Foodservice equipment distributor Jestic sprang a surprise just recently when it lured former Standex FSE boss Steve Loughton across to the organisation as managing director. Catering Insight went along to meet both him and Martin Beesley — whose shoes he is stepping into — to find out what the restructuring means for the Kent-based company.
With does Steve’s appointment as managing director mean for your role, Martin?
MB: I have taken up a role as director of strategic development to work alongside Steve and our other main directors in helping the company in terms of strategy. And I still look after the Domino’s account as well. It’s quite a big account for us and I’ve done that for nearly 20 years, so my contacts and experience with that are obviously important.
Will the role primarily involve developing new brands or managing existing ones?
MB: It will involve looking at where we are going, looking at new brands and really just being involved with the company at the strategic level. My idea was to take a little bit of extra time out from the business to spend more time with my partner Lucy because I did promise her when I was 55 that I would do that! And that moment is now, which was another reason for appointing Steve. The other key things are the contacts and the experience that Steve brings, especially in the FCSI community and the retail sector.
Steve, what drew you to the role?
SL: Not only is it a great company but its strength is that it has got a really single-minded, focused management team led by Martin and a small team of fellow directors. Secondly, the brands that Martin has amassed around Jestic are remarkable. Even people who don’t really know much about what the company does have still heard of it. They see it at exhibitions, and they see the way it represents itself and the image that it has got. I think we are entering the next phase of our development strategically, and to be at the dawn of that is not only exciting but very challenging.
Given the leadership change, is the company poised to move in a different direction to the one it has been up to now?
MB: I don’t think so. I think what we have done so far has been very successful and worked very well. As far as brands go, we will be concentrating on what we have got at the moment and going through a period of maximising the potential for what we have. We recently added Vitamix to the portfolio, which is a big step. It is a large brand to take on and it is quite a large commitment in terms of resources and sales training and technical support, so I don’t think we will be looking at adding any new brands for a reasonable period of time now.
What are Jestic’s main objectives for the rest of this year?
SL: We are half way through our financial year, so the first six months for me are very much about making sure that I fully understand the philosophy and the methods by which we go to market, and enhancing that where I can. As we get into the next financial year, I think it’ll be about honing the strategy, developing our external corporate face and making sure that we continue to resource the company as it has been resourced to cope with what the global and big national chains need from us.
We are unique in as much as we deal with global chains, national chains, we are a CEDA partner, we are an FCSI Allied member, and we do engage with end-users quite strongly as well. If you take QSR and fast food, we supply right the way from the local chicken and pizza shop to the chains. It is important for us to have that diverse customer base because it improves our knowledge and makes us better at what we do.
You’ve previously said that 60% to 70% of the business is transacted directly and the rest through dealers. Will you be trying to do more with dealers in the future?
MB: Part of the reason for Steve coming on board is to do more with dealers and to do more with consultants on specifying business. As I said, Vitamix has just come along as a line and we only launched the product 10 days ago but most of our sales have come through small dealers that hadn’t actually dealt with us before, so it is doing what it is supposed to do from day one. We need to develop a strategy for working with dealers and consultants, and set some objectives that allow us to be able to judge how we are doing and whether we are going in the right direction. It has not been a major focus in the past, but now is the time to start doing that.
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Are all the brands that Jestic carries exclusive and, if so, is that an arrangement you insist on?
MB: It is. In order to give the commitment and support and the long-term investment into a brand, it needs to be an exclusive situation. If there is confusion in the market place, it doesn’t help anybody.
Will you predominately continue to focus on US brands?
MB: The majority of what we do comes from the US. The US tends to be the leading light as far as foodservice equipment is concerned, especially in the functionality of it. Europe is more aesthetics, America is more about function. But I think we will continue to look at what we need, so if you look at Irinox and Marrone, they are Italian, for example. If the equipment is the best at what it does then that is what we are interested in.
What is your outlook for the market landscape given some of the transitions taking place?
SL: People have said the industry is at a crossroads many times in my career, but I think it is actually on an interesting path because our customers continue to fragment. If you look at Tesco, for example, they have taken a stake in Harris + Hoole, which is high street coffee shop-type stuff and then all of a sudden spend £50m on Giraffe. Who saw that coming? I certainly didn’t. For me the interesting question is not just what they are they going to do with it, but whether Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and so on will follow. If you look at Starbucks, they have now got some relatively small franchisees taking over roadside venues that were Little Chefs years ago.
All of these things are continuing to happen and our market in terms of the customers continues to fragment. Some dealers have suffered funding crises, and that is a challenge for people as well. I think that as we look to expand our market into a distribution channel, we will need to be cautious about what we do and how we do it. We are not just going to take an order from anybody that comes along, there will be a strategy to work with the dealers that we know want to support us and want to work with us.
– AyrKing Breading tables & marinators
– Bakers Pride Deck ovens
– COF Refrigerated display units
– Desco Pasta cookers
– Egro Coffee machines
– Frigomat Batch freezers & ice cream machines
– Henny Penny Open fryers and pressure fryers
– Irinox Blast chillers & shock freezers
– Josper Indoor charcoal grill
– Marrone High-end cooking suites
– Marshall Air Food holding equipment
– Middleby Marshall Conveyor ovens
– Rotisol Rotisseries
– Sigma Dough mixers
– Somerset Baking equipment
– Ugolini Chilled beverage machines
– Vitamix Commercial blenders & mixers
– Wood Stone Stone-fired cooking equipment
– Zio Pepe Pizza oven accessories