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Distributors look for the positives amidst coronavirus emergency

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UK catering equipment distributors are trying to see the upsides of the coronavirus crisis.

UK catering equipment dealers are doing their best to ensure that some positives can come out of the global coronavirus crisis, as Catering Insight discovered in the latest of its special reports.

At RDA, director Alex Bradley emphasised: “We took steps a number of years ago to make the business 100% mobile and flexible. We already have flexible working policies and working from home policies in place for all staff and we already have systems and procedures set up so that all staff members can keep in touch with each other throughout the working day, wherever we are all based.

“We are still able to continue works on site at the discretion of our clients or unless the government advices otherwise, so this may even be an opportunity for some industry sectors, such as education, to get works complete before the ‘summer rush’ period starts.”

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While Simon Tavender, MD of Catering Equipment Support praised the industry for being good at giving updates, adding: “Some of our suppliers are looking out for us and are arranging longer terms for payment.”

Peter Cox, MD of Peter Cox Catering Equipment believes: “People will be more conscious of hygiene in the future and maybe start to see the risks of cross contamination.” And to lighten the mood he joked: “And everyone is also less likely to get a visit from the Mother in Law!”

Up at Grampian Catering Equipment, MD Graham Batty maintained: “At the moment we are working as normal, and are very busy quoting and designing kitchens for the future.”

While Ian Dance Services is being community-minded, with MD Bruce Dance reporting: “We made efforts to identify vulnerable people in our local community and our customers so that we can take extra care to make sure they have all they need.

“It is heart-warming to see our engineers coming back to the office asking to pop down the shop to pick up items for someone they are worried about and who have had to self-isolate.”

This was a sentiment echoed by Catering Equipment Solutions’ MD, Anna McNamara: “I guess the main positive is that bringing communities together to help vulnerable people restores faith in humanity. I am also hoping this highlights some of issues we have as a nation to the government and permanent changes are made to support individuals and businesses.”

The Space Group is thinking along the same lines as well, according to MD, Ian Bidmead: “The response from the team here in Gloucester and at our factory in York has been tremendous – seeing people pull together and support each other in adversity is always great to see.

“It’s also accelerated some of our plans to use cloud based platforms for collaborative team working, which I think will have long term benefits for the business. We’ve also had client presentations ‘remotely’ using technology which worked well for both parties, and would otherwise have involved long journeys, and many wasted hours and emissions. I’m hoping we’ll see some productivity improvements once we get through the next few months.”

Greens Commercial Kitchens’ MD Richard Greenway is confident that the whole hospitality industry will stick together. “I’ve been involved in the catering and hospitality trade for 25 years on both sides of the pass; our customers are both chefs and restaurateurs and are a hardy bunch, hugely hardworking and fiercely loyal and I know for a fact they’re not going to let everything they’ve built and worked for taken down by this – I’m sure that with a little patience we can all emerge from this.”

At Vision Commercial Kitchens, MD Jack Sharkey is bullish: “As a business, we have consistently invested in our personnel and the business, as a result we are in a strong position to ride out this storm. Our staff are demonstrating resilience and commitment to the business on a daily basis and that is testament to them as a team.

“The positives I see from this are we will all start to look at the business, what contingency plans and disaster recovery plans are in place should something like this ever happen again, how robust the financial planning is or has been, what meetings are important and what are not, and what can be done remotely without costly travel using technology available today.”

Chiller Box’s Marios Poumpouris is staying upbeat too: “I am a firm believer in good out of bad. Whilst we may not be able to see it right now, every cloud will always have a silver lining. Opportunities will arise out of the ashes. For now we just have to hunker down, keep positive and get through this unprecedented situation.

“In the words of our great wartime leader Churchill: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going!’”

Likewise, Lakes Catering Maintenance’s MD Leigh Howard stated: “There are opportunities, servicing in the down time, supporting the community, reaching out to customers to establish their needs, to become flexible and lean in your approach, prepare and be ready for the other side of this crisis. I believe our industry is resilient, adaptive and will be ready to invest and grow once mobility is back in the UK.”

The GS Group has discovered some new facets to its operations. Sales and administration manager Anna Massey said: “We have defined the way we will work, with the possibility of working from home we have identified that we won’t be able to print all of our work, receive invoices through the post or take calls for the office.

“We have identified that we can save all purchase orders and quotes in client files, notified our suppliers to ensure all invoices are emailed and with our new phone system calls to the office will also come through on mobiles. We can also remotely connect to the server to ensure a seamless service is maintained as much as possible.”

In the servicing sector, Crystaltech MD Derek Maher feels: “Supermarkets and prisons will prosper, and also customers may decide to repair rather than replace.”

And Mark Saville, MD of Alecta Technical Solutions, analysed: “If there is one shining positive to take from this outbreak is the attention that is being paid by everyday folk to step up their personal hygiene while out in public or at home. From a catering perspective this will do wonders going forward, well beyond this pandemic, to help curb the spread of nasty bugs such as food poisoning and hopefully limit the amount of occasions that poor food hygiene occurs.

“The other positives we have seen is how people are pulling together and supporting one another, everyone having an understanding of each other’s situation and allowed people to slow down and notice one another. This said, this doesn’t apply to everybody.”

He further confirmed: “Our suppliers are doing everything in their power to support us, which is a real test of the relationship in the most positive way and we thank them for their support.

“We are still staying positive and still offering our services to both existing and new clients and there are still some clients who are looking to join us in amongst the chaos, which is fantastic news for all concerned.”

While Intellico Dishwashers & Glasswashers’ MD Richard Hose believes: “Businesses that come through the other side of this will be leaner and stronger and be ready to push on when things eventually settle down again.”

Tags : alectacatering equipment solutionscatering equipment supportchiller boxcoronaviruscrystaltechdealersDistributorsgrampian catering equipmentgreens commercial kitchensgs groupian dance servicesintellicoLakes Catering Maintenancepeter coxrdaSpace CateringVision
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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