Oil filtration supplier Vito continues to go from strength to strength in the UK, but 2016 could turn out be the biggest year yet for the business following a series of investments it has made to support customers. FEJ caught up with sales director Kim Devlin to discover what lies nehind the new strategy.
What would you say are Vito’s core objectives for 2016?
Continuing to promote our brand through trade shows and our website. We have spent a lot of time redeveloping our website and adding an online shop to enable customers to buy online. One of the key points of gaining customers’ confidence in buying online is after-sales service. We have developed a comprehensive training/user DVD, which is included in each machine sale. We also have a telesales team who are available 24/7 to help out with any questions.
What lessons have you learned from the past 12 months that you are now applying to the business?
We have, for many years, tried to set up a dealer network throughout the UK but have realised that we are better at selling direct to end-users. Our product is unique and requires a knowledge of oils, frying mediums and expertise, and a kitchen demonstration has been necessary to demonstrate the benefits of the equipment. We are working closely with our HO in Germany to enhance our knowledge even further and, in particular, to continue to use 100% biodegradable filters that give the best filtration. It would be easy to go different routes to achieve the same result but we are fully committed to our green credentials.
Most foodservice operators all still fry food of some kind – which types of operators are really embracing the benefits of oil filtration?
The fish and chip industry is huge. We already have a lot of fish and chip shop customers, both mobile and restaurant. They love the portability of our machine even if they have built-in filtration systems, as it is so quick and easy to use, but most importantly to them it removes the carbon that other systems cannot. Also, more and more of our chain businesses are looking for the benefits and are more focused on sustainability and green credentials – the money savings are a very nice bi-product. We are involved with the SRA and have been awarded our green supplier status for 2016.
Despite the benefits in terms of healthiness, cost and quality, there are operators out there that aren’t paying attention to oil filtration. What’s the biggest barrier stopping them from doing this?
The initial outlay or investment is a big factor but what customers need to be aware of is that providing the machine is used in accordance with our training they will see a very quick return on their investment and, of course, a better tasting product which has been cooked in fresh, clean healthy oil. We also offer cost-effective leasing to cope with the initial outlay.
You’ve just added an e-commerce element to your website. How significant is this?
Yes, this is a big step in responding to our customers’ requests, as we know in our industry it is far from a 9-5 day job – this will allow customers to order extra filter papers at any time of the day at a special online price, to send us a request for us to respond to, or simply to click on a training video. Online sales are increasing dramatically for all types of business. I for one admit that most of my purchases are made online. There really isn’t anything you buy today that hasn’t got instructions, videos on its website to help you and, if in doubt, go to Youtube.
Most of our enquiries come from chefs, operations managers, owners who have done their research on the product first so they have a good understanding of what the product is about”
How confident are you that operators will buy online directly – especially if they haven’t seen the product in action first?
By continuing to build the brand, more and more people will know the product. Testimonials and case studies are key to this. We are regularly getting calls from catering consultants who have had our machines specified.
You’ve invested heavily in video demonstrations. Tell us about this and what it offers?
We have spent a lot of time making our video, which thoroughly explains how the Vito works and how you can operate it confidently. It covers health and safety and risk assessment and lets the customer know that we are only at the end of the phone if they have any questions. The video can be viewed online, downloaded or is available as a CD. We are following in the line of big-name manufacturers who have been doing this for years.
Chefs and operators are notoriously time-strapped. Will they really find time to watch video demos? Can they use the product without viewing a demo?
Most of our enquiries come from chefs, operations managers and owners who have done their research on the product first so they have a good understanding of what the product is about. Chefs in particular have normally come across Vito in a previous job or know another chef who has one.
We need to push on into the pub sector, not necessarily the larger brewery companies but the smaller ones with, say, six to 12 sites, and grow as they grow. Also, the hotel sector is a huge market and although Vito is firmly established in a number of well-known brands, again we are looking to target the smaller chains and grow with them. Another important area for us in telesales is customer service. We pride ourselves on our thorough product training and after-sales service.
What market sectors will you target this year – you mentioned that fish and chip shops have become an important segment?
We have a number of satisfied customers in the fish and chip industry and this year we are pushing to expand our sales here; our product is far superior to anything else in this industry. We are working closely with the National Federation of Fish Fryers (NFFF) and have a machine in their training academy, which is demonstrated to all students who come through the academy and also to experienced owners who are looking to update their service and offerings to end-users. Vito works exceptionally well in fish and chip shops due to its portability. The choice of filtration systems has always been very limited. Traditional bulky oil filtering machines that suck oil out of fryers and pump back into the chip pan can only be used at the end of the day due to time required to operate it, the size of the machine and actual cleaning of it.