For distributors, learning about how foodservice appliances function and can be applied is a vital skill that can help secure a sale and ensure they are providing the most suitable equipment for end users.
Therefore, many suppliers and manufacturers are investing in their own training and demonstration facilities to educate dealers, sometimes alongside their operator clients.
One manufacturer which has boosted its capabilities is Rational. It recently doubled the capacity of its Luton head office, including a new Centre of Excellence for training. This comprises two training kitchens, a cafė concept and service workshop which includes a range of SelfCookingCenter combi ovens and VarioCookingCenters.
MD Simon Lohse explained: “It allows us to offer highly professional training facilities on site. There is no substitute for hands-on experience of cooking appliances – especially when they are technologically advanced and offer market-leading features and benefits.
“It’s not only about getting experience of the cooking processes and the various cooking technologies: we find that demonstrating our online ConnectedCooking system face to face with dealers works very well, giving them a much better understanding of its capabilities.”
Rational organises regular dealer training sessions and they are encouraged to invite their own key customers along to the facilities.
At supplier RH Hall, its 2,500ft2 development kitchen opened in 2006 and is regularly upgraded to include the latest equipment and technologies available to the foodservice market. Facilities include a fully operational test kitchen, various equipment available for evaluation and a large area for meetings and/or training.
Sales director Kris Brearley believes: “The most important part of having a demonstration facility is the ability to see the quality of the product on offer and also the results that it can produce. Some equipment, particularly in the accelerated cooking or combination steamer market, relies on the quality of the end cooking result. These items can also sometimes seem expensive until the item is fully demonstrated and the full benefits seen.
“Our development kitchen provides facilities that dealers would not necessarily have access to at their own premises – and as a wholesaler we are able to provide a wide range of equipment and brands that a manufacturer cannot always do.”
Elsewhere, Hobart has its own innovation centre at its Peterborough headquarters. Tim Bender, sales director, Hobart Warewashing UK explained: “A real benefit of getting dealers to our innovation centre is that they’re out of their normal environment – one which tends to make them more receptive to stop, listen and ask more questions.
“We can also show them our entire facility, which gives them a much bigger impression of what we’re all about. Most importantly we actually have the equipment on site, plumbed in and ready to go, so we can physically demonstrate what each machine does.
“If a dealer salesperson is going to sell Hobart equipment, they’ve got to get their heads around exactly what makes the difference between our machines and somebody else’s. Some of our machines may be at a more premium price point, so it’s imperative we show them the difference; the groundbreaking features and benefits, the build quality and longevity, and of course the final result, that definitively tip the balance.”
At Jestic Foodservice Equipment’s head office in Paddock Wood, Kent, the supplier has recently expanded the kitchen, adding a dedicated fast food section to the existing restaurant and bakery-specific kitchens. “Not only does this mean that we can now offer bespoke sessions depending on the needs of the dealer, or their customer, but it also means we have the option of hosting up to three individual sessions concurrently within the kitchen,” underlined culinary director Michael Eyre.
Jestic held over 180 training sessions in its development kitchen during 2017, a figure set to be exceeded this year.
Eyre commented: “Having the demonstration kitchen on site allows the Jestic Culinary Team to involve the dealer or the end user customer in a much greater detail. With our portfolio including a number of specialist equipment, in particular, wood fired pizza ovens, charcoal cooking ovens or pressure fryers, it’s vital that we can demonstrate the uses of the products rather than simply talk about them.”
Over at Welbilt, it now has seven Masterclass kitchens across the UK and Ireland (Sheffield, Glasgow, Guilford, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Newcastle and Dublin) and is about to launch its eighth at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. According to Steve Hemsil, sales director – UK and Ireland: “Ensuring our customers can use the equipment to its full capability is of vital importance.
“To facilitate this high level of training, Welbilt has a large network of trainers devoted to developing and training Masterclass kitchens across the UK, thus allowing training to take place off- as well as on-site.
“Demonstrations allow for dealers to see how easily equipment can be installed as well as how well the equipment fits with existing units. I believe that end users gain more confidence in the dealer if they feel that the dealer has a good working relationship with the manufacturer.”
In the warewashing sector, Meiko’s training and showroom facilities are continually updated to accommodate a variety of users, new equipment and technology. Its headquarters facility in Slough features undercounter machines on mobile dollies with extended service connections to allow 360-degree access. A larger UPster K rack transport machine is positioned off the wall to allow all-round viewing whilst demonstrating. Visitors also have full access to the manufacturer’s fully equipped meeting room which is located directly opposite.
Technical services director Dave Kemp revealed: “A major benefit of an in-house training facility is that Meiko staff can tailor the training to suit the specific needs of our customers; for example, by spending extra time on the workings of Meiko’s popular GiO reverse osmosis water treatment. In the field during an onsite training session, this may not be practical.”
With the new 18th edition electrical accreditation coming into force in the new year, Meiko has also been updating its own engineers on the pertinent qualifications using the in-house facility.
Competitor Sammic first opened its showroom and test kitchen in its Leicester offices in January 2016. Operations manager Adam Krause explained: “This has added a valued arm to what we offer our clients. We are currently upgrading the area to accommodate more items from our vast equipment portfolio, so yet more items can be tested and demonstrated to our large customer base.”
