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Fixing kitchens from Maidenhead to Manila: How MCFT is building a maintenance model with a global footprint

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Service and maintenance provider McFT is now present in a number of markets around the world. Catering Insight reveals how a relentless focus on training, transparency and communications is proving to be a winning global formula…

2022 started off with a whimper, Covid still casting a long shadow. Come the end of January, life started to come back – although, as MCFT and many fellow service providers can attest – and despite the exhortations of Elon Musk and others – it’s taken the best of the year to get offices back to work. The rise of hybrid – the depletion of the workplace – and with it, a significant volume of staff feeding.

And yet, when MCFT’s Kirk Daniell in sales and Noor Ellahi in finance come to set 2023 budgets, it’s not the sales challenge which pre-occupies, it’s the means of delivering those sales.

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In MCFT’s world, that means the manpower to attend to preventative and reactive calls and keep the kitchen wheels turning. It’s a picture echoed around the world – from Germany to the US, from Riyadh to Brisbane.

Quite simply, it’s a shortage of skilled, experienced technicians. And the only answer? ‘Grow your own’ – whether it’s the UK, The Hague, Dubai, Riyadh or Manila. MCFT – which was previously known as McFarlane Telfer – has embarked on this journey for some years now; a cohort of novices in the spring, a cohort in the autumn.

Since 2018, assured by City & Guilds – not just in the UK but for its operations in the Middle East – and now in the Philippines.

Ove the past year there has been further testament of the commitment to work to the very highest standards in the shape of formal accreditation as an Apprenticeship Employer-Provider – a first in the foodservice equipment industry and something held by only a few medium-sized UK businesses.

Formal session plans covering the syllabus, portfolios of gathered evidence, qualified trainers (seven people in the business are now formally accredited to deliver Adult Education), proper facilities including a huge range of equipment for practical training – and, best of all, the full joy of OFSTED inspections.

As a result, MCFT is rightly, rigorously evaluated – and publicly reported – as any other recognised educational establishment in the UK.

The 27 starters in 2022 will be followed by a budgeted 35 in 2023 and 42 in 2024. Not the complete answer to Daniell’s sales team ambitions – but a significant boost. And a significant leg-up to young people with vocational aspirations.

Current alumni of the MCFT Technical Academy include the UK technical lead on catering, the general manager of MCFT Philippines – and, even more tellingly, the story of a lad stacking shelves four years ago and now buying his first house.

So the story is not just about trainees – it’s about developing the next seniors – the team leaders, the regional managers – many of whom come in as experienced technicians.

The criteria are around behaviours and ownership just as much as technical expertise and experience; growing this scale of business and maintaining high-performing teams is an art as well as a mechanical science – and MCFT is always on the look-out for experienced technicians looking to help the business grow as they develop.

And these journeys are mirrored by the managers who joined the business as juniors, often straight from university, and who have opened up virgin territories and now run significant and highly-regarded businesses in far-flung corners.

Middle East milestones

Approved service agents for no less than 64 international foodservice equipment brands – testament not just to technical mastery but administration, communication and documentation. Oh, and did anyone mention the football?

Adam O’Sullivan’s MCFT Team Qatar, boosted by the UK special ops team (Gary, Ben, Phil and Scott) will have completed in excess of 50,000 hours of refrigeration and catering installations – plus all the admin and project management, including container customs clearances at 3am. Over the last two years of build-up it has included 64 canopies, 186 cold-rooms, 1,240 fridge and freezers and 1,400 items of catering fabrication.

And how about Alex Wilson’s team in Manila? Responsibility for technical excellence and soft skills – as MCFT needs rounded engineers – led by technical training instructor Amando Marinda and L&D administrator Mariel Naguiat already have 11 trainees, with a pipeline requirement for next year of 80. This would encompass 30 in-country and 50 going onto jobs in the UAE, Saudi, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Alongside the technical expertise, it’s the compliance, the transparent reporting, the comprehensive documentation and the outstanding communication – all skills imparted in the Training Academy which have opened the door to overseas growth.

Future challenges

There is still lots to do in Europe. James Perton’s Benelux operation is spreading east towards Dusseldorf – the start of a protracted campaign. And there is also ongoing customer and manufacturer demand in the Far East – a recent market visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia heading the list for the next MCFT team on the ground in the region.

Setting aside Noor and Kirk’s budget revenues, the manpower plan is knocking on the door of 400 by the end of 2023 – and tipping over 500 in 2024. Stretch targets?

Well, if the journey east is now well under way, go west young man, over the water – to Ireland…and beyond?

MCFT opens the door to next generation of catering and refrigeration technicians

Tags : mcfarlane telfermcft
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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