Vision Commercial Kitchens’ MD Jack Sharkey can see both the benefits and the drawbacks of increased virtual communication brought about by the coronavirus crisis.
During last week’s Specifi webinar, called ‘Ready for the Reinvention’, the distributor chief said: “Relationships with operators are about building trust – the more trust you build, the more advice they take on board from you.
“If we’re continuing to move over to digital platforms of communication it’s going to be easier if you’ve got an existing relationship with a client. It’s going to be challenging to build that relationship with new customers remotely.”
On the subject of online events in general, Sharkey analysed: “I don’t think they can replace face to face contact, because a lot of our industry is built on that. But this sort of event is good for learning about new products, manufacturers and opportunities. That’s not just for me as the MD of the business, the whole team can benefit from attending something that we wouldn’t have be able to afford to send everyone to in person.”
Another debate during the webinar was whether small restaurants will need to amalgamate to survive. Sharkey commented: “Operators have moved into the takeaway market to replace lost revenue, but as we move back to some semblance of normality, I don’t think they are going to give that up, and why should they?
“So, while demand may not be as great as before the pandemic, I think it will remain for that takeaway service. But the current kitchens operators have may not be able to cope with normal demand as well as takeaway service. They weren’t designed for it, so they’re going to look for catering equipment solutions to try and solve that particular problem.”
He concluded: “There will be a greater move into dark and co-sharing kitchens – it’s a lot cheaper to build those kitchens than a dine-in restaurant.”
Other panelists in Specifi’s ‘Ready for the Reinvention’ webinar on 24 June comprised Keith Warren, chief executive, FEA; Scott Jones sales and key account director EMEA, True Manufacturing; Graham Kille, sales director, Rational UK; Nic Banner vice president sales UK and Ireland, Specifi and Bob Wolters, CEO, Specifi Global.