Valentine Fryers has set its sights on continuing to be at the top of its game, as Catering Insight’s Alex Douglas found out:
In a lot of cases the words ‘Swiss Made’ speak for themselves, and they do just that for Lausanne-based Valentine Fryers too. However, not resting on its laurels and building on that base of quality manufacturing is something the company still prides itself on, and has done so since its inception in 1956.
The company’s presence in the UK has continued to grow year on year and, as revealed to Catering Insight on a trip to the factory in Switzerland, the company’s British operation is on track for a financially record-breaking 12 months.
Steve Elliott, sales director at Valentine and Cuisinequip, credited the way both aspects of the company have been working together as a contributing factor to the positive year.
He explained: “Our year at Valentine ends at the end of October and we are set for a record one so far. We’ve seen better uptake of people wanting Valentine products and, on the Cuisinequip side of the business, we’ve also had a steady year selling induction.
“We have our rise and fall quickheat Salamanders, which are an increasing part of our business, going into chain accounts and top class restaurants so induction suites will be seen a lot in that year.”
Elliott went on to detail that the plan is to work hard and “do things better” as part of its effort to use its success as something to improve on.
He says the ‘Swiss Made’ factor is expected to continue to help with that work as it has done in the past and describes how that confidence in the product is what helps him, his team and the UK dealer network get the high-end Valentine products out there and into kitchens.
“‘Swiss Made’ conveys efficiency, good design and good working and strong equipment and also an awareness of the environment. The products are built to last so you’re not replacing them every few years. It is not surprising to see Valentine fryers that are over 30 years old.”
A guided tour round the factory with company CEO Christophe Paris showed the calm, clean and efficient working conditions in which the fryers are made. The international relationship is one that works very well and, according to Elliott, is a seamless process.
He explained: “Special orders can take about 3 weeks to dispatch from the factory. In the UK though we do also carry a set of standard stock; it works very smoothly. We are a customer of some 61 years with Valentine in Switzerland so we tend to know how each other works really well and if we say we need 20 more of this fryer because we’ve had some additional orders, then they will work their magic and get those out to us.”
The smooth working relationship is one that is mirrored in the UK across the Valentine dealer network, demonstrated by the fact that the likes of TAG, Catercraft and Waltons were able to join Valentine on the trip over to the continent.
Discussing the way things are done in the UK, Elliott continued: “We sell everything through distributors but we do also have a relationship with the end users. Valentine is a well-known brand and just about everybody is aware of it, just sometimes we like to remind people of the brand and the values.”
Mastering the marketing task of getting a brand and its values out there can be a difficult one, but Valentine seems to do it well. In addition to embracing the value of digital, print and social media, the firm appreciates its time at the force that has become the ENSE buying consortium.
Getting face-to-face with relevant people in the industry is often tough, but having a lot of them in the same place at the same time at the ENSE Conferences is something that Elliott sees as a huge opportunity.
Commenting on the ‘speed dating-like’ setting, he said: “ENSE helps with the members when we get to speed date them twice a year at their conferences. It’s good because it means you get to talk to those sort of people and the people from those companies but you also get to speak to people you may not have met before. There’s not enough time to discuss the range fully of course so you have to think of something to whet their appetite which you can follow up afterwards.”
He also commended the added ENSE benefit of twice a year training sessions, adding: “You get up to 50 minutes with a group of around eight people in a room to talk about your chosen product. I did one recently and we gave them an overview of Valentine, showed them how things worked and also got them to make some pasta and see a few different shapes and then we went through one of the fryers in quite great detail and showed them the benefits of it; it’s very beneficial. It is just a day, so you can’t show everything in the range but you can show things which are representative.”
Following feedback from end users after seeing consumer eating trends, Valentine has recently released a fryer which allows for separate filtration, meaning the oil will not be cross contaminated with allergens.
Elliott is hoping this kind of innovation will allow it to stay on the front foot and, in turn, lead to a continuation of positive growth.
Looking ahead, Elliott predicted: “We already have a good market for Valentine fryers but I always think we can continue to do better and continue to increase turnover in the coming years, though I don’t see us increasing our headcount for the next year or two.”