Bill Downie reflects on seismic shifts to warewashing market

Bill Downie, managing director

Meiko will today launch a brand new piece of warewashing equipment at an event which will also serve as a retirement celebration for outgoing UK boss Bill Downie.

Mr Downie is due to leave the Slough-based company next month after nearly 30 years in charge of the business, which today turns over more than £17m a year and employs 90 staff.

And partners, customers and staff, including Meiko management who have flown over from Germany, will pay tribute to Mr Downie at the Honourable Artillery Company in Central London, where a celebratory lunch is being laid on.

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A lot has changed in the warewashing market during the three decades he has been with Meiko.

In an interview published in the March edition of FEJ, Mr Downie said that much of it was down to the simple fact that food trends and food habits have altered so dramatically.

“If you go back 10 or 12 years, when we worked with [consultant] Ken Winch on HSBC at Canary Wharf, we had a £700,000 order for dishwashing. It was a massive development. The whole thing was geared to do 7,500 people on site. I think they now have about 3,200 on site and lots of concessions in there. You are probably down to feeding about 1,200 to 1,500 a day in the central restaurant block, absolute maximum.”

The shift from big, cafeteria-style food set-ups in the B&I sector, as well as places such as motorway service stations, has seen demand for heavy automated systems with vertical tray-lifting towers replaced by a need for smaller, faster dishwashing systems.

“The machinery has changed, there is no doubt about it,” he said.

Appetite for energy-saving systems has rocketed too as customers have sought to cut down the running costs of their clean-up areas.

Downie has always been frustrated by the lack of transparency and uniformity around the figures that manufacturers quote, but says operators simply need to know one thing: “At the end of the day, if you want to have a machine that is efficient and reduces energy, chemicals, water and all that kind of stuff, you have to accept that you will need to invest in it and load it at the front end with capital investment.”

The problem, he says, is that specifications routinely get ‘value engineered’ on projects and cheaper machines are substituted in which won’t attain the same results.

The March issue of FEJ will be available as a digital edition later this week.

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