Euro Catering Equipment recently arranged a series of open days at its showroom, with the sole aim of bringing consultants, distributors and end-users up to speed on Palux, the high-end German cooking brand that it exclusively supplies in the UK.
The open days form a central part of what the Leicestershire importer and distributor describes as a “relaunch” of a brand that it began importing about 18 months ago, and which is best known for its array of modular suites and individual commercial cooking products.
Palux was in need of some affection from the UK when Euro Catering took over the distributorship, having effectively disappeared from the market for several years when the previous importer, Catering Connection, went bust.
Euro Catering’s owner, Tim Charlton, spotted the opportunity to reintroduce the brand after paying a visit to HOST in Italy, where he met with the company’s management and explored the possibility of working together.
“There was a lot of animosity there with what had happened, but we offered to take it on for them and they agreed,” he recalls. “It has ended up exceeding our expectations, and I know it has exceeded theirs as well because the managing director’s actual words to me were, ‘we don’t expect you to sell anything for two years’.”
In fact, Euro Catering has put the brand into more than a dozen sites this year, including Manchester Airport, Harrods, Connaught Hotels and Grange Tower Bridge Hotel. It is currently quoting for a slew of new schemes due to come to fruition shortly.
“The advantages we have got working with Palux is that they have a proven track record in energy efficiency, particularly in Germany,” says Charlton. “The way they are billed for energy costs is a lot different to the UK. They cannot understand that the more gas and electric you buy, the cheaper the price. In Germany, it gets more expensive! Their technology is geared towards saving energy, so that is one key area for us.”
Palux also produces its own line of warewashers, but it is the company’s new range of combination ovens that Euro Catering is most excited about.
“The units are very slim — a 10 rack is only 550mm wide,” he says. “You have not got to worry about how you are going to get it through the doorway. And also, as a front-of-house unit, it looks nice. They don’t look like a canteen machine, which some of them do.”
Euro Catering’s investment in the brand was further emphasised earlier this year when it announced the appointment of Tom Cummings as sales executive. His role is to focus on driving awareness of Palux among consultants and chefs. Cummings has worked with a series of distributors in the past, including Upnorth Group, Scomac and his own company, Howell Cummings, but he says he feels like he is back where he belongs now that he is addressing the market from the manufacturer side of the fence.
“Before I had my own business I worked for Manitowoc, spending 12 years in sales roles with them, the last two as a director,” he says. “I thoroughly enjoyed working with a manufacturer because you feel as though you have got control over what you are selling; with a distributor you don’t because there are other people telling you what you have got to sell and I just didn’t believe in a lot of the stuff they were trying to make me sell.”
As a chef by trade, Cummings also hopes that his understanding of equipment from a user’s perspective will prove beneficial to the company. “I’ll be able to use that and work with the equipment, and sell it to customers that way because I firmly believe in the hands-on approach. To all intents and purposes, I am a chef, and every chef is a salesman in his own right anyway — that’s the way it should be.”
While Euro Catering is optimistic about Palux’s prospects, it certainly isn’t the only manufacturer in its locker. It carries products from 14 foodservice equipment brands in total, including the likes of American Range, Giorik and Firex — a specialist in tilting kettles and bratt pans — as well as industrial pizza ovens from Italforni.
While Charlton confesses to keeping his eyes out for products that chefs are looking at and which fit with new eating habits or trends, he most certainly won’t be adding brands for the sake of it. That fits with his mantra of prioritising profitability over top-line growth.
“I am not on an ego trip or one of these that says, ‘I must do £10m’, he comments. “I’d much rather maintain my margins and be good at what we do, and I think that way the business will grow anyway. You only have to look at Mercedes or BMW — that is really how companies like that have become dominant. They are good at what they do, they have done it for a long time, and people trust them.”
Those particular bastions of German manufacturing might be in a league of their own, but if compatriot Palux helps to deliver even a fraction of their success to Euro Catering then the company will be more than happy.
Name: Euro Catering Equipment
Address: Unit 3, Turnpike Close, Bilton Way, Lutterworth, Leicestershire,
Tel: 01455 559969
Brands: Anets, American Range, Arris, Casta, Cres Cor, CB, Giorik, Inotech, Italforni, Palux, Mirror, Firex, Kienle, Peva