Galley design and installation is becoming ever more important to Southampton-based Trimline, which has made a name for itself in the field of commercial ship interior outfitting since the company’s inception in 1965.
Taking on turnkey projects from 1989 onwards meant expanding its catering area design knowledge, the culmination of which was the installation of a demonstration ship’s kitchen at its headquarters late last year.
“The kitchen is pure marine, from the resin flooring to the extraction system they would have in galleys. It’s a phenomenal sales tool,” explained the firm’s catering business development manager, Colin Stapley. The installation also meets United States Public Health standards required for ships visiting North American ports. Stapley reported that ships’ chefs can also use the kitchen for developing menus, trialling and evaluating dishes.
CEO Andrew Richards added: “The demonstration kitchen is an opportunity to showcase what we can do. We are a relatively new entrant to the market and we want to demonstrate to our customers that we can do a full turnkey package.”
Currently the firm’s galley and laundry divisions comprise 10% of turnover, but Richards wants to see that grow to 30% in the next three to four years, using the demonstration kitchen as a tool to do so. Stapley added: “We could see massive growth in this market and it linked in well with what we were doing anyway. The kitchen seemed like a natural progression for us, starting off with carpets and curtains 50 years ago up to today’s turnkey projects.”
With space at a premium on a ship, the demonstration installation is just 3,400 x 4,300 x 2,680mm in dimensions. Features such as an extra door catch on ovens and securing the equipment to the deck had to be considered to fully ‘marinise’ the kitchen, as well as the ability of the equipment to convert to ships’ electricity supply.
Stapley considers that consultation is the key for the maritime market. “We have to know the correct questions to ask because the equipment each shipowner needs is so diverse. For instance, combi-ovens could replace boiling pans and bratt pans onboard, which would save space. The owner could then use the extra space to build more cabins and increase income.
“Part of consultation is tailoring our approach to each person, so for a food and beverage manager we would discuss the yield of the product and how to generate extra portions, with chefs we would focus on ease of use or if we’re talking to the finance department we would emphasise return on investment.”
The firm can design and install a traditional galley if this is what is specified but it often suggests alternative, modern designs and equipment. “We will only propose fully marinised, fit for purpose equipment from suppliers able to offer through life support of training, servicing and spares with quantifiable savings of water, power and space,” said Stapley. And he should know what to look for, as he was a chef on the QE2 before switching to the ‘other side of the counter’ for the last 40 years. [[page-break]]
Trimline tends to use a specific few tried and trusted suppliers, as it believes the product marinisation, equipment electrical conversion and after-sales back up requirements restrict the available candidates. However, Richards commented: “We always welcome new suppliers; we want to work with new partners but they have to have something that gives value to our customers.”
While most of Trimline’s work is in the passenger ship sector, it also has a contract to maintain 14 Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels which support the Royal Navy fleet, and standards are even higher for these ships. “Equipment has to be shock-tested to withstand the G-forces they may encounter,” added Stapley.
Cruise ship owners in particular are investing heavily at the moment as their own passengers are demanding better quality. “The passengers are all well travelled and have experienced different cultures so they want better menus,” Stapley explained. “The cruise lines are competing for business so they have to have something special to offer.”
Trimline’s customers are currently focused on being ecologically friendly and reducing fuel and water costs. “We can do the calculations for them to save on return on investment,” said Stapley.
The company considers it has very few direct competitors itself however. “Having partnerships with companies like MKN enables us to compete and obviously gives us direct access to the product, their support and chefs, for training, service training,” Stapley detailed. “One of the biggest problems we have though is explaining smart technology to people. A lot of them don’t want to change and it’s up to us to prove the benefits you get from embracing modern technology.”
Last year was a record turnover year for the business, totalling £20m, and this year looks set to be better with a predicted target of over £25m. Richards reported that Trimline’s orderbook is also at a record level, with three large projects heading for completion this spring and further projects scheduled for summer.
He attributed the rapid growth to: “Our flexibility and honesty. We talk about the Trimline way of doing things; we have a very open and honest relationship with our customers. We build trust and long term relationships, which means that we’re happy to invite people to see what we do.”
Recruitment has accelerated to keep up with the demand, with 25% of the company’s now 104 permanent employees having been hired since the fourth quarter of 2014. Plans are also afoot to expand the company’s maintenance offerings, with Trimline acting as a maintenance provider to a number of cruise lines, maintaining ships interiors either in port or putting riding squads onboard.
Richards reported that the firm is taking on ever bigger refurbishment projects, involving 500+ people. “The principal challenges for us now will be to maintain consistency,” he predicted. “We have a large project of internal training for our staff, so they meet the standards that we expect. We are bringing up the next generation in the Trimline way of doing things. So if you deal with one of our project managers you get the same service as if you deal with any of them.”