Keith Warren, director of CESA, gives his views on the market for the year ahead.
How would you assess the current state of the catering equipment market in the UK and what is your outlook for 2012?
What I hear from the members is that things are pretty stable, but margins are under pressure and that is really the constraint. Manufacturers are also looking to remove costs where they can, whether that is in the production of the equipment or through the supply chain. Innovation and sustainability from manufacturers are key and I think we are going to see a lot of that at Hotelympia.
What key factors do you expect to drive and shape the direction of the catering equipment market in 2012?
We will see the first implementing measure under the Ecodesign Directive take shape and this will set the scene for inefficient product to be prevented from being placed on the European market. This work will also lead to an energy label for commercial refrigeration. I think the competition on the high street means that operators are going to keep evolving, developing and changing their menus and presentation styles, which means they will just keep reinventing themselves, and that will bring the requirement for new equipment.
What are the biggest challenges facing the catering equipment market in 2012?
Getting operators to invest in more sustainable equipment and educating them on how they can do that the right way through life-cycle cost assessment. At the point of purchase, the tendency can be to go for the cheapest option. With catering equipment, there are teams of buyers who are charged with buying as much as they can for as little as possible and that can sometimes be against that company’s overall sustainability strategy. The more efficient equipment will tend to be more expensive than the less efficient equipment, which is what creates the dilemma.
What opportunities are there for foodservice consultants and equipment providers to offer additional value to their customers in 2012?
The key will be to ensure they keep pace with new and innovative equipment that comes to the market in order to advise clients on the best solutions in preparing food and managing waste. Also, to challenge clients to reconsider what they want to do and then to match the equipment to that need — not to simply specify and sell the standard equipment or straight replacement. For example, why have a replacement salamander for steaks — an induction hob will be quicker and will save energy.
How do you see the traditional ‘channel’ structure of the catering equipment market developing in 2012 and are the roles of the main intermediaries likely to change in any way?
I think the roles within those individual channels will continue to evolve as the market demands it, but it is evolutionary development rather than revolution. All of the key roles within the supply chain are important and they will continue to change to accommodate what the end-user customer wants. Any business — whether a manufacturer, consultant, dealer or kitchen house — has to evolve to be sustainable. Any company that is unable to embrace that change is in danger of getting left behind by those companies that do reflect the needs of the market at a particular time.