CESA Conference instructs on disruption

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A record-breaking amount of attendees came along to the 2018 CESA Conference.

The theme of the CESA Conference 2018 could hardly be more apt, being ‘evolving in a disruptive environment’. With the Brexit uncertainty continuing apace, speakers were on hand to help the record-breaking 240+ attendees to pick their way through the current economic puzzle.

The conference’s business day on 15 November at the De Vere Cotswold Water Park Hotel was ably opened by broadcaster Simon Jack, who reported that the most optimistic economic forecasts say that UK growth will total 1.8%. “The root of our economic problems are that there is too little investment,” he reported.

Bucking this trend is Nisbets, as CEO Klaus Goeldenbot detailed in the Titans of Industry panel discussion. He reported how the catering equipment giant has invested in using big data to create insight and constantly improving the digital customer experience.

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“Customers are becoming more digitally aware and social media savvy so the customer experience is ever more transparent,” Goeldenbot advised. “We have so much insight about customers that we can almost predict why they are calling.”

However, he did underline that more than 70% of Nisbets’ customers said they still want access to real people. So the firm is using more digital technology, via predictive analysis, to identify which customers need the human touch.

The second ‘titan’ was Steve Snower, CEO of US-based Parts Town, which is the parent company of the First Choice Group. He believes that the spares company has organically grown 35% every year for the last 15 years due to being market disruptors, providing customers what they need as quickly as possible.

Snower also underlined the importance of digital marketing and predicted that 80% of transactions would be online by 2025. He also detailed that service companies and end users are demanding higher levels of parts support.

With manufacturers looking to simplify their spares supply, and increasingly outsourcing parts distribution and technical support, Snower said: “We have aligned ourselves with manufacturers through only supplying OEM parts and working together with them to grow their businesses.”

However, the generic parts market share has increased to 30% in Europe, in opposition to the trend in the US, where its share has declined from 30% to 13%. “We need to educate customers on the value of genuine OEM parts,” Snower remarked.

The Titans of Industry session, featuring Alberto Zanata, AB Electrolux CEO of professional products and executive vice president; Klaus Goeldenbot, Nisbets group CEO; and Steve Snower, Parts Town CEO.

Completing the titanic trio, Alberto Zanata, AB Electrolux’s CEO of professional products and executive vice president, feels that as eating out of home is still growing, the catering equipment market will continue to increase too.

He mentioned digitalisation too, saying that most industries have been subject to waves of digital disruption. “Digital enables new business models. It’s not enough not to do anything wrong; we have to adapt to and lead the change.

“We immediately relate digitalisation to connected appliances, but the important thing is the environment these appliances are in. The customer advantage will come when we put all these things together.”

In terms of Brexit disruption, CESA director Keith Warren was on hand to update the industry. “Through membership of trade association collaboration EURIS, CESA intends to provide a solid position for industry during the Brexit process,” he stated.

He further revealed that CESA has launched a Brexit toolkit to help manufacturers prepare. Points covered include business strategy, operations, supply chain, transport and logistics, finance, regulations and standards, as well as movement of people.

Warren concluded: “It is heavily realised across business that a no deal Brexit would cause significant damage. Companies need to discuss Brexit with critical partners and if necessary look for alternative back-up suppliers.”

On the operator side of the industry, Fuller’s Brewery’s director of food, Paul Dickinson, told the conference that in the 2016-17 financial year, the chain invested £17m in its kitchens. Nicknamed ‘the dictator of food’, in his passionate speech he declared: “I want to make Fuller’s all about food.”

Later in the day, a joint presentation by data analysts Kantar Worldpanel and Caterlyst gave a good foodservice market overview. Kantar’s head of UK business development, Chris Hayward, reported that premiumisation of products is helping to grow quick service restaurants, with other expanding sectors including pubs and bars, full service restaurants, coffee shops, cafes and leisure, and hotels.

While Caterlyst MD Stewart Sims revealed that new formats are changing how diners eat out, including more retail stores featuring foodservice outlets and casual dining chains moving more towards the airport and travel market. Brands doing particularly well include Brewdog, Be at One, Loungers, Turtle Bay and Esquires Coffee.

The sessions concluded with a keynote address from Lord Robert Winston, who regaled attendees with stories from his medical, political and broadcasting career, including that the catering options in the House of Lords have reduced in quality recently. Perhaps one dealer could gain a prestigious project to help modernise those facilities!

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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