For many years Steve Hobbs was the driving force behind prominent supplier, Signature FSE. So what made him give that up to create Grande Cuisine? Here he reveals that the answer, as it turns out, is simple.
I had always wanted to create a cooking equipment supply company that had a philosophy of selling the technical ideas to the chefs and end users with a firm indirect supply policy. But perhaps most importantly I wanted to do this in partnership with independent (as opposed to group owned) manufacturers, who are continually focused on research and development (R&D).
For the end users that we are trying to reach it’s all about quality products that they can rely on, day in, day out, so we needed to work with suppliers whose products are never value engineered and who share our values and core principals.
With Athanor, Capic and Adventys we feel we have achieved this whilst simultaneously offering a blend of bespoke, modular option and table-top primary cooking equipment.
What makes Grande Cuisine different is its trading partnership and involvement with proprietor owned companies where the owner/operator is involved in the business every day. Like a lot of the end users we deal with, it’s their money and their investment which means every detail is considered.
Take Adventys. On the surface it might seem like every other manufacturer of induction equipment, but dig a little deeper and you will find that, other than the glass, Adventys manufactures every element of its induction hobs including the electronic board, induction coils and the stainless steel casing – even the software that makes the unit function.
This means there is constant quality checking of components at every level of production and this results in reliable products. The same principles are in operation at both Athanor and Capic.
All operators want a ‘stress free’ kitchen where they can concentrate on getting good food on plates in front of paying customers. I believe that if we can demonstrate our ability to deliver a reliable product with good back-up service and maintenance, this is the first step in making a sale – the decision then comes down to budget, life expectancy, energy consumption, ease of use/cleaning, and return on investment. [[page-break]]
Depending on which sector the end user is operating in, these considerations may be higher or lower. Initial capital cost is always a consideration but lifetime cost is moving higher and higher on the agenda.
Our three partner companies are always looking at new ideas and concepts to see where the industry is moving. Product development is driven from many different sides – sometimes it’s the chef asking for something specific; sometimes it’s a consultant or distributor request.
For example, one client came to us wanting both a chargrill and a plancha in their suite. The footprint of the kitchen and cook suite meant that this wasn’t possible so, working with the chef, we developed a set of removable searing plates that could be used for chargrill cooking on the plancha, and this is now something we propose on a regular basis.
It’s this flexibility that allows Grande Cuisine to offer a comprehensive range of prime cooking equipment from a £300 table top induction hob through to a custom built cook suite in excess of £75/80k.
The R&D work carried out by our partner companies is especially important if you consider how the average commercial kitchen has changed over the last 20 years – with a big move away from traditional gas-based kitchens towards new, predominantly electric kitchens.
20 years ago I would estimate that 80/90% of the prime cooking equipment in a kitchen was gas and the remainder electric but in my opinion this has now completely reversed.
The myths surrounding induction are slowly fading away as more and more chefs come to understand the benefits it brings to the kitchen and demand for it continues to increase. But who’s to say what the typical kitchen will look like in another 20 years, which is why R&D is so important.
Creating awareness of our products with end users, whilst strictly adhering to our policy of indirect sales, presents a number of challenges. For instance, there is no point in us trying to get chefs and end users to request our products if the dealer and consultant they are dealing with knows nothing about them. [[page-break]]
This means we have to ensure dealers and consultants have access to information on our products and that they can make the same margin that they would on any other product.
Furthermore, with the continuing emergence of new dealers, we have to make sure that this information is readily available and easily accessible so that people can find it.
And, with the massive shift towards energy efficiency over the last 5 years we need to make end users, consultants and dealers aware of the fact that manufacturers saw this coming and have invested considerable time and resources in developing products that are both more efficient and ergonomically appealing.
We communicate all of this via the traditional media channels (digital and print) and through participation in distributor events where we have access to end users and the distributor’s internal and external sales team. And, of course, major trade shows such as Hotelympia are also key to our communication.
It’s vital for our distributors to know that both Grande Cuisine and the manufacturer are there to support them throughout a project, from the initial planning of the cook suite, to its installation and subsequent ongoing service and maintenance once installed and operational.
Developing Grande Cuisine through key distributor relationships is at the heart of our strategy as it is only by doing this that we can fulfil the long term business aims for us.