THE BIG INTERVIEW: TAG, the detail doyens

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The growing TAG team and their bulging trophy cabinet.

If there was an award for perfectionism in the kitchen design sphere, then TAG Catering Equipment would no doubt have added that to its already-bulging trophy cabinet.

That collection is practically the first thing that greets visitors to its new Stevenage headquarters, with the latest addition being this year’s CEDA Grand Prix large project and overall winner, awarded for a hugely complex premium scheme at a five star hotel in central London.

The new base was custom-designed by the distributor’s team, reflecting a contemporary style that matches the brand’s ethos. According to director, Michaela Stephens-Smith: “There was a lot of thought that went into the design to make it a creative space. It also gave us extra space as part of our expansion.”

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Relocating from nearby Stanstead Abbotts was prompted by the firm outgrowing that premises, with the move in the planning for around 2 years before the culmination in October 2017. Broadband issues had delayed the transfer from the previous February, with Michaela underlining: “We couldn’t move the service desk until we were 100% confident that we could operate at a speed the customers are expecting.”

However, the lag meant that the final transition ended up being very smooth, with the spares stock benefitting from a larger warehouse and workshop. Intra-office communication was also enhanced, with business development manager Michael Bradley saying: “We are now all in the same space, whereas before we were on two levels, and we now have a breakout area for discussions.”

The ground floor of the current premises includes a modern meeting room and a demonstration kitchen area for the company’s clients, while the larger parts store has helped to speed up engineer call-out times and spares deliveries.

One of the key advantages of the move is the new location, as Michael emphasised: “The old office was on a branch line, but now we can get the train into London within 20 minutes.” This means that should an engineer in London require a part from the office, it can be sent by train as quickly as if the firm was based in the capital city itself, yet it is that bit closer to the Midlands when any of the team needs to head northwards.

The company is a family affair, run by Michaela and husband Martin, while the second generation is now represented by creative and project director, Tyron Stephens-Smith. The latter said of the new location: “Stevenage is a technical hub and we can attract the right staff in the right environment.”

This strategy has already borne fruit, as already TAG has increased its headcount by 25%, across the projects, service and marketing departments. One of the latest joiners is PR and marketing executive Parveen Ram, which marks a shift in marketing strategy for the business. She revealed: “Up until recently, we were running on word of mouth and referrals, so I have joined to bring TAG up to date with digital technology opportunities.”

Tyron added: “We have been doing great work for years, but we realised we needed someone to promote that, to let everyone know what we’re doing and what’s possible.”

The benefits of the relocation just keep accruing, with upgraded phone and IT systems meaning that callers can speak to the TAG team more quickly, plus the company is proving its eco-credentials by making all processes virtually paperless and not even having waste paper bins available in the office.

The expansion has been driven in part by the firm carrying out more and larger projects, with additional leads following organically off each scheme. Tyron analysed: “We have been working on projects for years that have all come to fruition, and we get recognition from our clients early on. Each project we have done we have then been put forward for another through the interior designers, the architects or the client.”

He added: “It’s about looking at every small detail. We are trying to encompass everything in one design. So efficiency in a kitchen is not just about how much energy it uses, it’s also about how much staff time is spent in it, how much food is wasted and how easy it is to obtain a perfect result.”

TAG’s new Stevenage office features a demonstration kitchen area.

Citing the distributor’s multiple award wins as being due to this attention to detail, he commented: “We try to think of everything that the client might not think of. We are here to get the best for them, to make sure they are always getting the perfect project.”

The cutting edge is a place TAG is very familiar with, according to Tyron: “We always want to be at the forefront of all the new equipment technologies out there.” And he embodied this ethos by being one of the judges of the Commercial Kitchen show’s Innovation Challenge, where manufacturers pitch their latest equipment launches to the judging panel.

Furthermore, team members have been visiting the Host trade show since 2005 and are now even seeking out other exhibitions where they can be part of the first wave to view new innovations. Plus TAG has committed three staff to ENSE training days this year, benefitting from the company’s membership of the buying consortium. “We are working hard with these manufacturers to ensure our sales team is as up to speed as our engineers as to what equipment’s available,” said Tyron.

The firm also ensures there is a clear staff progression path, with a personal training plan for each individual, including topics such as management and health and safety.

As well as investing in research and development, the kitchen design house shepherds a virtuous circle with its servicing. Tyron explained: “We do so much maintenance as well as the project itself that we constantly have people on the groundwho really see the problems with equipment, design and kitchens that we then learn from.

“If there’s ever an issue, we work out how to resolve it and prevent it from happening in the future. We could go to the manufacturer, or we will design something ourselves.”

Michaela agreed: “We have to stand by everything. Our after-sales is just as important as the project itself and we want to be able to offer a product that we can service and maintain.”

TAG’s servicing coverage is national, with a particular focus in London. It has just invested in a new fleet of low emission vehicles too to keep up with the growth of projects and clients in an eco-friendly way.

With business flying high, TAG is already running the risk of needing an even bigger premises, or toying with the idea of opening up a second regional hub. Tyron commented: “We have put the foundations in place to further expand and grow to our potential.”

While Michael concluded: “I think in the next 3 years we would have at least equalled if not stretched the same growth that we’ve had in the last 3 years.”

Tags : dealerdistributortag catering equipment
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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