British catering equipment firms Lincat and Synergy Grill have put pen to paper on a unique licensing deal described as one of the most “dramatic partnerships” the industry has ever seen, FEJ can exclusively reveal.
Under the terms of the agreement, Synergy’s multi-patented grill technology will be available for purchase through the Lincat channel for operators requiring a fully modular high-end chargrill solution.
The alliance will come as a surprise to those who had viewed Lincat and Synergy as arch rivals up to now. By joining forces, the pair hope to create new sales opportunities within the UK market.
The move is highly significant for Lincat as it gives the company access to a patented gas burner system, which achieves incredibly hot temperatures that atomise fat and eliminate the need for a fat tray. By incorporating gas and air in addition to using heat-capturing ceramic technology, Synergy Grills claim to use nearly 60% less gas than conventional grills.
For Synergy, meanwhile, the deal provides it with access to Lincat’s vast dealer and operator base. And just as importantly, it finally means its grill can now be ‘suited’ with other cooking products, potentially opening the door to more project sales where customers desire a full kitchen solution from one brand.
Lincat will integrate two versions of the grill into its Opus 800 series, with both available in single and double formats.
As the image below shows, the Synergy Grill technology will essentially be dropped into a Lincat chassis, with the product bearing the logos of both companies. It is thought that operators will be able to get their hands on the product from the end of February.
Chris Jones, managing director of Lincat, told FEJ that Synergy’s technology will expose it to new market opportunities.
“I believe the technology is so advanced that with our structure and support, and our market penetration, we can grow our business and naturally they will grow their business on the back of that as well. Our customers will now be able to benefit from this patented grill technology as well. We will naturally still continue to sell Lincat chargrills, but this takes us into new market sectors really and we see it being a lot more national accounts-focused.”
Mr Jones said the partnership would make Lincat more competitive in the grill space without cannibalising existing sales.
“I would say that in nine out of 10 trials that we go to with large operators, we would go against them or they would go against us. This is a natural fit for Lincat and because Synergy is a UK-based manufacturer as well I think we can have a strong working relationship together.”
Mr Jones said Lincat currently sells “hundreds and hundreds of grill units a year” and insisted that demand for grill technology is still “huge”, particularly in the brewery sector where it remains the platform of choice for core pub menu items such as burgers, steaks and chicken. “The first thing they look for is chargrills,” he said.
FEJ understands that Synergy Grill was approached by another cooking manufacturer for the use of its technology, but awarded the UK exclusivity to Lincat having been impressed by the positive management philosophy of the Lincat team and their hunger to agree a mutual partnership as soon as possible.
Justin Cadbury, founder and chairman of Synergy Grill, said: “This is the biggest seismic change in the industry for those people who really understand it — this is not just a product relationship get-together, this is an extraordinary recognition of the best of British technology. We are both product-driven British companies, but this is British technology showing the world there is a great future for us and relationships like this will accelerate it across the world, and that’s why we did it.”
While Synergy did once have a rebadging agreement with Burco many years ago when it was first launched, the partnership with Lincat provides a significant platform for growth and is the first time since then that Synergy has permitted its advanced grill technology to be used by another company in the UK.
Asked why such a major licensing arrangement hadn’t occurred sooner, Mr Cadbury said it was necessary for the company to prove its market traction — more than 1,000 restaurants now use it — and product reliability first.
“The very nature of cutting-edge technology is you have to sometimes take risks which other people, certainly very big corporations, might find too scary. When you are an entrepreneurial-driven company you will take the risks. And it is by taking the risks that you develop the better technology.”
Some market onlookers may wonder why Lincat simply didn’t acquire Synergy for its technology given that its own parent company Middleby Corporation is the most acquisitive player in the catering equipment industry, buying up companies at a rate of almost one every other month over the last year.
Mr Cadbury insisted discussions have only ever been about a technology licensing partnership.
“Fortunately I have got a significant shareholding and to be fair to Middleby they haven’t asked [about acquisition] and we certainly haven’t offered. We are not interested in that at this stage of our growth because we feel we need to roll this technology out further globally — particularly globally — and that is our key ambition: to drive our exports and take British technology across the world. We think this is the equivalent of taking propellers to jet engines. We have taken it from ordinary old-fashioned chargrills to a form of new Synergy technology.”
Operators will be able to get their first close-up look of the Lincat-branded grill with Synergy technology at this month’s Professional Kitchen Show, where the companies plan to jointly showcase the product.