its offering moving forward.

Managing director, Nick Pendlebury, says it listens closely to what trade customers have to say before deciding how best to enhance the portfolio. “We get a lot of feedback from our network of dealers and this helps us to identify which products we should focus on,” he says.

The Bolton-based supplier also benefits from its connection to a group that operates at the dealer end of the market.

Says Pendlebury: “Another source of information that enables us to ‘keep our finger on the pulse’ is Pantheon’s parent company, Monarch. Because Monarch is commissioned extensively for its kitchen design and installation service, we meet a lot of chefs ranging from those running low volume pub or cafe kitchens right through to some very prestigious operations, such as Living Ventures. We hear, first hand, the items of kit they’re looking for and the features they want to see — and also those they don’t!"

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