When General Catering Solutions (GCS) opened the doors to a brand new 10,000 square foot headquarters in South Yorkshire last May, it represented more than just a routine office move to secure more space.
The relocation symbolised the beginning of a growth plan aimed squarely at ensuring the company is well-placed to meet the ever-changing needs of operators in the UK.
With margin pressure a recurring theme within the dealer channel, the dangers of becoming perceived as a ‘me-too’ supplier and falling into the trap of providing a product for a few pounds less than the next competitor were not lost on the company.
GCS has therefore spent the last six months making fundamental changes to its strategy and service proposition to ensure it stands out from the crowd, including a comprehensive review of the suppliers it works with. It has now pegged its business to a core group of supplier partners that match its ethos.
Amjad Alikhan, managing director of GCS, explains: “Our supplier selection in terms of key ‘partners’ is based on exactly that principle — partnership. We align ourselves to two key elements when partnering. Number one, is the product innovative? Can we offer a solution which isn’t currently being offered in the mainstream market and can we see a benefit to our customers — both existing and potential — to actually solve their problems?
“The other essential element is the commitment of the supply partner to work with us. Gone are the days of sitting and hoping for orders. The market needs to proactively create demand and, with the right partners, we are able to pool resources, ideas and gain key learnings from a sharing of business development strategies and goals. What we need to move forward in this challenging industry is an edge and this is one way we achieve it.”
The company has also brought in new personnel to assist the transition. Richard Goodchild, who has worked for several high-profile names, including Lockhart and KCCJ, is among those who has joined to add experience to the operation.
For Goodchild, the expansion of GCS’ unique logistics offering — which has always been a core part of the service offer but has now taken on more prominence — has complemented the renewed focus on key brands.
“With a tough market, there is less and less margin available on equipment and you have to look at how to problem-solve for your clients to add additional value. The warehousing and logistics side of our business gives us a very strong added value proposition,” he says.
GCS aims to offer every type of service to end-users, from removing, asset tagging and storing equipment to consolidating items for projects and maintaining equipment.
“We have actually managed the inventory for an entire roll-out programme for a key client, from the initial rip-out of equipment through to asset tagging, storage, full project management and then re-installation to other key areas within their estate. Space, time and cost are all major factors that our clients need support in and the logistics arm of the business helps in those key areas.”
Another area where GCS is endeavouring to innovate is financing. With end-users encountering bumpy conditions and business failure rates higher than ever within the market, the company is sensitive to the funding issues facing customers.
Alikhan insists its remit as a distributor is no longer confined to just offering the correct product, leading it to explore new ways to ensure equipment is accessible to clients.
We have partnered with a finance business which offers exclusive rates to pay for the equipment over a period of time. That is vital in order to lower the initial cost of purchase, which is so prohibited to buying quality, innovative equipment”
“We need to be looking at how the end-user can actually obtain that product or service in the most cost-effective way possible,” he says. “We have now partnered with a finance business which offers exclusive market-leading rates to pay for the equipment over a period of time. That is vital in order to lower the initial cost of purchase, which is so prohibited to buying quality, innovative equipment.”
It has also worked closely with suppliers to create several initiatives that provide customers with a lower monthly payment schedule but which still encompass servicing, chemicals and preventative maintenance.
“We call it the ‘Equipment for Life’ programme,” details Goodchild. “It means customers can gain the latest equipment without the need for large capex budgets and the equipment can be spread over a longer period of time.”
Due to the tax breaks available through the scheme, the cost of some equipment over a three-year period works out more favourably than an outright purchase, GCS claims.
“This still isn’t the norm for our industry, unlike cars or mobile phones in which outright purchase is barely used now,” says Alikhan. “But with budgets tightening and cash being more important than ever, we felt it is exactly the right time to offer premium equipment but with a solution which enables even the smallest of operators an opportunity to use the best products available.”
‘Evolution of Excellence’ strategy
GCS has implemented a marketing strategy called ‘Evolution of Excellence’, which focuses on anchoring its business to innovative supplier partners and making their technology accessible to every type of end-user. Commercial director, Richard Goodchild, picks out four brands at the heart of its approach.
“The best blast chiller in the market. We aim to take this superb product to the market and give it the coverage it requires. Its capabilities are far more than just blast chilling and we believe its multifaceted approach will prove a winner with the sector.”
“We are currently working with Winterhalter on an exclusive offer based on its Pay Per Wash financing model. This gives operators the opportunity to use the best equipment with no up-front costs by paying as they use it, creating more cash flow and lowering capex budgets for the business. The package is inclusive of all chemical usage and servicing requirements for the lifetime of the kit.”
“A market-leading food production kettle business based in Denmark, near Odense. Build quality is superb and coupled with a customer-centric approach to providing solutions, it makes them a perfect partner for us.”
“We are working with Unox as our prime cooking partner. It offers innovative products and a point of difference which isn’t matched in the market currently, as well as connectivity and multifunctional equipment that the industry is crying out for.”