The first thing I did when I heard that Middleby Corporation was buying one of the largest kitchen dealers in the US last month was check to see how the news had been reported in its homeland.
I can’t say I was surprised when I saw that the country’s most renowned industry trade publication had described it as a move that would “send shockwaves through the industry”.
Middleby is one of the most prolific consolidators in the industry but a manufacturer buying a dealer is still an unusual occurrence. This, though, is exactly where global foodservice operators come into the picture.
Multi-site operators, which companies like Middleby heavily depend on for volume, are increasingly demanding a more integrated supply chain. Some want their logistical, engineering and services to come from the same people that are providing their infrastructure, and they are willing to cut loose and go elsewhere if they can’t get that from their incumbent supplier.
The acquisition that Middleby has made might be interpreted as a move that places it into direct competition with the core services that some of its US partners provide, such as kitchen fabrication for instance, but you can’t deny that it will allow the firm to be able to offer integrated equipment solutions with its existing portfolio of brands and products.
The net result of this is that it can expand the services that global restaurant chain customers are calling out for on a gargantuan, but ultimately streamlined, scale.
The issue of who ‘owns’ the customer has always been a bone of contention for dealers and suppliers, but at the highest global level it’s the operator that now holds all the cards when it comes to deciding who provides the services they are prepared to pay for.
And as long as that remains the case, big end-users will continue to drive supply chain consolidation.