Since Professional Kitchen Service (PKS) began 11 years ago as a management buyout of the in-house service operations of Electrolux Foodservice in the UK, it has progressed spectacularly.
The last 12 months in particular have been highly positive time for the Birmingham-based dealer, with overall sales up 25% on the previous year. PKS’ MD Kevin Davis cited the government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals scheme as making a positive difference to the industry, with most distributors and suppliers involved in this sector being very busy.
He said: “The service side of our business has also had a busy time with new contracts taken on, resulting in more engineers being hired.”
Thanks to the upturn and optimism in many parts of PKS’ business, the firm is recruiting in all areas. “As well as additional engineers, in the past few months we have employed more administration staff, project design staff and most recently Dean Johnson to enhance our equipment sales offering,” detailed Davis.
Johnson’s appointment as sales director swiftly followed his departure from the sales manager role at the now-JLA-owned Newco. His new remit is to develop the sales side of PKS by looking after all new equipment sales, generating new business revenues within the catering sector, and promoting the company as a major supplier of catering equipment to the industry.
Davis continued: “Dean has a strong background and is very well known in the marketplace. I have known him for over 20 years so when he became available, we thought we’d be a good fit for each other.
“PKS is a very strong service-oriented business and over the years we have developed the sales side of the business, but it’s been sales through service. So we want to move more over to the proactive sales side of things, and that is Dean’s challenge.”
The dealer is also focusing on finding better and more efficient ways of providing real-time information to its customers.
“With everyone having ready access to the internet it has become much more necessary to keep customer systems as up to date as our own, and we are investing both in IT solutions and people to achieve this,” reported Davis.
To ensure the firm’s maintenance and servicing levels remain high, Davis believes PKS’ systems provide fast, accurate and timely information about how it is performing against its customers’ requirements. He added: “Having accurate and reliable information also allows us to continually review our resource levels and stock usage to ensure we perform to our optimum level in all areas.”
When choosing which equipment manufacturers to work with, PKS’ service background influences its selections. “We use our knowledge of their equipment reliability, their spare parts availability, their technical support back up and value for money,” detailed Davis. [[page-break]]
“We try to focus on the main brands which we have chosen to work with that meet our service level requirements, but we have to be open to look at other brands as well if they improve their equipment and support levels.”
PKS continually trains and develops its staff “to enable us to deliver the service levels that our customers expect from us”, according to Davis. “Technology is moving at such a fast pace that you have to be training all the time to get the most out of the kit that is available.
“You have to develop and train your own people because there is a shortage of good skilled people available and you have to differentiate your offer so that the buying decision is not made on price alone.”
The dealer has certainly attracted many buyers to choose it recently. Following on from some very successful local authority projects last year, it has been awarded more new school kitchen and kitchen refurbishment projects. “The main challenge for both us and our supply chain is to ensure that all of the work is completed during the school holiday window,” Davis said.
For example, in 2013 PKS was approached by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) to work with Solihull Building Design Group to create a suitable school kitchen and servery design for two proposed new build sites (replacing existing facilities) planned for 2015: Coleshill Heath Primary School and Fordbridge Community Primary School.
Davis detailed: “Over the months after our appointment we created a full kitchen and servery design; this included service drawings, detailed specification and costs. Both schools had identical equipment and very similar layouts as the areas were designed around our space allocation within the building footprint.”
In 2014 Morgan Sindall was appointed as the main contractor to construct both new builds for Solihull MBC and, as with all government work, PKS then had to provide a competitive tender to supply Morgan Sindall with the new kitchens. “We based our tender on PKS securing both schools and our prices reflected the efficient way we could project manage and install,” commented Davis.
In July 2015 PKS successfully handed over both kitchens, ahead of programme with no extra costs and fully operational, ready for the start of the new term.
Davis’ own standing is high in the catering equipment community due to his appointment as CEDA vice chairman last December, taking over from Whitco’s Vita Whitaker. This has fed back into PKS, as according to Davis: “It has given our company more credibility and awareness in the overall marketplace.
“We were well known by a number of the market leading players who seek out great suppliers to enable them to be the best, but we are getting more people finding us now as the type of supplier they have been looking for.”
Looking forward, Davis concluded: “We want to be the best Professional Kitchen Service company there is. This means being easy to deal with, having fast engineer response times, high first time fix rates and the best value for money.”