Stuart Flint, regional training and development manager at Electrolux Professional, discusses the recent research Electrolux carried out in order to provide catering equipment distributors with the inside scoop on the factors driving the catering equipment replacement market this year.
The UK catering equipment market is estimated to be growing by around 3.5%, giving purchasers the capital and confidence to invest in replacement equipment in order to capitalise on the growing number of people choosing to eat out of home.
It’s generally accepted across the industry that throughout the period of economic downturn and reduced consumer expenditure, purchasers and operators take the decision to defer the replacement of equipment, but many are now beginning to re-examine budgets and equipment requirements with increased confidence.
This, coupled with the growing value of the food and drink sector, prompted Electrolux to invest in analysing and evaluating the current buying considerations of a variety of chefs and operators with the power to purchase. We wanted to get closer to the market and understand the every need of our customers – particularly for those working for multi-site operators – to enable us and our network of distributors to cater for their needs as best as possible.
Of the 300 chefs and operators we surveyed, over two thirds had replaced a piece of equipment in the last 12 months. While this undoubtedly stresses the importance of the replacement market for manufacturers and distributors alike, it’s also useful to know the range of reasons why operators choose to replace old with new.
39% of those surveyed cited complete breakdown as their primary reason for replacements, with an additional third citing the need for regular repairs as their main prompt. This kind of distress purchasing means chefs and stakeholders would be well-advised to keep abreast of the latest innovations and associated support manufacturers can offer.
Being in a position to make an informed decision can prove invaluable, and this is one of the main reasons why we’ve taken the decision to host an extensive programme of workshops, seminars, and training courses at our Center of Excellence.
These ultimately allow our existing or potential customers to make themselves aware of how we can offer support should they ever be in a position where they need to invest in new equipment at short notice. We’d encourage our network of partners to make the most of this as a resource, enabling potential investors to try the equipment first hand, while receiving advice from our team of development chefs.
An insightful statistic is that just over a tenth of those we surveyed cited substandard performance as the main influence on their decision to replace equipment. Combining this with the additional 10% who admitted to replacing equipment because of newer and more effective models being available, gives us an idea of just how much work can be done to promote the benefits of proactively overhauling the workhorses of the kitchen, rather than waiting for a breakdown.
The replacement market represents a huge chunk of the market for both distributors and manufacturers, and we need to work together to maximise this in the case of upgrades. For example, some of the latest models can make a hugely favourable impact on menu development, reduce overhead costs, and streamline processes while maximising energy efficiency at the same time. [[page-break]]
These are all benefits distributors can use when liaising with buyers, specifiers and chefs, encouraging them to consider this at all times and not just when their equipment is on the brink of breakdown.
It is important for us to have a firm grasp of the reasons behind the decision to replace. However, a concern for the industry is the fact that 43% of chefs told us that the wait for service or delivery of equipment has had a damaging effect on their business.
It’s natural that downtime on any key piece of equipment will cause inconvenience, but this needs to be acted upon quickly, especially when we consider the latest kitchen innovations – where increased versatility is putting more pressure on single pieces of equipment to take on the bulk of production.
At Electrolux, we have a dedicated customer care function as, in the unfortunate circumstance of a breakdown, we believe we have a responsibility to deliver a speedy recovery service to increase equipment uptime and reduce any potential impact on the business in question.
We endeavour to deliver a first time fix service to avoid downtime on crucial pieces of equipment, as well as fostering relationships with chefs across the industry, which involves high levels of communication from both sides to ensure potential issues are avoided or resolved as promptly as possible.
Our research found that at the point of purchase, product performance reigns as the most important factor for an overwhelming majority of two thirds of those surveyed. While this may not be all too surprising, the figure emphasises just how important quality of food is to those responsible for its delivery. Just 15% labelled price as their main priority at the point of purchase, which shows that although there is a balance to be found between price point and quality, it is the performance of the equipment that will always have the strongest bearing on the final decision.
Training is also increasing in importance amongst chefs, with 76% of those we asked saying they would consider attending a training course or demonstration to help them to make the most of the full functionality of their equipment.
As manufacturers across the board strive to add innovative new features to their product ranges, training plays a key role in empowering chefs to maximise the labour and time-saving aspects of the latest generation of products. It is at this point that we have to take responsibility to ensure our distribution network is able to benefit from training support, enabling their customers to choose a product or suite of products which meets their every need.
Our research has provided a series of insights into the replacement market that we plan to not only use to influence the development of the support we offer our customers, but also to help our national network of distributors in specifying bespoke solutions for individual kitchens and multi-site operators alike.
By understanding buying priorities and having up-to-date insights into the dynamic replacement market, we hope to play our part in helping our distribution network capitalise on what is an exciting period of growth for the food and drink sector.
To download a copy of Electrolux Professional’s ‘Out with the old, in with the new’ research report, visit: www.professional.electrolux.co.uk