French manufacturer Charvet’s high-end cooking equipment has often eluded the budgets of chain buyers in the UK. But the design and production of a brand new line of modular ranges is threatening to change all that. FEJ reports.
Gallic cooking equipment manufacturer Charvet has just clocked up its 80th year in business and during that time it has constructed suites for some of the world’s most iconic restaurants and culinary institutions.
Its detailed and handcrafted approach to oven manufacture — its bespoke suites are known to last more than 20 years — has endeared itself to many a customer looking for the ultimate in durability and quality. But while Charvet’s factory has never found itself short of orders, it’s fair to say that the premium price attached to the sort of equipment it produces has made the brand inaccessible to large swathes of the market.
The other emerging issue, explains Charvet’s CEO, Pierre-Alain Augagneur, is that operators are now changing restaurant concepts more frequently than ever before, so even if a customer does appreciate the long-term ROI that a Charvet suite promises, it may simply not suit their business model.
“I think we have seen a market trend for reduced prices and there is an expectation for heavy duty products on which customers can have a quicker return on investment,” says Augagneur. “Customer usage is changing now and a lot of restaurants don’t expect to retain the same concept for years and years as they might have done in the past. Some restaurants change their concept every five or seven years, that’s certainly the case in France and it is probably the case in the UK too. If the owners change or the concept changes, generally speaking the ranges also change.”
Charvet’s response to this has been to launch the One series, a new budget-led, base entry range that Augagneur insists will offer customers of all sizes the opportunity to have access to heavy duty ranges at a “more accessible price”.
Charvet One is at least 20% cheaper than its 700 series, which is currently considered the most price-accessible line the manufacturer offers. And from an installation point of view, it is about 60% faster for the installer to put together at site. Wayne Cuomo, boss of Charvet UK, says the build quality and durability for which its suites are known is still evident in the One range, however it has been able to strip out design features that aren’t wholly central to the cooking experience to drive down the cost.
“We realise that we needed to produce a product which could go into the high street restaurants, where perhaps we hadn’t been before. In fact, as Pierre-Alain alluded to, because a lot of those popular restaurant concepts are only fairly short-term and they turn it around every so many years, we were precluded because they didn’t want to spend the money for a 20-year range. We have now got a product which should get us into what I would call the brewery-owned restaurant chains.”
Each appliance within the range features separate side panels and adjoining connecting strips so that it doesn’t have to be assembled to a pre-designed drawing in the factory. Additionally, it doesn’t have the three- to six-week lead times associated with bespoke suites. “This kit, for the first time in Charvet history, will be made to put in the warehouse and sold from stock,” says Cuomo.
High-end kit without the extras
The One series is Charvet’s most affordable range to date, but production is still based around its main assembly principle of a welded chassis, says UK MD Wayne Cuomo.
“Where there is a saving with the new development and design is in terms of the final assembly area. With the bespoke ranges, the equipment has to go through to a final, central area where there are four or five production staff, but with the Charvet One you can cut that out because once the product has been made in the bays it is boxed, marked up and held ready for order.”
Some of the “bells and whistles” have also been removed to save costs, such as coloured enamel panels in favour of stainless steel. But Cuomo stresses: “We have not moved down to medium duty level kit. This is still high performance kit that will last for a long time.”