Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020: distributor operational categories shortlists

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This section of the Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020 shortlist announcements covers the business development, marketing & strategy and corporate social responsibility honours.

Distributor of the Year – Business Development, sponsored by Jestic Foodservice Solutions

This category celebrates those distributors which have significantly moved their companies forwards over the last 12 months. The shortlist is:

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Croydon-based IFSE came into 2020 off the back of its best ever turnover result, at £10.6m. And while the 2019/20 trading year was obviously affected by reduced confidence in the economy and the pandemic, the distributor still performed strongly in key sectors including public attractions and venues, religious organisations, private schools and the garden centre sector. Notable recent projects include Café at the Ortus conference venue and New Directions cookery training school in Reading. IFSE also strengthened its marketing department and hired young talent to train up on design and project sales for the future. Plus its service and maintenance company Romann Catering is performing strongly too.

Marren Group
Marren has further expanded its focus on efficiency this year, with initiatives including investing £32,000 to replace lights across all its offices, warehouse and workshops with LED to significantly reduce its energy consumption. A new service system implemented at a cost of £100,000 has meant its Scottish office is now 100% paperless and its Northampton premises not far behind at 90%. As part of this system, Marren now has more efficient stock control to avoid unnecessary stock ordering and reducing the need to ship items. The company also launched its own brand microwave, designed and manufactured to ensure its customers benefit from a lower total cost of ownership.

Millers Group
At the beginning of this year, London distributor Millers Catering Equipment bought out nearby competitor, Equipt to Cook, to form a powerhouse of a group within the south east. The latest acquisition added to that of Imaco Catering Supplies in 2017. This year the firms looked to increase their integration back of house, to grow efficiency for accounting and invoicing. The group has also now leveraged the relationships it has across all three businesses to be able to deliver a more streamlined solution to customers. The latest moves mean that the Millers Group has good resource levels for all aspects of its offerings, including installation, equipment and design.

North West Catering Engineers (NWCE) has definitely developed its business over the last 12 months with more engineers out on the road and more office staff to support jobs coming in. As well as expanding the team in the field and in the office, the company has provided its staff with the skill necessary to cope with the demands of a being a manufacturer’s service warranty partner. Winning prestigious public sector contracts, NWCE has integrated its systems with its customers’ to reduce servicing times. Furthermore, it opened its new onsite Northern Powerhouse demonstration kitchen in Bolton for both members of the industry and the local community to use.

Sylvester Keal
Sylvester Keal expanded its own brand products ranges, to include in-demand, pandemic-friendly hand sanitisers and other hygiene products, custom-manufactured in Ireland. Projects undertaken for local care homes and the recommendation received from them also meant there was an increase in Sylvester Keal’s customer base across the care and NHS sector. Prior to lockdown, the distributor employed a new part-time financial director, and he has since guided Sylvester Keal through managing the finance of the business during these difficult times. Furthermore, complications arose at the start of the year when the firm’s supply chain broke down in China, so it managed to find other manufacturers to continue serving its vulnerable care home clients.


Distributor of the Year – Marketing & Strategy, sponsored by Welbilt

This category honours dealers who have actioned innovative marketing campaigns or devised well thought-out strategies, especially important this year when the industry has had to think on its feet. The finalists are:

As a totally customer-focused company, Blackpool’s Caterware sprang into action to devise a clear strategy to ensure the business survived throughout the lockdown period. The distributor analysed a ‘worst case scenario’ of incoming trade completely ceasing, predicted where the firm might end up financially by the close of the year and calculated what funds would be required, in order to request a loan from the bank. Impressed with Caterware’s detailed estimations, the bank granted the dealer access to the necessary finance. While many projects were postponed throughout the course of the year, the distributor worked hard to ensure its teams safely made it back to as many sites as possible.

Catering Design Group
Daventry’s Catering Design Group (CDG) has been very clear-eyed about how it can assist its operator clients to get back on their feet after this year’s shutdown periods. The firm created ‘Designing Safe Spaces for Catering Environments’, an insight document highlighting the steps operators can take to help reopen their catering facilities or to get them fully operational again with minimum risk to staff and customers. The commercial kitchen and restaurant design company considered all aspects of a catering operation, from design and operational requirements to the use of technology to help reduce risk of contamination. Additionally, CDG quickly angled its services towards project consultancy, working with designers and architects, which brought in much trade.

