Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020: distributor technology and service categories shortlists

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This section of Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020 shortlist reveal focuses the finalists for the Digital Initiative of the Year and Service & Maintenance Provider of the Year categories.

Digital Initiative of the Year, sponsored by Hoshizaki

This award recognises those distributors which have really embraced the digital medium and are pushing technology forward. The shortlist is:

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Apeiron Catering
Maintenance and repair specialist Apeiron Catering fully implementing its service software this year, in order to enable its customers to better manage their assets. Furthermore, the Hampshire-based firm has aligned its software management system to how it operates to increase efficiency. These technological updates were part of a series of moves, including aligning its teams’ van stocks to carry the most frequently used parts, increasing staff and upskilling its engineers through manufacturers courses to provide a better first time fix rate for its customer base. Apeiron is also managing an increased amount of calls since foodservice sites started to reopen, which has led to new contract awards and more pending.

Four Oaks
Relative newcomer Four Oaks this year invested in its digital presence to showcase its kitchen design capabilities in a more contemporary way, realising how key the use of online platforms is when it comes to promoting the services it offers. The firm also wanted to adapt its website to simplify browsing for its customers. Now, the site performance has been improved, delivering a state-of-the-art look which reflects its modern projects. Browsers can also see the latest news stories and previous projects the Weston-Super-Mare-based Four Oaks team has worked on, including cocktail bars, cafes, restaurants and hotel kitchen redesigns: delivering completely refurbished kitchen layouts and equipment specification for its clients.

Lloyd Catering Equipment
Not content with being one of the first movers in the industry on virtual reality, Lloyd Catering Equipment has invested significantly in a high-end purpose-built workstation over the last 12 months to speed up the process. The use of these tools allows the Rotherham-based distributor’s design team to prepare 3D photo-realistic images in order to present the concepts in full-motion VR. The company has also made amendments to its CAD library in order that the production of a VR presentation is much quicker, more efficient and cost effective. As a result, Lloyd can now offer its clients a very cost-effective means by which they can walk around the proposed design as if physically within the space.

Sylvester Keal
To cope with the high demand for Sylvester Keal’s own-brand hygiene and cleaning supplies, (which were redeveloped and rebranded after further testing in 2019), the distributor implemented a new software system which gives existing customers free reign when ordering and allows them to see/manage stock levels, quotations, sales invoices, credits and statements. At the start of lockdown, in March 2020, Sylvester Keal saw a vast increase in web sales for hand sanitiser and PPE – in order to deal with the demand it built a new website in just 9 weeks which was designed to simplify browsing and showcase stock in a more accessible way, making it easier for customers to order their essential products.

TAG Catering Equipment
TAG utilised the digital sphere to help its customers, releasing a free-to-download interactive start-up checklist, designed to guide operators through the re-opening of their kitchens. The interactive checklist is downloadable as a PDF and is able to be completed on a phone, tablet, or laptop. It is divided into the most common kitchen appliances and equipment, including gas interlocks, combi ovens, fryers, and refrigeration. TAG designed the checklist so that operators could be as self-sufficient as possible when re-starting their kitchens. It highlighted any potential issues that sites could then get rectified by a suitably qualified equipment service and maintenance provider, for example if a gas interlock wasn’t working correctly or a dishwasher was not reaching sufficient temperature.


Service & Maintenance Provider of the Year

This category was open to both specialist service companies and distributors that operate dedicated service businesses, with maintenance proving particularly vital in this disrupted year. The finalists are:

Clan Engineering
Clan Engineering has kept Scottish foodservice sites in business throughout the pandemic. Described as providing excellent service with speedy attendance, accurate diagnosis and keeping its customers informed every step of the way, the firm has brought in more staff to allow it to provide its service on a larger scale, winning contracts with venues such as the Crieff Hydro hotel group and the Dakota Hotels chain. Clan has also developed more digital forms for its engineers to utilise on its dedicated jobs app, such as a PPM checklist or a Covid risk assessment, enabling paperless operation and direct client access to the forms online. The company is now a service partner for Rational, Unox and Synergy Grill Technology in Scotland.

Marren Group
Marren is becoming the ‘go-to’ service company for accelerated oven manufacturers because of its expertise and knowledge, with new service partnerships formed with ACP and Falcon to support Menumaster XpressChef ovens and Falcon Xpress respectively. The servicing specialist also started working with Rational nationwide, recruiting one of only three Rational-approved trainers in the country to make sure its engineers were equipped with the right knowledge. This level of specialist training allows its engineers to diagnose an issue much quicker. The move led to expanding contracts with major operator chains such as Marston’s and Loungers, with the latter already impressed with the service it received from Marren in repairing its high-speed grills, Hatco and microwave equipment.

NCE London
This year NCE has been working even closer with manufacturers as a service partner, carrying full van stock across ranges in order to achieve 95+% first time fix rate. Due to its in-house communications, it has built up a portfolio of PPM contracts which helped to build business back up following lockdown and keep its engineers working out on the road. NCE has adapted its business to the current climate, introducing PPE specifically for Covid-19 including 2metre distancing signs for its engineers whilst working on site alongside an array of cleaning and sanitising kits in order to combat the spread of the virus. It has also revised payment plans for key worker customers, with no upfront costs.

Swift Maintenance
Over the last year, Swift Maintenance has invested in new scheduling software to improve its operational efficiency and automatically schedule jobs to engineers so that they can attend site quicker. All engineers have been provided with tablet computers with new software to reduce the time it takes to complete job reports on site. Furthermore, Swift added a project design manager, an internal account manager and a field based account manager, which has resulted in increased client retention rates. 85% of all urgent repairs calls have now seen a reduction in the time from when the call is logged to when the engineer gets on site. The firm has increased its number of new PPM contracts by over a third.

Total QSR
Over the past 12 months the mapping of Total QSR’s team has paid off and it has been able to get sites back open for business quickly, utilising efficient distribution. Alongside its spares team’s outstanding stock management, this enabled it to earn its high average first time fix rate. The Wiltshire firm kept in regular contact with its customers throughout lockdown, and recently worked with one, as part of its consultancy offering, to analyse the operator’s current assets and tailor the equipment to be more sustainable. Additionally it has invested in a new field management system called SimPRO, to keep track of preventative maintenance, estimating, quoting and invoicing, live-tracking every job.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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