Pentland Wholesale is one of the UK’s largest suppliers of commercial refrigeration from brands such as Blizzard and Mafirol. We asked the Blackburn-based company’s operations manager, Dean Simpson, how he sees the market shaping up.
What are the major differences that distributors need to bear in mind when specifying or selling front-of-house refrigeration versus traditional back-of-house refrigeration models?
Understanding a customer’s business and what look or style they want to achieve is the main difference to consider when quoting for front-of-house equipment. Unlike back-of-house refrigeration, the customer’s requirement is not just for functionality, but how they want their business to look in terms of interior design. Having so many design and multiplexable options in the Mafirol range allows us to make the most of the space available. The option to install a small corner section or a shorter counter with minimum fuss has been invaluable at times.
How are you trying to differentiate in terms of the range you offer?
In terms of design and functionality, we try to offer the most diverse range possible by working with manufacturers to identify the latest trends around Europe. Due to the vast array of colours, materials and configurations, we can offer a unique bespoke finish, usually only available at a premium cost, at an ‘off the peg’ price.
How closely do you work with distributors on the sale?
Our enquiries usually begin as general sales enquiries from the distributor; our customers know our sales team are very well qualified to advise on their requirements. A counter run is a more complicated sale than a standard cabinet sale, so when a customer takes the enquiry forward it is referred to our design and installation team. Once details of site are confirmed we can prepare detailed drawings, offer samples of various finishes, and on receipt of an order we will oversee delivery and installation using our own dedicated team of professionals. As an alternative all the equipment is available on a delivery-only basis for installation by the distributor.
What trends do you see shaping the front-of-house refrigeration category at the moment?
The emergence of continental ‘cafe culture’ is set to continue. Our research is showing that with the decline of the pub trade, and more and more people eating out, coffee shops and sandwich bars are picking up the trade. As these types of outlets become more popular and varied they look to diversify and so must we, so the addition of bain marie and hotplate counters alongside our current refrigerated range is very important. The installation of a stylish, carefully-planned counter run can allow trading from breakfast, through lunch as a deli, and into the evening as a bistro or wine bar.
What is the biggest obstacle currently facing the front-of-house refrigeration market?
Finance is always a factor and we are seeing smaller start-ups having difficulty obtaining it. With this in mind we introduced the standalone Blizzard serveover and multideck models — Alpha & Omega — which offer quality refrigeration and can be customised in any colour to match a customer’s current or potential colour scheme.