The UK catering equipment industry has a problem. Not enough dealers have time to train their staff on essential aspects of their roles and the products they will be selling or servicing. Instead distributors often rely on experienced executives to fill positions – but with many of this pool beginning to retire, it is becoming urgent that the skills gap is tackled.
When asked about how they are helping time-poor distributor staff to obtain the required know-how, suppliers lined up to underline their initiatives. For example, at Hobart Service it has conducted more than 10 courses for external dealer technicians this year since a new external training programme was created in July 2019. Its courses share best practice for the company’s strategic partners, enabling its key partners to support their customers with what it describes as “an end-to-end premium experience”. Training is offered on AMX, FX/GX/GP models and Ecomax products.
Hobart Service has also invested hugely in internal training this year, dedicating many man-hours to structured classroom and hand-on technical education conducted at its innovations centre in Peterborough and at the manufacturing plant at Offenberg.
The company’s national field team of approximately 160 technicians have all been involved in this new roll-out. All technicians were due to have completed the initial programme roll-out by end of November 2019.
Plus large warewash specialist training is being rolled out, with 65% of technicians now with advanced skills on these more complex machines, continuing to build the operational technical capability in the field and directly addressing the company’s customers’ needs.
At the company’s manufacturing arm, sales director Tim Bender underlined: “As a complementary partner to our sales force, it’s imperative that we get dealers as ‘hands-on’ with the equipment as possible.
“Getting them along to our innovation centre in Peterborough means they’re out of their normal environment – one which tends to make them more receptive to stop, listen and ask more questions. We can also show them our entire facility, giving them a much bigger overall impression of what we’re all about.
“Of course, dealers are incredibly busy people and may not be able to commit to sending such a large party so, in terms of cooking products, we’ve got demo kitchens set up throughout the UK where they can come, learn more about the equipment and work with our development chefs. We can also go to their premises and carry out training on both cooking and warewash products.”
He added: “Another educational tool that we find really works – both for Hobart and the dealer salesperson – is for one of our people to shadow a dealer in the field, on call with clients to listen, learn, examine the requirements of the customer and together identify the right products for the job.”
Over at Hoshizaki, it emphasises that it has a dedicated technical and service team who are on call for dealers to use at their disposal, as well as utilising various events and forums in order to provide dealers with another route to training. For example, as platinum members of Cedabond, Hoshizaki was able to present at the buying consortium’s recent Heavy Equipment Forum as well as provide dealers with training on how to clean Hoshizaki ice machines. The manufacturer also offered this training at a recent First Choice-hosted session in Cannock.
Furthermore, Roz Scourfield, national sales manager at Hoshizaki UK, detailed: “In order to go the extra mile to satisfy the requirements of dealers, we have recently launched an online partner portal for dealers.
“Jam-packed with technical files such as CAD drawings, product images and documentation, the partner portal allows dealers to access Hoshizaki’s library of information through a convenient online format. This not only helps dealers to refresh the product knowledge that they have received in Hoshizaki training, but it also provides dealers the flexibility to specify on-the-move, in addition to being able to check product information at the touch of a button.”
Elsewhere, Jestic Foodservice Equipment continues to provide a range of training and education programmes which are held at dealers’ own offices, at industry events and from its development kitchen at its Kent head office. Plus it is in the process of constructing another development kitchen in Manchester.
National sales manager Richard Norman revealed: “This new facility is due to open in early 2020, and will give our dealer and distributors in the North access to the same high quality training we currently offer at Paddock Wood, but at a more convenient location closer to their own offices, which will save them time.”
He added: “We recognise that dealers are extremely busy, so we hold training presentations and product demonstrations at their own offices when possible. This enables as many stakeholders from the dealers as possible to attend the sessions and makes the best use of their time, as they are not having to travel.
“Content for the on-site sessions is tailored to suit the dealer so it is always relevant, and the feedback we receive is very positive. Equipment from the Jestic portfolio often features in dealers’ own showrooms, so they can familiarise themselves with our products in their own time.”
While at Welbilt, it has a large network of trainers that are devoted to developing and training in its specialist masterclass kitchens across the UK and Ireland, thus allowing training to take place off-, as well as on-site, depending on the preference of the dealer or customer. These kitchens are located in Sheffield, Glasgow, Guildford, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Newcastle, Dublin and Edinburgh, with another due to launch in Preston early next year.
Plus the spares partnership Welbilt signed with First Choice Group earlier this year has also allowed the manufacturer to take advantage of First Choice’s training facilities.
UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil reported that the firm may consider e-learning in future, but for the moment it has launched a global technical website. “Designed to be a central hub for engineers and dealers across the world, the new global website is home to an extensive technical library which includes training manuals, technical specifications, BIM drawings, how-to videos and more,” he said.
For Meiko, the focus is offering many dates throughout the year to its dealer network for equipment training at its fully equipped training centre in Slough.
Marketing manager Mark Roberts detailed: “A full calendar is produced at the beginning of every year and communicated to the dealers by email and also in person by regional sales managers as and when they visit the dealer.
“Meiko UK also provides training on-site for engineers of our dealer partners.”
The manufacturer has in the past participated in combined training with other brands or through an association or buying group. “This is something we are looking to add to a complete dealer package,” Roberts remarked.
Pizza equipment specialist LLK delivers its training through free interactive days hosted at its offices in Oldham. Operations manager Natalie White detailed: “The training takes up just half a working day of our dealers’ time and covers all the essential information they need to match their customers with their ideal equipment.”
