Taking to the water

As an organisation with a background steeped in services and maintenance, Redditch-based distributor Aggora Group knows better than most that keeping on top of customers’ water treatment concerns can be as important as looking after any other aspect of the kitchen estate.

For some distributors, water treatment starts and ends with the installation of calcium treatment units (CTUs) at the point at which new equipment is fitted, but for Aggora it has always been an area that has had its full attention.

Adam Igoe, equipment sales office manager at Aggora Group, says that failing to specify the right solution when it is needed will only come back to haunt both the customer and the company looking after the kitchen.

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“We know that if you don’t exchange that water filter regularly, you are going to have problems with scale and water issues, so obviously it is going to cost the customer more in repair bills long term,” he says. “We have always just found it a good preventative measure to try and maintain the condition of the equipment.”

Through its project work, Aggora finds itself involved with companies such as Brita and other water treatment suppliers, as well as brands such as Bravilor which have their own filter kits, but its primary partner and the brand it works most closely with is Harlow-based European WaterCare.

“We predominantly purchase European WaterCare’s calcium treatment units of various sizes and their automatic water softeners,” explains Igoe. “That is the two main products that we buy from them.”

While the supplier offers a single point of purchase from which to source water treatment solutions for commercial kitchens, it’s the service that is attached to it which benefits Aggora’s business the most.

“European Water Care has always been a key partner for us because they are really easy to deal with and they can take care of everything for you. If you have repaired an oven that is maybe damaged with scale, you’ll obviously want to change the water filter.

“They’ve got a set price list and will go out for you, put a new water filter in and then take care of it for you. They are the people who will ring the client and get the metre reading, and then they’ll tell us when that filter is due for exchange, letting us know to quote the client to get that repeat business. It has always been a no-brainer for us really.”

This partnership has essentially helped Aggora move from dealing with water treatment issues on a reactive basis to specifying ongoing programmes that take constant care of customers’ needs. If anything, Aggora is now keen to bring more of the responsibility for that service work back in house, reveals Igoe.

“We have spoken to European WaterCare recently about that because we want to try and bring it in-house a little bit more and have greater control over it,” he says. “They have shared a lot of the information they have got over the years from doing the exchanges with us to help us to do that, and they have always been willing to work with us. We’re taking a little bit of their service out for them, but I think they can see that obviously they are still going to get the repeat business. It’s just it’s our way of controlling it.”

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Aggora was founded in 1998, starting out as a pure services company specialising in the repair and maintenance of catering equipment. Having then moved into PPM programmes and subsequently the sale of equipment as well, the firm has a good handle on why water treatment needs to be taken seriously.

“If it is something you overlook, the customer is only going to get problems with their machine,” says Igoe. “And it is probably going to affect the warranty because if they place a warranty call and there is an issue with scale it is not going to be covered. It is then likely that they will receive a hefty bill from the manufacturer for the repair of the unit outside of the warranty, which is going to look bad on the original dealer and the person who sold it to them.”

Water treatment solutions, including CTUs and softeners, remain pertinent to numerous items of professional catering equipment, including combination ovens, warewashing machines and commercial beverage systems, but those at the coalface will readily tell you that it is often one of the first ‘costs’ that gets removed from a quote as part of price negotiations.

Igoe says that Aggora Group will always take each job or project on its own merits, but if it is quoting a piece of equipment that needs a water treatment unit then it will almost certainly add it into the equation from the outset.

“Most of the time the customers accept that it is a necessity and they need to have it installed, and then we’ll follow that through to installation.”

It’s all part of the service to keep clients’ kitchens problem-free.

Aggora group chases new leads for equipment growth

Aggora Group was founded 15 years ago as a reactive service and maintenance company, but today it is an all-encompassing catering equipment provider with design, supply and installation capabilities.

The company’s equipment division, which was launched six years ago, takes care of everything from the supply of standalone commercial kitchen products to full-scale catering projects for blue chip clients.

Adam Igoe, sales office manager for the equipment branch, says the company is optimistic about the future having recently carried out some changes to drive the operation towards its goals: “At the end of last year we restructured a little bit internally and Ross Emery joined us from Electrolux as sales director. We are hoping that with him on board we are going to really move the business forward and go searching for new business.”

Two-thirds of Aggora’s equipment revenue typically comes from its involvement in project work, but Igoe says the firm believes there is a huge opportunity to grow the volume of one-off sales it does.

“We have been really lucky over the years in that a lot of the business has come to us, but what we want to try and do is generate our one-off sale business, especially locally,” he says. “If you think about the local councils, the local restaurants and things like that, we really want to start to tap into those markets.”

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