Signature FSE has struck a deal that will see it market high-end French manufacturer CAPIC’s cooking ranges in the UK. Here are 10 things you need to know about the brand as it bids to make itself known in the UK catering equipment market place.
10. Room at the inn
It has taken almost a decade to get there, but Signature FSE has finally found a modular range that it is excited to be marketing in the UK. “When we created Signature nine years ago, there was always a void in the business plan for what I would term a volume sale cooking equipment product,” explains managing director Steve Hobbs. “We had Athanor, which is very much at the top end of the tree — we knew who we were fighting against in that market but we also understood it was a very limited market — and we had Adventys induction, which I would call a mass middle market plug-and-play product. But we didn’t have a modular range to compete with all the others out there. We have spent a number of years looking for something to fill that gap.”
9. Picking the right partner
Hobbs admits that Signature has spoken with numerous modular cooking brands in the past but never found the right partner, either because it wasn’t the correct fit or the ownership structure wasn’t ideal. “Having come from working within a large group, I know what the politics are, in as much as your face can fit one day but three or four weeks down the line a new export director can come in and change everything for the sake of it. CAPIC produces very good quality, high-end modular cooking equipment and it is just the type of family or proprietary business that we have been looking for.”
8. Brand brief
The CAPIC business will be overseen by newly-appointed brand manager Graham Russell, who has extensive experience of the market through his time as a chef, as well as spells at Manitowoc and Dawson. “The brief for Graham is to look at CAPIC as his business,” says Hobbs. “If he thinks we have got to make certain investments or need to be part of certain events then that’s what we’ll do.”
7. Modern company, old school values
One of Russell’s first jobs in his new role was to spend a week at CAPIC’s factory in North-West Brittany to familiarise himself with the brand’s offering and culture. The company operates a 31,000 square metre facility producing 700, 800, 900 and 1000 ranges, as well as bespoke suites. “What we have found in CAPIC is a company that uses modern technology but retains its traditional values with regards to quality, performance and durability,” says Russell. “It is a company that has been going since 1955 and employs 150 people. It doesn’t compromise on quality. In the commercial catering industry we think it is one of France’s best-kept secrets.”
6. New approach to importing
There are some CAPIC installations in the UK that have been carried out by different distributors over the years, but much of the manufacturer’s business has been confined to France or French-speaking regions. It currently generates 20% of its business from export sales. “This is the first time that they have ever had somebody in another country that has one person dedicated solely to CAPIC,” reveals Russell.
5. A suite to suit all needs
According to Russell, one of CAPIC’s biggest strengths is the breadth of its product range. “They have got every piece of equipment you could think of — open burners, induction, planchas, multi-purpose bratt pans, combi ovens, convection ovens, statics, solid tops,” he says. “Everything you can get in our market they will do that and more — they are a very flexible manufacturer. Their 700 series even has a 2mm top, but it is still classed as heavy duty. It is a big seller in Paris because, like London, a lot of the kitchens are underground in small spaces.”
4. Direct sell, indirect supply
Signature is aiming to recruit a handful of dealers that it can work with to market CAPIC products in the UK. “The fundamental philosophy of Signature is very much along the ethos of direct sell but indirect supply — in other words we need to go and see the end-user client or specifier to get it sold, but it is supplied back through the distributor,” says Hobbs. “That is the way that 99.9% of our business works.”
3. Familiar territory
Given the competitive and price aggressive nature of the commercial cooking suite sector, some might say that Signature has a challenge on its hands to establish CAPIC in the UK market. The company, however, has been there before. “Nine years ago nobody in this market knew Athanor or Adventys or Signature, and I don’t claim today that everybody does know them, but in that time we have created a recognised brand which I think is regarded for its quality of product, quality of service and quality of people. For us, it has been about finding that company that matches our ethos.”
2. The £40m market
Signature is under no illusions that developing a customer base for the brand will be easy, but at the same time it doesn’t intend to chase unrealistic targets. “Along with dishwashing and refrigeration, prime cooking is probably one of the three toughest markets to get into,” acknowledges Hobbs. “I reckon the modular equipment market has got to be worth £30m to £40m a year, but we are not looking to take £10m in sales from that. My objective is half of one percent of the whole market and if we can achieve that I will be happy. And we don’t expect to achieve that in two years. It is a three- to five-year plan and in the end it is about staying true to the company values, which include that direct sale-indirect supply, and working with the distributors.”
1. Completing the puzzle
The signing of CAPIC will not be followed by the addition of more brands to Signature’s portfolio, at least for the time being. Instead, Signature will focus on bedding its latest partner into the business, satisfied that its offering now includes everything a chef needs, from a knife from Henckels to prep products made by Revol or Demeyere, and, now a modular range from CAPIC. “The idea has always been to have eight brands and we are now at that point,” concludes Hobbs.