Combi ovens really are the Swiss army knives of today’s professional kitchen, and it’s rare to see a site without one nowadays. Therefore it is vital that dealers are aware of the breadth and scope of these appliances’ functions, both from a sales and service perspective.
So what do combi oven manufacturers offer to ensure distributors receive the most up to date education on their models?
As the market leader, Rational UK is setting the standard with its Deal dealer training programme. Technical sales director Graham Kille detailed: “By enhancing dealer product knowledge and giving them all the tools they need, in terms of marketing support and so forth, the Deal training programme helps them give customers the most professional advice. We offer both sales and service training courses. We also offer comprehensive support materials, which are easily accessible to dealers, via our dedicated online dealer portal.”
Rational also recently introduced Deal dealer partner training events, inviting dealers to attend training at a venue within their region. This adds to its offer at its Centre of Excellence training facility at its Luton head office, which features two training kitchens, a cafė concept and service workshop. There is a range of SelfCookingCenter units, allowing hands-on training, and the training rooms have full presentation facilities.
Kille added: “We regularly invite our partners on factory visits, giving them the opportunity to learn more about the Rational appliances and the benefits that they deliver to commercial kitchens. They also gain knowledge about the company, experience the production lines and get an insight into areas such as our quality assurance processes.”
Hobart Cooking Solutions follows a bespoke approach to its training, according to sales director Tim Bender: “We’ve got demo kitchens set up throughout the UK and rather than just offering a blanket demonstration, we’ll tailor them so that they meet the specifications of both dealers and customers alike.
“These happen quite regularly with the dealers bringing people in two or three days a week, and then twice a month we’ll have dealers up for training days with our development chefs. It isn’t just an opportunity to highlight our products, it’s also a chance to build better relationships with dealers.”
Bender revealed: “We steer more towards interactive activities than having everyone sat in a room looking at a powerpoint presentation. We’ll do a warehouse walk-through, and even get them involved in cooking competitions at lunch to keep things fun and interesting.
“Seeing the equipment in action during demos gets a great reception. The key is getting across three to four key features about the product, clearly communicated, which we try to do in as fun and interesting a way as possible.”
At Electrolux Professional, it has a lot of product awareness training to do at the moment, thanks to the launch of its new SkyLine combi ovens. As training and demonstration manager Stuart Flint recounted: “We took a significant number of dealers to our foodservice manufacturing site in Pordenone, Italy, to make sure they were the first people outside of Electrolux to see the product in the flesh. While some presentations were necessary in the first instance to set the scene, the bulk of the day was about getting hands-on with the product via a series of practical workshops, Q&As and demonstrations.”
The interactive cooking demonstration demonstrated how the built-in Cook&Chill connectivity between the SkyLine combi oven and new SkyLine blast chiller could communicate together. “This showed first-hand how SkyLine can streamline the pre-bake proofing and subsequent baking process, with each device automatically adjusting to the optimum setting at the right time,” emphasised Flint.
He added: “However, we also hold regular dealer-focused events at our Center of Excellence in Luton, including two well-attended sessions dedicated to SkyLine which took place on the 2 and 22 of April this year. Again, these are very much geared around practical demonstrations and work-throughs.”
Elsewhere, Blue Seal feels that its large showroom and fully serviced test kitchen in its Birmingham offices provides a useful environment for learning. “We have an open invitation to host dealers and end users alike, with all skill levels,” reported area sales manager Donald Harvey.
“We like the events to be as hands on as possible, so we encourage dealers to bring their clients here to Blue Seal to use the units themselves. This way they get a real sense of what the equipment is capable of.”
He detailed: “The session usually starts with a quick history of Blue Seal and how we got to where we are now, then we dive straight in and get our hands dirty. It’s all very well being shown how something works, but it’s no substitute for using the equipment themselves. Our chef has a broad knowledge of many different styles of cooking and baking, and is always on hand for guidance and advice.”
Blue Seal also runs service training courses for service partners. Its three sales managers like to be face-to-face with its dealers to promote its combi steamers, and all of its equipment, using traditional methods such as catalogues and brochures, then all of the relevant information is available electronically and on its website.
At Welbilt, it hosts regular masterclasses so that both dealers and their end user customers can see its Convotherm combi ovens in action. UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil said: “We believe that seeing our equipment in the flesh gives the best way of understanding the design, benefits and footprint of Convotherm combi ovens, hence our recent decision to expand our masterclass provision so that even more dealers across the UK have easy access.
“Further to this, Welbilt hosts exclusive dealer events throughout the year in order to showcase new products as well as develop relationships with the dealer network.”
For instance, the manufacturer’s most recent event was held at Simpson’s restaurant in Birmingham, where dealers were able to get ‘hands on’ with the new Convotherm Mini Black trend unit.
