Q&A: Ascentia director Neil Mantle on providing kit for top operators

Ascentia development kitchen 1

Ascentia Foodservice Equipment offers a collection of strong catering equipment brands that will either stand by themselves when deployed in an existing specification or satisfy a complete cooking template. Casual dining chains such as Zizzi and ASK Italian are among the brands convinced by its kit, as FEJ found out when it headed to the company’s development kitchen in Cambridgeshire to meet company director, Neil Mantle.

Where do you see Ascentia fitting into the foodservice market?
I think our initial success has been in the casual dining market place, but we also now work within hotels, public house groups and, as we have developed relationships, we have started supplying into other sectors.

Neil Mantle, director

Neil Mantle, director of Ascentia.

With the exception of warewashing, you can offer a full kitchen set-up with your current portfolio. Do operators care about this or do you think they prefer to work with you on a standalone product basis?
I think they want the option of both; it depends on if it is a new-build and they need that requirement. I think they sometimes quite like the peace of mind that it is all under one roof and that the customer care team will handle everything. Others, however, just want an individual item to replace an existing set-up, so they might be taking out a gas four-burner and want to put a four-zone induction unit in.

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Beyond the question of product reliability, what other pressing concerns do operators have when specifying equipment they haven’t used before?
Their main concerns would be whether it is going to work in my environment and is it tested in the market place. One of the benefits from our perspective is that our equipment is not new in terms of being unproven, either in this market place or in the country it originates from — Italy or Spain, for example. We can provide many case studies showing the successes of Mibrasa, for example, all over Europe and now America, which will offer peace of mind. And, as we’ve developed and the product has been specified here, we can now provide those reference sites around the UK. That means people know it is there or they might look it up online. And quite often people will go and have dinner in that restaurant, see the chefs using it, and perhaps have a quick sneaky ask at the end to find out if they like working with the product and whether there are any shortcomings. I would probably say that’s the biggest thing — just instilling confidence in the ability of the product to work for them.

Spare parts availability is an issue for many operators. Where do you stand on that?
We have got a core stock of products here, and spare parts. We would aim to supply to site within 24 hours from a stock point of view and generally we will do that by courier so that it will meet the engineer at site for the next day. We try and supply a core stock of products for van stock for the engineers, so that they have the most commonly needed parts available for repairs. If it is not available in the UK then we can get it quickly from mainland Europe if required.

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Ascentia’s showroom.

In terms of your product portfolio, you have got seven brands now. Are you actively looking to add more to that or do you feel sufficiently covered?
We are not looking to add to the portfolio at this moment in time. We want to consolidate and develop the brands and our relationships in the UK now. I think we have got enough brands for us to be competent with. We don’t want to become a ‘Jack-of-all-trades, master of none’ — we want to make sure we fully understand each product and we can support it in the UK.

How important is your development kitchen to your offering?
It’s a huge asset. If somebody has a question or a query or wants to bring a particular customer in, then we have got the facilities to be able to do that, and we will do that both for an independent and for a group. We recently hosted a farm shop with a couple of sites up the road that turns out a large volume of product, such as pies and sausage rolls, for their deli. They wanted to see the Piron ovens in operation to make sure that it would do the volumes and the consistency. We also recently hosted a bakery-led restaurant chain and put in tray after tray of croissant and baguette to make sure they were going to get that consistent cook every time, and as a result of which we were fortunate to gain specification for the brand.

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