Part of the session is held in the onsite demonstration kitchen, where development chef Fabio Aurelio gives in-depth product training which involves the dealers getting hands on with the kit. “We consistently receive feedback from our attendees that our hands on method of sales training is more effective and is much more enjoyable than simply reading information off a screen,” reported White.
As well as its own dealers, LLK invites all members of the ENSE and Cedabond buying groups it is a supplier of to come along to its sales training days at networking events and via email.
The firm is also able to deliver more personal training days for a team of four or more where all the information provided is bespoke to the needs of that particular distributor.
Supplier, Grande Cuisine, feels that the complex nature of the cooking equipment that it provides from Athanor and Mareno is such that training is best delivered directly to dealers and end users by its sales team.
According to MD Steve Hobbs: “We invest a lot of time in sales training with the equipment actually in front of our dealer clients so that they get to see the quality and understand the benefits. With that in mind, events such as those offered by CESA are key to this face to face sales time.
“Factory visits for sales teams or for individuals are another avenue that has proven to be invaluable for us as they give sales staff the chance to see inside the equipment and understand how it works, which is crucial when trying to communicate the features and benefits to the end user.”
He added: “We also have a ‘training for life’ initiative on all equipment supplied via our distributor partners. It means that we undertake the on-site training of the end user, the operators and the cleaners of the equipment for the lifetime of the product supplied.”
At warewasher manufacturer Krupps it provides its dealers free-of-charge training, plus it opens the sessions to engineers that are not its partners yet. In UK the firm organises a yearly meeting and promotes specific situational training. While in its Italian headquarters every month it holds the so-called ‘Accademia del Lavaggio’ (Washing Academy) which is open to dealers and focuses on sales and entry-level or advanced technical training.
Additionally, export MD Riccardo Scuotto commented: “In the last 2 years we started a very productive collaboration with First Choice for promoting our training. While organising a session we also consider coordinating it with other manufacturers, in order to enable our dealers to best exploit their business trip.”
Furthermore Krupps recently started uploading training videos online on a dedicated platform to support its distributors’ activities.
Competitor, Wexiödisk, is another manufacturer that has recently partnered with First Choice Group to be able to use its facilities for engineer training. For example, earlier this year, Wexiödisk launched its first UK service training event which saw its partners undergo in-depth training across a number of its most popular warewashers including the undercounter WD-4S, hood style WD-6 and WD-7, as well as its latest compact pot washer, the WD-8.
Plus David Glover, UK and Ireland country manager, revealed: “For dealers that are looking for instant training support, they can also take advantage of our new website. Boasting a library of user manuals, answered service questions, quick-guides and videos, Wexiödisk’s website is the ideal tool for dealers that are looking for quick and convenient support.
“In order to provide partners and dealers with 24-hour service assistance, Wexiödisk has also launched a web service support site. This user-friendly site allows operators and dealers from across the world to access service support by the click of a mouse, no matter the hour or the implications of any time differences.”
Over at Smeg, it offers free staff training to both end users on equipment usage and distributor staff for both equipment usage and sales training, whether that be on site or at the distributors’ premises. Commercial channel director Phil Coulstock believes: “It’s vital for distributors to see and understand the benefits and USPs of the Smeg equipment they are selling, and it is equally vital the end users are thoroughly shown how to use the appliances also to get best use and avoid costly downtime due to incorrect use, although we have great user guides now available on the website.
“We also have recently started to offer full engineer training for installation and service breakdown training at our head office on the last Wednesday of every month. This course is run by our technical service manager, Matt Cosnett, and is a clear investment from Smeg to help both protect the reputation of the brand and grow the brand’s nationwide acceptance as a market leader in quality and performance.”
Training and education are increasingly important parts of CESA’s remit, as the association is working to overcome the industry’s skills shortage. It is actioning this by offering a variety of training initiatives that are tailored to the specific outcomes and objectives required. For example, at the Light Equipment and Tableware (LET) Forum dealer staff can come to be trained on the latest products from leading LET suppliers and manufacturers. Over the 2 days of the event CESA arranges for delegates to have free accommodation and meals.
Meanwhile the 2-day seminar for the CFSP (Certified Food Service Professional) course, which is designed to give graduates a holistic understanding of a foodservice operation, is run at centres around the UK, to make them accessible to as many people as possible.
Plus it just ran its first Service Engineers CPD Forum, which was organised by CESA in conjunction with CEDA. It covered a variety of service and maintenance hints and tips, as well as common diagnosis issues and prevalent faults that occur through lack of maintenance. The first Forum took place in October, at the First Choice training centre in Cannock.
First Choice itself regularly hosts industry demonstration and association days at its dedicated training and conference centre, to which it invites many dealers and designers to join for free.
Training manager Martin Dagnall emphasised: “Being located in the centre of the country, we aim to be an accessible hub supporting all stakeholders in the industry and providing the facilities to bring them all together.
“In the last year, we have developed and begun delivering our free “Art of Parts” course, which aims to teach parts buyers the basics of catering spares and how to identify them. To make it easy for as many people to benefit from this workshop as possible, we offer it either at our own training centre or we can alternatively deliver it on-site at dealer and customer’s offices.”
Furthermore he reported that the company currently offers free training and how-to videos through its YouTube channel, FCTV. These cover a variety of basic cleaning and maintenance topics to support equipment owners and operators in day-to-day tasks outside of technical servicing to keep appliances operating safely and efficiently. More content is planned for this channel over the next 12 months.
Dagnall hinted: “A new website and app platform for First Choice Group Training are being planned right now, which will give customers access to additional content from wherever they are and on
The Catering Insight training and education feature is sponsored by Hobart Service. To visit the company’s website click HERE.