With its proud track record and celebrated design credentials in the home appliances sector, it’s fair to say that smeg UK’s commercial foodservice division has a lot to live up to.
But with a renewed focus on warewashing and a dealer recruitment drive underway, Smeg is bidding to become a catering equipment force to be reckoned with in 2014. Catering Insight asks new commercial business manager, Phil Coulstock, to lay out his plans.
Smeg is an iconic brand in the consumer sector, where it is particularly known for its refrigeration. What presence does it have in the commercial market today?
Smeg was established in Italy in 1948 and is a third generation family-owned and -run organisation. They have been producing and selling commercial cooking equipment for over 25 years throughout Europe with great success, and this product group has also been sold in the UK for over 12 years via Smeg’s long-standing exclusive partner, RH Hall. In regards to the warewashing side of the commercial division, this was set up in Italy five years ago to offer a diverse and dynamic range with market-leading innovation and energy saving features at affordably low prices.
You left your previous role at Hobart to take up the challenge of leading Smeg’s catering equipment strategy. Where do you see the brand fitting into the UK market?
I Joined Smeg UK to manage and grow their existing and exclusive relationship with RH Hall and take the warewashing range to market via the distributor channel. I believe they have something new and fresh to offer the industry in a competitive sector that is always looking for fresh alternatives providing something different. My background is obviously on the warewashing side and it is very much about focusing that on the distributor channel. We won’t be looking to sell direct, it will be 100% distributor-led.
One of the first exercises you carried out after joining Smeg was to streamline the warewashing portfolio for the UK market. Why was it so important to do this?
The UK market demands more than just a three-pin plug in comparison to the other European subsidiaries. High levels of specification and energy saving features are becoming far more common in manufacturers’ machines, but legislation is the biggest factor in the UK that demands differences to other European countries. WRAS approval and guaranteed rinse temperatures are much higher up buyers’ must-have lists in today’s market place.
With that in mind, I spent the majority of my first few weeks with the company visiting the warewash factory in Italy, adapting and streamlining the warewash range from 33 products down to 16 models to make it both easy to understand the range but still suitable for all applications across varied end-user sites.
What do you regard as your main strategic priorities over the next few months?
My main priority for the following weeks is to tie up and complete the implementation of the Smeg UK commercial service partner network for the warewash products, which will be administered by Smeg UK’s domestic service partner Servevast, based in Cannock. This will involve having a number of approved service partners across the UK to undertake installs, service work and the warranty provisions.
The other main priority for me is to start visiting potential sales partners to present the key benefits of the Smeg warewashing range to them and grow national awareness of the Smeg brand. I will certainly be incorporating all the CEDA members because we recently became a Silver member with CEDA.
Smeg had been supplying to the UK catering market prior to your arrival. Does your appointment signal a new way of doing things?
There will be no change to the route-to-market for Smeg UK’s commercial cooking range — that will continue to be sold via our long-standing exclusive partner RH Hall. My appointment for them merely offers more dedicated support and a fresh approach to growing the brand in the market place. In regards to the warewashing range, I will be looking to develop and expand the network of distributors for both sales and service throughout the UK over the coming months.
So the historic relationship with RH Hall on the cooking side will continue as normal?
Yes, it will. My involvement will just help develop the existing relationship with RH Hall and their supply chain, including key accounts such as Chicago Town, Punch, 3663, Enterprise Inns, Ginsters, Roadchef, Urban Eat, Proper Cornish, Co -op, Peters Foods, West Ham, Sheffield United and Stoke City, which all have Smeg commercial cooking equipment in them.
What will be your dealer strategy for the commercial warewash portfolio?
The distributor strategy for Smeg UK warewash products is clear: we want to trade with distributors that add value to the products and protect a brand image that over the years domestically has become both a household name and a considered purchase. We want to mirror that in the commercial sector. We aren’t looking to make quick sales at the cost of reputation, so we will very much be aligning ourselves with established distributors that actively promote the products through the right channels and go out and sell the features and benefits of the range.
Click on page 2 below to continue reading article. [[page-break]]
Why might a dealer want to work with Smeg? Can you offer anything that other competitors in the field can’t?
As I’ve said previously, Smeg is still a family-owned and -run company. It is quite a rare thing, certainly in this industry, that we are a very large manufacturer with approximately 2,000 staff yet still small enough to care about each and every customer.
Another big selling point is the infrastructure of Smeg UK. A three-month stock level is always held at our 110,000 square foot distribution centre in Portsmouth and deliveries are done by our in-house logistics team. They operate a very flexible schedule to accommodate all Smeg UK’s customers’ needs, including deliveries to point of install by a Smeg employee. Spares are all stocked centrally at our service administrator Servevast’s 3,500 square foot warehouse and can be shipped overnight or direct via the factory within 48 hours.
What would you say to any dealers that might have heard Smeg announce its aspirations for the commercial market in the past, but not necessarily followed it up with the focus they might have expected?
With my appointment, Smeg UK has outlined both its focus and investment in ensuring the commercial division achieves the group’s objectives in becoming a recognised commercial brand. Smeg UK has worked hard towards ensuring the products are both the right specification and the right price for the UK market. Smeg has invested lots of money in the commercial division, both in R&D at the factories in Italy and in promoting the brand at exhibitions such as HOST. Smeg has also worked and invested heavily in a new commercial website, which is currently being refined.
What do you feel will be the biggest challenges for the business moving forward?
Moving forward, the biggest challenge for me and Smeg UK will be to take the warewash range into a competitive and demanding sector of the industry that currently has many different options already with established companies. But I believe if we align the Smeg products with the right distributors, who are working within the growing markets and the right customer groups, then we will succeed.
60 years of manufacturing
Smeg is an Italian home appliance manufacturer based in Guastalla, near Reggio Emilia in northern Italy. The company has 16 major subsidiaries worldwide (in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the UK, South Africa and the USA), overseas offices in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia, and an extensive sales network.
For over 60 years, Smeg has built up a reputation for constructing tasteful and elegant products for the domestic market, while the introduction of foodservice and instruments divisions has allowed it to gain a strong foothold in the professional sector. Its early catering portfolio was focused on bar equipment before it later added convection ovens, combination ovens and warewashers.
Smeg UK was established in 1989 and has been supplying premium domestic appliances across the UK for more than 20 years. The company’s HQ is based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, but it operates a large warehouse facility in Hampshire, which was recently expanded from 80,000 square feet to 110,000 square feet.
Shooting for success
Smeg is under no illusions that gaining market share in the crowded warewashing sector will remain a tough task. But having fine-tuned its portfolio to create a range optimised for the UK, it is confident that dealers will see the USPs of its equipment.
“The feature-packed Greenline range of undercounter glass and dishwashers, as well as hood machines, all offer drain heat recovery (DHR) units as standard,” explains Phil Coulstock, commercial business manager at Smeg. “The undercounter models also offer ultra-low operating noise levels of 50dBA, making them the quietest in their class and ideal for front-of-house operations.”
Coulstock adds that Smeg’s hood machines, meanwhile, allow the use of 600mm x 500mm racks due to their design specifications. This means that the units can accommodate 24 dinner plates instead of the conventional 18 normally put in a 500mm x 500mm rack, as well as 1/1 GN gastronorm pans as standard.