Tributes have been paid to one of the catering equipment industry’s most iconic figures, Ali Group founder Luciano Berti, who died this week.
Mr Berti passed away peacefully on Monday from natural causes, just eight days’ shy of his 90th birthday.
Regarded as a true legend of the industry, Mr Berti’s relationship with the catering equipment sector started in 1962, when he made an investment in a small Milanese automated warewashing company.
Soon thereafter went out on his own and founded ALI Comenda – the first step toward making the Ali Group a leader in the foodservice equipment industry.
With the initial help of his wife Giancarla, he subsequently spent the next 40-plus years building the Ali Group into the multinational foodservice force it is today.
It currently comprises 79 different brands, employs 10,000 employees in 30 countries and boasts revenues in excess of £2 billion a year.
Throughout his entire life, the Ali Group remained Berti’s deepest passion. In the early days he would work six days a week in the business and was known for personally selling his dishwashers himself when he went away on trips.
He would still take an active involvement in the business even after stepping down as CEO and remained honorary chairman up until his death.
Although Ali Group stands as one of the most acquisitive European catering equipment firms there has ever been, Mr Berti famously believed in extending autonomy to businesses he acquired.
Brands that belong to the group include Ambach, Carpigiani, Falcon, Lainox, Scotsman and Williams.
Looking back at the formative period of his life, Mr Berti was the proud recipient of a Stanford University Fulbright Scholarship in 1955, where he went on to achieve his bachelor’s degree in Sociology.
“My degree in Sociology was due to intellectual interest,” he once said. “I still have that intellectual curiosity in people.”
After his time at Stanford, he returned to Italy, earning his doctorate in political science at the University of Turin and spending a brief period as a professor of sociology at the post-graduate school of IRI before taking his first steps into the catering equipment sector.
His son Filippo, who is chairman and CEO of Ali Group, said: “Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know Luciano have lost a dear friend, a charismatic leader and a true titan of the foodservice industry, often described by his peers as a visionary.”
In a statement this week, Ali Group said Mr Berti’s greatest love was for his wife, Giancarla, who passed away in 2019, after celebrating 52 years of marriage.
More than anything, the couple loved having their family together to celebrate special occasions. Their six grandchildren were a particular source of pride and joy for them.
Mr Berti stood alongside his wife in their many charitable and philanthropic activities, but most notably he was very fond of the scholarships he sponsored as he strongly believed in education as a foundation for success.
The pair were deeply involved with organisations supporting the arts and sciences through their founding of the Fondazione Berti in Italy and the Berti Foundation in the United States.
A special point of pride for Luciano was the educational assistance given to children of Ali Group employees through the Berti Foundation Scholarship Program in the U.S., in addition to the AFS Intercultural Program offered to Ali Group employees in Italy, and the scholarships offered through the Accademia della Scala to send young Italian musicians to the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado.
In his leisure time, Mr Berti enjoyed sailing, swimming, hiking, reading non-fiction books and spending vacations with his family.