The saying goes that mighty oaks grow from little acorns and that can certainly be said about Sheerness-based dealer, Kent Catering Service (KCS). Initially, MD Tony Irwin founded the company in 1999 after being made redundant, starting it as a second hand equipment dealer running from his own home.
“Although I didn’t have an engineering background, I was a college-trained chef, and due to fully understanding the requirements in a kitchen, I quickly picked up the basics of the profession and soon gained enough experience and earned all the qualifications needed,” he recalled.
“With the increase of workload in equipment servicing in the last 10 years we’ve grown to become 80% service orientated. Our warehouse unit has been instrumental in being the base of operations for our engineers and office staff. Altogether we now have a staff of 20 – mostly long-serving, with eight qualified engineers who cover all catering equipment including gas, electric, refrigeration and laundry.”
The firm’s first service contract was a 7-year agreement for the local authority in which it covered preventative maintenance agreements for over 200 schools in Kent. To this day KCS still covers a similar amount of schools, but under the auspices of the facility companies that have taken over from the authority.
Its customer base is predominantly the education sector, with a good mix of work spread over the sector ranging, from large to small clients due to the many services it offers. One of KCS’ sites has over 1,500 appliances and it also provide service to numerous NHS sites.
According to Irwin: “I do feel we can expand our service to our existing clients without the need for a larger customer base. Like other smaller and local companies, our unique selling point is our focus on the Kent area, and with this, our staff can give immediate responses.”
He feels that due to the client base, there is rightly a need for full compliance in all aspects of health and safety. KCS covers most in-house, but also utilises the services of an external company which gives full back ups and ongoing training in all compliance issues.
“Unlike most companies, the way our office runs allows our office staff to speak directly to our clients without having to be transferred through numerous departments, which means that we can offer very quick response times for a wide range of customers in Kent,” he underlined. “Priding ourselves on never having any bad debts, we continually strive to provide equal partnership with all our customers by being a service-orientated company.