Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020: distributor geographical categories shortlists

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See the Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020 shortlists for the south and north of the UK and nationwide distributor of the year categories here.

Distributor of the Year – South of the UK, sponsored by Hobart

This accolade rewards an outstanding dealer in either the south of England or across Wales. The finalists are:

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Berkeley Projects
Berkeley Projects has ensured it has a consistent approach and attention to detail throughout the early stages of tender, client engagement, contractual award and final delivery. In these times, the distributor has pushed the boundaries, evolved, adapted to a new way of working and taken on board the necessary precautionary measures to keep sites active. It manages expectations at every level and the transparent and honest delivery in all departments across the business is the reason it sees many clients return time after time. Berkeley Projects is currently delivering one of the largest projects in recent years at the Edwardian Hotel Leicester Square which is one of the deepest habitable basement projects in the UK and Europe.

Gratte Brothers Catering Equipment
Gratte Brothers Catering Equipment has remained operational and thus supported all its clients throughout the Covid-19 situation. The firm aims to exceed its customers’ expectations, an example of which was during the early days of the pandemic one of its engineers attended Harrow School within 2 hours of them reporting a broken walk-in freezer. The site was supporting Harrow Council by producing over 1,000 meals a day for local vulnerable people. Gratte Brothers identified the problem and the part required, which was only available in Cannock, and immediately drove there and back to collect and install it. This year the distributor also successfully completed a seven-figure investment to fully refurbish and improve its office and warehouse facility in Stevenage.

GS Group
GS continued trading throughout the pandemic, successfully delivering a number of high quality projects in various segments, in particular the care home market. A notable scheme was a kitchen fit-out at Buckfast Abbey, an active Benedictine monastery, which incorporated new equipment within its existing scheme. Due to the expansion of GS Group, incorporating GS Catering Equipment, GS Engineering UK and Award Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, many adjustments have been made to the distributor’s main office in Paignton, including adding a mezzanine floor with two office spaces for GS Engineering and Award. During the last 12 months, the distributor has also expanded and bettered its team through its apprenticeship programme.

JD Catering Equipment Solutions
Dereham-based JD Catering Equipment Solutions hired specialised refrigeration engineers to complement its team of catering equipment engineers. Further recruitment included a new sales lead with 16 years of chef/catering experience to smooth the lines between engineers and clients specifically within sales to give a more personal touch. The distributor sources equipment and parts globally to ensure it can remain competitive in the crowded market and pass these savings onto its customers. It has re-invested funds into the business by enhancing its fleet of vehicles and uniforms. The company has re-developed its website to include a full ecommerce shop and refreshed the brand image along with redesigning social media campaigns.

Tailor Made Catering Equipment Services
Bristol-headquartered Tailor Made Catering Equipment Services’ star continues to shine brightly, winning ENSE’s latest Distributor of the Year accolade, voted by suppliers, thanks to significantly growing its trade with the buying group’s supplier base. Plus the distributor recently completed a hugely challenging 4-year project at The King’s Arms hotel, restaurant and bar in Dorchester during lockdown. The scheme was within a 300-year old building which necessitated very careful considerations and a record 32 kitchen drawing revisions for the dealer. The multi-million pound refurbishment saw Tailor Made put together a kitchen and bar design to bring the property into the 21st century.


Distributor of the Year – North of the UK

This category encompasses dealers in the north of England, and across Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have shone in 2020. The shortlist is:

C&C Catering Equipment
C&C has certainly proved its strength and longevity this year, finding itself in a comfortable position off the back of its highest ever revenue total of £21.9m in 2019. While the Chester-based firm had good cash reserves and net worth to draw upon, like the rest of the industry it had to weather a huge downturn in project turnover. Nevertheless, it still has a good order book in the pipeline, after having already delivered outstanding schemes such as at The Conwy Culture Centre in North Wales and Highgate School in London. The firm even recruited an additional project manager to cope with demand for work in the capital.

Lakes Catering Maintenance
Lakes Catering Maintenance has continued to grow, even during the dark days of lockdown, carrying stock of equipment supporting both its client base and its suppliers. In fact, the Cumbria-headquartered distributor has increased the value of its stock holdings so that it can be reactive in the time of need for its clients. Lakes has also invested in staff, bringing in a very experienced senior engineer to help train and guide its existing service team to achieve the very highest of standards. MD Leigh Howard and his team have always excelled and are always flexible for both clients and suppliers, supporting customers with loan equipment if required.