Hemsil concluded: “By organising this, dealers were able to learn more about how chefs can use a Convotherm mini to relieve the day to day pressures of the commercial kitchen. We also hold regular technical training courses so that engineers and installers are aware of how to correctly install and maintain Welbilt equipment. Further to this, we welcome designers and project managers to show the benefits of Welbilt equipment and also get an insight into the equipment before designing into a scheme.”
For MKN, its demonstration events and factory tours are usually aimed at specific attendee types. “Depending on who the specific event is aimed at, sometimes the event will focus more on technical information whereas others will focus on cooking know-how,” said marketing and PR manager Anja Halbauer. “However, this all depends on who is facing us, and MKN is prepared to provide information to almost anyone in the industry on our products.”
She added: “Our insightful events allow the opportunity for guests to discuss a range of issues within professional kitchens with our experts and speak with our experienced chefs about MKN equipment. We aim to make them a real experience for our customers, and they can ask questions to find out more about our products. Our events allow guests to learn something new about MKN and our equipment, so we try and provide as much information as we possibly can.
“I think live demos and cooking with the equipment is the best way to educate dealers on MKN equipment, so that they can learn more about the equipment and really experience the features in a real cooking situation.”
Hounö has a two-pronged approach to training, with both a purpose-designed 120metre2 showroom and demonstration kitchen located at the UK head office of its parent company, Middleby UK in Wigan, and factory tours at its head office in Randers, Denmark.
Development chef Edwin Adkins commented: “The two or three day visits to our head office in Randers, Denmark, provide the best opportunity for us to engage with our distributors and partners.
“In addition to the product familiarisation courses, training classes, and cooking demonstrations, visitors may enjoy a tour of our factory. Our guests are invariably impressed by our state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques and our quality procedures. First-hand experience of the level of investment we have made in our manufacturing plant instils further distributor confidence in Hounö, our products, our business ethos and our brand.
“These tours give us time to spend with dealer personnel outside of working hours, allowing us to develop personal relationships and understand our distributor’s businesses and their objectives. It is these partnerships upon which successful business strategies are so often forged. Introducing a social aspect to these visits is also in keeping with our mission statement of ‘Let’s bring people to the table’.”
Elsewhere, Certa Catering Equipment imports Eloma combi ovens into the UK. Certa director Dan Loria advised: “Selling a combi oven is very much a consultative sale, so the events at which we promote the Eloma product range are not just about how to operate the unit, they are about how the features can best be applied to the advantage of the end user for their particular menu. For that reason, the majority of events that we run are in the presence of both the dealer and the end user.”
There are events for all of the stakeholders in the decision making and sales process, from a designer looking to specify, to a distributor selling to a chef who is looking for a specific feature on an oven.
Loria underlined: “Wherever possible we try to make the training as hands on as possible. With a premium product the bottom line – cost – will always be an issue, and the only way to quantify the cost is to get people in front of the ovens. It’s not easy, as everyone is busy, but the customer will benefit if they put effort into researching the right product.”
Over at Falcon Foodservice Equipment, sales of the Lainox range of combi ovens it supplies to the UK are growing. Therefore, marketing communications manager Steve Stenhouse revealed: “We recently introduced enhanced training courses for dealers, to ensure they have access to the best possible information and most up to date advice. The courses are designed to give them everything they need to know about Lainox, not only in terms of sales but also service and installation. For example, the service and installation courses cover areas including handover and commissioning, as well as maintaining the equipment.”
Falcon also runs distributor visits to its development kitchen in its factory, as well as Lainox live cooking demos in various locations across the country, where dealers can come with their sales teams and with end user customers.
Stenhouse detailed: “Our chefs demonstrate the benefits of the Lainox ovens, tailoring demos to suit the end users participating. For example, if the dealer specialises in schools, then we can demonstrate the benefits of the more basic Sapiens models, as these are ideally suited for this sector.”
Universal Foodservice, the UK importer of Baron combi ovens, is keen to disseminate information on the latest updates to the range, including self-washing systems, energy saving programs and water usage reduction methods. Sales director Tony Aris said: “The result of all these leaps forward is great news for everyone in the supply chain but how do we get all the information to the relevant parties in a way which is easily understood?
“Baron is of the view that chefs, technicians and kitchen designers alike need to know all of the benefits. The Baron website offers a vast amount of information which includes training videos for chefs and even technical videos to assist engineers.”
He concluded: “Here at Universal we believe that factory training for engineers and chefs along with designer/consultant visits to the Baron showroom/factory are invaluable. Additionally, sending out regular mailings to the UK market along with personal visits by our sales team are essential. A significant move was also made last year with the appointment of a chef consultant, Stacey Locke, to offer pre-sales advice and on-site training for chefs and managers using the combination ovens.”