It was said to me this month that the definition of product lifecycles means different things to different people. I think you only have to glance around the hugely diverse restaurant landscape in the UK to see that this is probably true.
Attitudes towards catering equipment procurement vary based on the segment that operators are in, their potential size and the organisational culture they seek to drive.
But all have one thing in common: if there is no perception or calculation of how long equipment will work for — and, indeed, what sort of running bills it will rack up over time — cost of ownership can quickly become far more expensive than it needs to be.
While most people would rightly base the overall cost of a piece of equipment on the period between cradle and grave, there are numerous intricacies that need to be considered to appreciate what the real figure might be.
The industry has long faced a CAPEX versus OPEX debate, much to the frustration of suppliers that have seen the decision-making for these two areas split between different departments. Then there are maintenance costs to consider.
Do you build these into the life expectancy of a piece of equipment or do you view them as an indicator of when the kit has reached the end of its useful life? Operators often seek to repair kit that has failed when a better understanding of lifecycles and replacement schedules might have negated this in the first place.
Then there is the energy efficiency and running costs argument. How much will equipment cost to operate over a given period of time and will the carbon-saving technologies promised actually provide a satisfactory return on investment? Plus, operators need to think about any end-of-life disposal or recycling costs that might be part of the equation.
For some, all that will matter is the capital price and the guarantee that they will get a good few years’ use out of it; for everybody else, catering equipment procurement is increasingly becoming a science.