Lloyd Catering Equipment
Rotherham-based Lloyd Catering Equipment has really bucked the industry trend, going on a significant recruitment drive at a time when many others are making redundancies. The new additions, in departments such as project management, have been welcomed in a preparation for recovery and growth in a demanding sector. The company is also serving operators well, as it deferred payments and kept its clients’ services in situ whilst they recover from the economic challenges. Furthermore, Lloyd has purchased innovative machinery to offer loop cycle and circular economy for the catering equipment industry. A new launch has also been teased that is predicted to be a USP offering.

Restaurant Design Associates
RDA has continued to prove itself as a true Northern Powerhouse throughout 2020 in spite of the obvious challenges in the marketplace. The Hebburn-headquartered distributor commenced 2020 with the completion of a large ongoing CPU project for The Auckland Project in County Durham. This ‘dark kitchen’ was to supply a number of RDA-designed outlets in Bishop Auckland, including Auckland Castle Café, The Walled Garden Restaurant and The Spanish Gallery Tapas Bar. Whilst site works have been less plentiful in 2020 than in recent years, RDA’s design department has remained busy throughout the pandemic, most recently securing a sizable order for a multi-site project at Manchester Met University, due for completion in 2021.

Stephens Catering Equipment
With branches in Northern Ireland and Scotland, Stephens Catering Equipment has ensured it maintained a good level of project output, including helping to convert Ulster Hospital into a Nightingale hospital with early opening during the Covid pandemic, and also completing the Grand Central Hotel Birmingham project in that period. In fact, Stephens was classified as a key service provider during lockdown, suppling and servicing Covid wards both in the North and South of Ireland throughout the pandemic. The firm has also made three key recent appointments, comprising a full time resident development chef, a design and product developer and an operations manager.


Distributor of the Year – Nationwide, sponsored by Rational

One of our headline honours, this category celebrates the distributors that have completed complex and prestigious work to the highest standard, up and down the country. The finalists are:

Airedale Catering Equipment
Airedale Catering Equipment is once again the top-earning kitchen design house group in the UK, but this year, by acquiring refrigeration and air conditioning servicing specialist Flowrite Refrigeration, it also became the largest specialist maintenance platform in the UK hospitality sector, with a combined total of over 200 service technicians. During lockdown, the group quickly formulated a plan to work from an ‘out of hours’ operation playbook on the servicing side, though it maintained reasonable business levels in its projects divisions. Airedale has also pivoted to providing smaller scale but fast-paced rollouts, such as a client with 200 sites which required a new concept to be delivered across its estate within 8 weeks.

Shine Catering Systems
Newport-based Shine Catering Systems once again proved its national reach this year, delivering five London schemes during the lockdown period in difficult circumstances. Highly adaptable, Shine’s management team this year adopted an approach involving a weekly review of the trading situation, enabling the business to quickly react to the constantly changing circumstances. The distributor also developed a total turnkey offering to major clients, and upskilled its staff to accommodate this restructuring of resources. As part of its strategy, Shine additionally strengthened its relationships with its client base and developed new key accounts, as well as focusing on product servitisation to offer further services to its customers.

Sprint Group
Pershore-based Sprint Group continued to provide exceptional service throughout the Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown period. This included ensuring that all installations projects were kept on track and completed on time whilst at the same time providing exceptional service and maintenance support – particularly as operators stated to reopen their kitchens at the end of June. The business is continually investing in technology, equipment and training to improve operational efficiency. Most recently this has included a new phone system, a service management app for the engineers and an ongoing training programme. Sprint has also strengthened its senior management team with the appointment of a new managing director.

Stephens Catering Equipment
Stephens Catering Equipment has continued its nationwide march this year, completing major projects to a value of £3m in all parts of the UK mainland, including at the Royal College of Music in London. In fact, the Northern Ireland-headquartered company has gone international, with large scale schemes for Facebook nationally and throughout Europe. The distributor has ploughed investments into the company, including for an improved information and marketing website and installing a servicing hand-held computer system. Furthermore, it created a total fit out division to include all trades such as building works and M&E, as well as developing and manufacturing UV cabinets which are claimed to kill 99.9% of bacteria, including Covid.

Vision Commercial Kitchens
Vision truly offers a nationwide service, this year working on projects including Fortnum & Mason at St Pancras, London; and Colicci cafes, kiosks and restaurants across London and Lu Ban Restaurant in Liverpool. The Heywood-based distributor has continued to receive repeat work from existing clients, while once again investing into BIM/ Revit technology through the training and development of its staff, enabling the firm to significantly develop its design capability. Vision is one of the few companies in the industry capable of working to BIM level 2. In these challenging times, the company has introduced new ways in which to fund projects and equipment purchases which include a variety of options including flexible funding, leasing and finance options.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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