On a weekly basis Sammic demonstrates its prep range and preservation machines including slicers, mixers, vacuum packing and sous vide. “In the coming months we hope to be able to show more items from our larger range of warewashing,” added Krause.
“It is easy for dealers to become lost with all the options available to them in the marketplace. Visiting us and bringing their clients is a weekly occurrence and is essential in picking the right machine. Plus it helps educate dealers in what the capabilities are.”
For Carpigiani, it has invested in a range of facilities across the country, including at its head office in Hereford, its dedicated development kitchen in Park Royal, North London and a new showroom site in Glasgow. Michele Stanco, training and development chef said: “Being able to demonstrate the capabilities and quality of Carpigiani equipment is an essential part of our sales process, allowing dealers, distributors, and end user operators to get hands-on experience of authentic gelato, sorbet and soft serve ice cream production.”
He reported: “We regularly welcome dealers and their customers to our Carpigiani demonstration facilities. This gives the dealer the opportunity of live, hands-on sessions on our equipment, showcasing the speed, quality, and consistency while also meaning we highlight the significant opportunity presented by gelato, using profit calculators to demonstrate the impressive margins.”
Meanwhile, supplier Linda Lewis Kitchens’ (LLK) demonstration kitchen in Oldham is constantly being regenerated to include more of the firm’s portfolio, after opening 2 years ago. Dealers and end users can visit by appointment Monday to Friday from 10am-4pm, while the site also hosts engineer training days, dealer workshops and daily customer training events.
The kitchen showcases the full range of Cuppone pizza ovens, LLK’s own branded range and all pizza-making accessories.
A recent addition is development consultant and former pizza chef, Fabio Aurelio, who brings a wealth of expertise and knowledge to the facility, enabling a ‘one stop pizza shop’ aimed at making a dealer’s life easier when quoting for a customer.
He commented: “The pizza oven market is constantly evolving and there are always new innovations and technologies coming into play. By attending the demonstration kitchen, dealers can get to grips with the latest innovations which are sometimes difficult to convey by just reading specification sheets.”
In Wigan, Middleby UK recently upgraded its vast demonstration facility to include a dedicated combination oven section, aimed at giving a full Houno experience.
MD Kenny Smith advised: “Our full kitchen is used to show the quality, speed and performance of our equipment. This cannot be done by brochures alone. The demonstration facilities help the dealers understand the capabilities of our equipment to ensure they specify correctly, and end users are able to see results to satisfy their needs.”
He reported: “We regularly hold training events, offered to all dealers and end users. Rob Fairhurst our demonstration chef carries out all of the training along with our area sales managers; we offer all dealers and end users full demonstrations any time they require this.”
East Kilbride-based Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM) recently upgraded its onsite demonstration kitchen to accommodate the new Alto Shaam Vector multi cook oven, so the facility can be used for Vector Live demonstrations. Experienced executive chef, Alan Evans, who runs the demonstrations, also began working with FEM recently.
Mark Hogan, commercial director of FEM, said: “Vector Live gives our dealers and their customers the opportunity to see the product in action and allows for the day to be tailored to each of their client’s individual menu requirements. We encourage our dealers to make requests prior to the event as to which dishes and products they would like Alan to demonstrate on the day.” These events last about two and a half hours, including a Vector presentation, the cooking, eating and a Q&A session.
At Smeg, since it fully opened its new showroom and demonstration kitchen at the start of 2018 in Abingdon, it has hosted several distributors and their end user clients. The head office comprises a conference room, full showroom, test area and a large demonstration kitchen.
UK commercial channel director Phil Coulstock reported: “The demonstration kitchen is designed to offer a fantastic open environment to see the product working. The test area is designed more to offer hands on training and product demonstrations to both sales and more importantly service customers of how our equipment operates and how to install, service and repair them.
“With the hiring of Matt Cosnett, who is Smeg Foodservice’s dedicated technical service manager, we now have a plan to organise a regular service training sessions at our head office on a quarterly basis.
Elsewhere, Fri-Jado UK’s 3,000ft2 demonstration kitchen within the showroom at its UK office in Uxbridge has recently undergone a refit. The site now includes the latest models from the firm’s range of cooking, holding and display equipment.
Gary Thacker, director of national accounts, commented: “The facility allows us to replicate foodservice and food retailing kitchen configurations. The days of imparting product knowledge via glossy literature are long gone. There is no substitute for the hands-on experience, which allows our partners to touch and feel the equipment.
“At Fri-Jado UK we recognise the critical role played by kitchen design specialists in specifying equipment. We are totally committed to sharing our knowledge with dealers and providing them with unprecedented levels of technical support.”
Finally, warewasher manufacturer Granuldisk currently uses its head offices in Sweden to carry out academy training sessions. However, from next year it will work closer with the First Choice Group in the UK to invite dealers and end customers to see its machine in First Choice’s Kingswood Lakeside headquarters with a presentation beforehand.
UK sales manager Keith Broadway detailed: “Academy training offers an insight into Granuldisk and our technology, plus how to approach an existing or potential customer to talk about Granuldisk.
“We have a ‘Live Wash’ scenario showing how quickly we can get pans clean, both hygienically and sanitised, demonstrating how we can save water, energy, chemicals and labour.”