The Advance Group is definitely not your typical catering equipment distributor. “Making money doesn’t feature as our first point of call,” according to commercial director, Darryl Pannell.

“Our philosophy is: work with customers closely, deliver a fantastic service, support them in every way we possibly can and the commercial aspects should take care of themselves.”

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And it’s a strategy that has served the Dunstable-based company well so far, as this year it has reached its 35th anniversary. In the summer it will be celebrating this milestone with a summer party for its 75 staff and their families.

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Innovation is in the dealer’s DNA, as when current chairman Steve Coates founded the firm back in 1981, he was selling and repairing the very first generation of microwave ovens.

Nowadays the firm has grown to deliver £17m and it has a 5 year plan to grow this organically to £20m.

“Our ambition has never really been to be the biggest company, but we certainly want to be the best at what we do,” said Pannell.

Growth has been steady over the past 5 years since the economic crash and Advance wants to continue on this path. “We feel that to continue giving our existing customers a great level of service, we can’t grow too quickly, as that distracts you from delivering your existing client base,” he explained.

The dealer is an expert in multi-site chains within the casual dining and leisure sectors, as this is where 75% of its business is from, equivalent to around £12m of its turnover. Furthermore, a further £4m of turnover is generated from care home chains.