Breadth is the key for the foodservice equipment manufacturer, Manitowoc. Not only in terms of product ranges, but an international presence too.
Although its parent company is in the US, the UK division comprises a Guildford head office, a factory in Sheffield, which both have demonstration kitchens, plus two more demonstration facilities in Bolton and Glasgow, respectively. Furthermore, the Convotherm combi-steamer brand is manufactured in Germany, and for the last 2 years the firm has owned the Inducs brand of induction equipment, which is made in Switzerland.
Manitowoc is proud of its British division though, as the Merrychef accelerated cooking and Moorwood Vulcan medium duty equipment brands are manufactured in Sheffield, while its beverage systems factory is in Halesowen, near Birmingham.
However, the US headquarters of the firm announced earlier this year that it would split up the company’s foodservice and crane divisions, a process which is due to be completed in 2016.
There has been no change in the day to day running of the business in the UK since this decision, according to Steve Hemsil, national sales manager, UK and Ireland distribution. “We are certainly not anticipating any major changes. There are legal talks behind the scenes and we may need to look at a slight name change, but at the moment it’s just business as usual.”
Current ‘usual business’ is focusing on equipment demonstrations and facilities and personnel to showcase these. Manitowoc’s four national demonstration sites not only feature cooking equipment, but cold rooms too. “Going forward, demonstrations are something we are really rolling out,” explained Hemsil. “Our customers want to get in front of the kit and see it working.”
This increased emphasis has meant the company has just taken on another member of the culinary team to specifically work on demonstrations, bringing the team’s total to four staff.
Energy efficiency is another driver for the business. While it has hundreds of products accredited to Energy Star standards, its main aim is to collaborate with competitors to develop energy standard conformity. “We want distributors and end users to be able to look at a piece of kit and know where that fits in from a sustainability point of view,” said Hemsil.
Distribution is key to Manitowoc, as it does not sell direct to end-users. “Who we work with for distribution is very important; we choose distributors who we have a good rapport with and will go and promote our products, rather than just adding our equipment to their portfolio,” Hemsil commented. “Predominantly it’s people we have always done business with; we add very few into the mix.” [[page-break]]
To underline its support of distributors, Manitowoc has joined buying consortium, ENSE, plus it is a CEDA platinum partner. In May, the manufacturer took part in an ENSE training day for distributor representatives to learn more about its products.
These measures are also all about becoming more visible in the industry. “A few years ago we probably were not as good at pushing ourselves as we have become now. We need to get that brand awareness out there and increase market penetration, so we are attending more events,” said Hemsil. The firm targets particular products to individual events, depending on the market of each one.
Furthermore it has invested in sales tools such as a computer system to log calls and demonstrations to ensure these are followed up. There is also a great deal of technology for the after-care division, with an online call logger automatically telling the firm’s engineers where to go and what parts are required, in order to speed up the response time.
Manitowoc believes the after-sales business is just as important as the initial sale. It employs 33 engineers just for the Merrychef brand, and uses support agents for others. “We’re putting a lot of time and effort into initiatives to make life easier for customers. They work in a 24/7 environment, so we have got to come up to their level,” noted Hemsil. “As an industry we don’t do product back-up particularly well, so that’s something we all have to work on.”
Pushing on with promoting last year’s Convotherm 4 combi-oven launch is a core part of the company’s strategy. It wants to get the appliance into more niches and take more market share in this sector. Furthermore, Hemsil predicted there will be more products from the firm’s various brands coming out by the end of this year. He pointed to technology trends focusing on simplifying the equipment’s user interface, ensuring cook time is as quick as possible, while making sure each unit is energy efficient.
The firm believes that its wide range of products will stand it in good stead. “When a new trend comes along, we generally have a piece of equipment that will fit into it,” said Hemsil. “For example, most restaurants in the popular casual dining market will offer some kind of fried food, so we can provide something from our Frymaster brand. And with the grab and go market being so big, we can offer Merrychef to enable end users to cook little and often.”
Additionally, its Morwood Vulcan brand is very popular with local authorities. “We did very well out of the free school meals rollout last year with those products,” said Hemsil. This enabled the company to finish ahead of its financial plan in the UK in 2014.
In the first quarter of this year the manufacturer was once again ahead of its plan for the UK division. The second quarter has proved to be more challenging, but Hemsil expects the firm to hit the target this time too. “There are lots of new things happening and there are a lot of casual dining roll outs, so the future is bright.”
Manitowoc is now looking to push more into the fine dining area with the Convotherm brand, as well as hotel banqueting. “We have just got to keep on our toes and hopefully stay one step ahead of the competition,” concluded Hemsil.