It is very difficult to get an accurate read on the performance of many catering equipment servicing companies, as they are either owned by big corporations, or on the other end of the scale, are too small to report their financial results publicly.
For instance, a large company like JLA, which numbers a specialist catering equipment supply and servicing arm in its portfolio, only really reports results for the umbrella parent company, JLA Equityco. This also incorporates its laundry and heating equipment divisions. So we can’t say with any certainty what proportion of its revenue was generated by catering equipment maintenance.
Nevertheless, in the most recent figures available, for the 12 months ending 31 October 2017, overall turnover rose by 10% to nearly £117.8m, up from £106.9m in the previous 12 months. Plus the firm virtually doubled its operating profit in that period, reaching £20.5m, a 90% rise on 2016’s £10.8m.
At the time these figures were published, chief commercial officer Liam Grant told Catering Insight: “The catering division is going exceptionally well for us – it has been another year of double digit growth fuelled by our Total Care proposition.”
Directors Paul Humphries and Stephen Baxter (who has since resigned and been replaced by Helen Ashton) noted in the report: “Over the last few years the board has developed a very clear strategic vision which is being successfully deployed within the business.
“The strategy will look to continue to grow market share within the existing core business segments, along with identifying opportunities for growth in adjacent markets through both organic product and service development and strategic acquisitions.
“The group will also continue to invest in its sales and service capability in the laundry and catering divisions.”
Just following that financial reporting period, JLA bought warewasher and icemaker manufacturer DC Products (in November 2017), while subsequently in May 2018 JLA itself was bought out by international private equity firm, Cinven.
Elsewhere, the results of Stevenage-based Serviceline also aren’t streamed within its parent company, the AFE Group, itself owned by the Ali Group. We do know that the group finances for the 12 months ending 31 August 2018 saw turnover dip by nearly 2%, from £123.6m in 2017 to 2018’s £121.2m, though this still represents the second highest revenue the company has posted. Likewise, operating profit slid 9% from £13.6m to £12.4m. These numbers also includes the figures for manufacturers Williams, Falcon, and Mono, plus bakery equipment servicing company Millers Vanguard.
The directors pinned the decline in revenue on “reduced capital equipment spend seen from our UK supermarket client base” and further stated: “The mixed UK economic outlook is creating uncertainties in consumer confidence and spend that gave rise to increased challenges and a cautionary market outlook to elements of the UK casual dining market.”
Other major names in the UK catering equipment servicing sector, such as McFarlane Telfer, C&C Catering Engineers, Crystaltech Services and Marren Microwave have all chosen to enact the small company accounts reporting exemption for publishing their full finances.
Though anecdotal evidence it seems that while the Brexit uncertainty lingers on, more end users are opting to repair rather than replace, therefore providing a steady stream of work for servicing firms. But with many sites shutting, this could also restrict business opportunities for maintenance. Therefore this market will be one to watch closely over the next couple of years.
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