FSW Catering Equipment & Gas Services is now back to full operation, after having to furlough almost all of its staff during lockdown. This swift turnaround is largely thanks to a precise roadmap the firm engaged, focusing on the installation projects and the large orderbook in the pipeline from its big, direct customers. FSW maintained constant contact with its customers so it could react immediately when they reopened. Even when the company was working on a skeleton staff, it still managed to carry out emergency installations and repairs for the frontline healthcare sector, as well as sourcing and supplying personal protective equipment.

Restaurant Design Associates
Over the last 12 months, RDA has made a proactive effort to diversify its range of projects and the market sectors within which it operates. Historically, core market sectors have included healthcare, education and business and industry, all accessed via well-known contract catering companies. Nowadays, RDA is equally as active in sports and leisure and in heritage sites, both in partnership with contract catering companies but more and more frequently direct with the end user. RDA has diversified its product offering too. Recent projects in workplace settings have seen a growing involvement in the development of smaller hospitality kitchens and self-serve kitchenette spaces. The distributor has also capitalised on marketing itself on social media, particularly on LinkedIn.

Shine Catering Systems
During the final quarter of 2019 Shine prepared a 5-year vision on how the company was to be structured and specific growth achieved. The first quarter of 2020 resulted in a restructure of the company’s labour resource to meet the new requirements and a number of training programs were arranged to ensure individuals could meet the relevant skill sets required. Following the Covid outbreak, the distributor reviewed its strategy and accordingly put into place initiatives including developing an online costing tool, available through the Shine website, which gives its customers the opportunity to build up their own budget costs for projects planned; and developing interactive project presentation for major contracts, adapting these for Microsoft Teams and Zoom communications.


Distributor of the Year – Corporate Social Responsibility, sponsored by DC Products

This honour recognises a UK dealer which is an outstanding corporate citizen. Therefore the shortlists are:

Abraxas Catering Equipment
Abraxas Catering Equipment once again spent the year fundraising for the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity. The distributor both donated a series of crockery and glassware shipments to the charity’s shop in Walsall, as well as providing the MAAC with any tableware that is surplus to its requirements in order to help raise vital funds for the ambulance service. Furthermore, for every CP42 or Gas Safe inspection that the dealer’s team has carried out throughout 2020, the company has donated £2.50 to the charity. This is the third consecutive year that Abraxas has supported its local air ambulance with fundraising initiatives.

Chiller Box
Tottenham-headquartered distributor Chiller Box donated lots of smallwares to the North London Community Consortium, which has been helping to feed NHS staff and nurseries at the company’s local North Middlesex Hospital. The distributor also arranged donations of equipment from Parry and RH Hall, all of which have reportedly been gratefully received by the healthcare site. Elsewhere, Chiller Box helped to publicise CEDA’s free ‘Guidance on Minimising Risk of Covid-19’ in commercial kitchens to the operator community, to ensure they could safely reopen after lockdown. Plus it donated to local Merryhills School’s fundraiser, which missed out on its summer fayre during the pandemic.

Kent Catering Service
During the pandemic, Kent Catering Service (KCS) pledged its support to The Pilgrims Hospice Group. The company’s engineers visited the sites at Ashford, Margate and Canterbury numerous times in recent months to perform all PMA servicing free of charge on kitchen equipment and refrigeration units, including coldrooms. KCS also completed full gas safety inspections for all sites. The distributor further vowed to continue this support to recognise the good work that Pilgrims Hospice Group does for the community. Furthermore, KCS gave preferential rates to the hospice for call outs and repairs, and recently performed inspections and cleaning for insurance purposes, free of charge, in relation to the kitchen extract and ductwork cleaning requirements.

Sprint Group
This year, Sprint Group joined forces with Foster, Precision and Wolseley to step up the support of The Ivy Collection’s initiative to deliver thousands of meals to hospitals, schools, colleges and care homes nationwide. The taskforce delivered meals across Birmingham and Manchester, with Sprint and co delivering meals to Cambridge and Oxford too. Furthermore, the firm supported ‘Hub for Grub’ CIC to help provide a safe space for marginalised communities. The team at Sprint Group donated commercial catering equipment for use at the West Midlands community hub, including the Hub for Grub cafe, a place where people could get hospitality training and accredited qualifications to help provide stability and income.

Vision Commercial Kitchens
From the outset of the current pandemic, Vision made its staff a priority, this included reacting quickly to the situation by putting arrangements in place for home working prior to official lockdown, implementation of in-house risk assessments for staff who returned to working in the office and supporting staff by topping up furloughed salaries to normal levels. The company also recognises its duty of care to the environment in terms of the products which it promotes as well as the social responsibility it has to the wider community, which it has focused on with charity fundraising throughout the year. Its chosen organisation for 2020 was The Christie charity, for which the Vision team raised a total of £4,050.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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