Stuart Flint, training and business development manager at Electrolux Professional, explores some of the key foodservice trends likely to impact the dealer channel this year.
"It’s an exciting time to be involved in the foodservice sector, with the category expected to grow by £5.4 billion over the next five years. Naturally, a growing foodservice sector is indicative of kitchen refits, installations and replacement equipment purchases — all of which is good news for catering equipment dealers in the UK.
"With changing dynamics in the sector like new legislation, all-day dining and ventures into new food styles, chefs and catering operators need to be investing in their kitchens to meet ever-evolving consumer demand, and this will certainly have an impact during the coming year.
Right Combination for schools
"Electrolux Professional conducted end-user buying behaviour research in late 2013, in which combination ovens and refrigeration equipment made up the most popular purchases. It’s highly likely that this trend will continue in 2014, especially within the education sector where new legislation now dictates that from September all state-funded infant schools have to provide one hot meal a day to reception, year-one and year-two children.
"A lot of schools will need to rejuvenate their kitchens in 2014 in the build-up to the new legislation and it will be a busy few months for dealers who operate in this sector or work with local councils. Lots of schools will benefit from a combi oven, blast chiller and fridge-freezer, not just because of menu versatility, but because of food regeneration capabilities, too.
"Space saving and efficiency will be key drivers for the schools sector as well, but there will be the opportunity to sell a lot of light catering equipment, like mixers, blenders and slicers. Three million children already eat a school meal every day, which counts for one third of their nutritional intake — for some it is the only nutritional meal they will eat. The school meals ‘revolution’ demands fresh, healthy food for children — making vegetable and fruit slicing and dicing all essential in a school kitchen.
"Another thing that dealers can exploit when selling to the school sector this year is the opportunity for training. New legislation will dramatically change the demands on school catering personnel and catering distributors should look to offer equipment training and menu development to add extra value.
"When we launched the ‘Innovation Centre’ in Luton last year we wanted to create a space for our key partners that would be centred on our customers and their needs. Out of this we have developed a fantastic facility that enables our dealer network and end-users to experience our foodservice solutions, like our touchline combi ovens and ranges, dishwashers and light equipment first-hand, adding real value that goes far beyond the initial purchasing transaction.
New culinary concepts
"Over the past 12 months we’ve also specifically seen a big increase in sales for the Electrolux Professional Libero Point cooking suite — a visually striking cooking station.
"This feeds off two very key trends that have affected the foodservice sector: the increase in pop-up restaurants and outlets looking at moving cooking elements front-of-house. Back in 2012 we saw a spike in sales for the Libero Point on the back of the Olympics, with 14 million people estimated to have visited London, bolstering the casual dining scene. A year on and the street food trend has strengthened with more flavours and simpler menus.
"Equipment like our Libero Point is all plug and play, allowing chefs to mix and match equipment like induction woks, fryers and griddles, providing them with a one-stop-shop for their menu requirements. The food renaissance in recent years has resulted in better educated diners, who are looking to explore new food types and cooking styles.
"Consumers are also interested in food quality and provenance and leading chefs are now looking to exploit this — as street operators have done — by bringing elements of the kitchen front-of-house or opening speciality pop-up outlets to showcase specific dishes and gastro-innovations.
"Additionally, with increased media attention, chefs have become celebrities in their own rights. Any opportunity to see these guys do what they do best will be well-received by diners. We’ve seen it ourselves with the Chef’s Table concepts we’ve taken to Taste Festivals in 2013 with chefs like Atul Kochhar and Simon Hulstone. Being able to add an element of theatre to the cooking process and entertain diners while preparing a meal is a real USP for chefs and caterers, and something dealers can make the most out of when selling equipment.
Personalisation and customisation
"If there’s one other industry driver for 2014, it is chefs looking to customise their kitchens for their exact needs. Made-to-measure equipment is increasing in demand, with more and more chefs looking to express themselves in unique ways.
"Electrolux Professional recently launched a new equipment line range, called Thermaline, combining a range of made-to-measure solutions that can form an island unit in a kitchen or as a unit against a wall, with a set of boiling and braising pans. The equipment gives chefs over 40 different cooking options to choose from so they can completely customise their investment to match their skills, menu, team and level of output. For chefs, being able to custom build a kitchen to their own exact needs is a real appeal.
Power of profitability
"At the end of the day, there is a plethora of factors that will influence our sector in 2014, but when it comes to equipment purchase it boils down to one key thing — profitability. Any way that operators can reduce costs and go to market with a better product will be warmly welcomed, and dealers will certainly be able to help when it comes to school meals, new culinary concepts and kitchen customisation.