It can be easy to overlook the pace at which the foodservice equipment industry evolves and the extent to which product innovation enhances the market place.
Every year millions of pounds of investment is ploughed into R&D by suppliers across the world to create equipment that is noticeably better than the last. Whether it’s faster, stronger, greener, smaller or more efficient, every manufacturer strives towards making sure their latest generation of kitchen technology is a step-up on what went before it.
Whether they succeed is a different matter entirely, but from a neutral’s perspective few could argue with the view that the sophistication of kit available today is allowing operators to achieve results that simply wouldn’t have been fathomable three, five or 10 years ago.
I was speaking to a buyer at a major food-to-go chain recently who agreed there is no short of innovation in the equipment industry and that his team constantly sees products that could add value to their business. But, as he also pointed out, innovation means nothing if the product isn’t sufficiently supported.
“Maintenance support is often the biggest issue,” he admitted. “You will come across a piece of equipment that looks absolutely right for the business but then it lets us down on the maintenance side. That is a real challenge for us.”
It is a valid and completely relevant point in today’s fast-moving market, even more so when you are multi-site business. His chain encompasses hundreds of stores, all around the country, so it’s no good rolling out a product on that scale if doubts linger over post-sales service.
Expectations of suppliers are already sky-high in this business, but maintenance support is an area where nobody can be found wanting these days. Buyers have long memories. One bad experience can taint the perception of a brand, and once that has happened the damage is hard to undo. No matter how innovative the equipment.