With the national lockdown now easing and the hospitality industry starting to reopen, the outlook for the UK catering equipment market is getting rosier.
But the sector has been through an unimaginably tough time over these past few months, and it has drawn into sharp focus the importance of keeping good relations up and down the supply chain. Therefore, Catering Insight asked a number of dealers across the UK to reveal which suppliers they have been impressed by throughout the crisis.
For instance, at Sprint Group, MD Simon Carpmael detailed: “Foster, as always, was quick to respond – especially when we jointly supported The Caring Foundation charity initiative at the beginning of the crisis.
“And we can always rely on Precision to be professional and proactive – by working together we’ve managed to keep customers happy and operational during the period.”
He analysed: “We’ve been impressed by how all of our suppliers have responded during this crisis. The key to success has been communication – thinking ahead, working together and a ‘can do’ attitude has solved many issues before they arise. We’ve still got a long way to go but there’s no doubt – strong supplier/dealer relationships will continue to be critical to future success.”
Carpmael also sang the praised of industry association CEDA: “It has been invaluable during the lockdown period, providing daily, industry updates and co-ordinating the ‘Members Connected’ webinars – a forum to discuss important topics.”
Over at RDA, director, Alex Bradley, was very positive about the kitchen design house’s supplier relationships, commenting: “Communication with our supply chain has been key, and to be honest, all of our suppliers have been great and have offered us additional support where we have asked for it, in terms of extended credit terms throughout the shutdown period, when we were struggling to get overdue cash receipts from a number of clients and our cash flow took a slight hit due to lack of work on site.
“They have all been very understanding which has really helped us get things back on track, which fortunately, they are again now.”
London-based dealer, Chiller Box, reserved praise for one company in particular, with MD Marios Poumpouris saying: “The one that stands out is Rational. They were one of our largest creditors at the time of lockdown, but we worked with them to reduce their balance steadily. This allowed them to supply more goods to fulfil new orders even with an aged debt still in place, which we continued to chip away at with weekly payments.
“With more combi orders coming in/being fulfilled in recent weeks we have both managed to do good ongoing business throughout this tough period and will no doubt continue to do so.”
However, he also revealed: “The flip side to them is another supplier who chased a small amount more aggressively which we paid, and then they put us on pro-forma for another small new order. Whilst we placed that order with them to keep things moving we have not used them since and are unlikely to do so going forward.”
Lakes Catering Maintenance also named Rational as one of its top suppliers, as MD Leigh Howard summed up: “I would like to take my hat off to the Rational team, and in particular Sandy Thomassen and Adam Binks, for delivering the launch of the new Rational iCombi Pro and the iVario during lockdown, the online training, videos and support that’s been made available has been second to none.”
Howard further analysed: “I have also been impressed with how some companies innovated quickly, by offering new products and discounts to support the industry. Lincat/IMC will be one company that stands out for this, their social media campaign was spot on. I was also impressed with the SOS lifeline support that was offered to dealers, as we all start to get back to a new normal.
“Specifi has been another company that has offered support to Lakes Catering through webinars. I tried hard not to miss any of these as it gave a great insight into the thoughts of the key players in our industry. I would like to extend my gratitude to Nic Banner and the Specifi team for organising these and reaching out to drive solutions and survival ideas.”
He concluded: “Most of our suppliers have been amazing, by offering support above and beyond our expectations, offering advice and making themselves available, even if it is to just have a catch up and swap notes on survival strategies. It has been a worrying time for business owners but sharing thoughts, debating ideas and feeding back the challenges through the chain has brought the industry together in a way we’ve never seen historically.”
Elsewhere, CKS applauded Falcon, LLK and Maidaid. Director Dawn Cheetham said: “We continued to order from all these suppliers and receive deliveries throughout lockdown. We had points of contact for technical support and product supply and a good level of communication.
“All of the above had directors who personally made contact with us in the first few weeks, offering their support and providing additional contact details while usual staff were furloughed. LLK passed us two leads which came live.”
Cheetham added: “Welbilt and CED were also very much in contact and keen to maintain excellent customer support. As, ever spares suppliers seem to take a back seat, however we had excellent service from CCS at Heywood. All our spares deliveries arrived on time and although we perhaps missed the personal contact/phone call, the office staff were very good at helping out – with only running on a skeleton staff sometimes we needed that extra bit of help to get the orders right!”
She concluded: “As many within the industry, we continued to be open as part of the supply chain to the health, education and social care sector. On many of the early days Diane and I were the only ones in and it was good that all the above companies (and many more) were prepared to help out answering potentially basic questions and keeping in touch. With the added Zoom presentations organised via ENSE and CEDA this also gave our sales staff chance to catch up on what is out there.”