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INDUSTRY INTERVIEW: A Charvet for all seasons

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Don’t be surprised to see Charvet’s distinctive Porsche-like shield peeking out from the kitchens of gastropubs and casual dining restaurants these days. The rapid expansion of the cooking equipment manufacturer’s portfolio makes it a viable option for all sorts of operators and applications, as FEJ discovers…

There is a pretty good chance that any chef or operator with knowledge of Charvet will reference the heavy duty build of its suites if pressed to name something identifiable about the cooking equipment manufacturer.

Having produced cooking equipment from its factory at the foot of the beautiful Chartreuse mountains in south-eastern France for more than a century, the brand’s products have become the go-to solutions for many of the world’s leading culinary institutions over the years.

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Its ranges are synonymous with kitchens operated by top hotels and restaurants, and feature heavily in the training kitchens of prestigious culinary schools, where today’s apprentices are honing the skills they hope will make them the industry stars of tomorrow.

But despite these enviable associations, don’t be fooled into thinking that Charvet’s equipment is off limits to more mainstream parts of the market. Quite the opposite, in fact. At Charvet Premier Ranges, the company’s exclusive UK agent, there is currently a huge push to expand the type of users that would benefit from its products, particularly those operating multiple sites.

For business development director Ben Aird, the perception that its products are inaccessible to the average operator is a misnomer. The truth, he says, is that the company’s net is cast wider than ever.

“We’ve always had a foot in the door with multi-site operators as it were, but the reality now is that we want to knock that door down and take some of our amazing product range that solves issues for chefs and operators into the wider market place,” he explains.

A high street casual dining restaurant might be a completely different concept to a boutique hotel kitchen, but fundamentally what they are looking for is largely the same, suggests Aird.

“The needs of a modern professional kitchen are never really going to change. Every operator wants hard-working equipment, adaptable equipment, with a level of versatility, and they want their prime cooking platform to work as hard as the chefs that use them. We’ve got those product lines out there.

“Chefs want consistency in the product that goes out to their customers. If you’ve got a consistent product, you then get a returning customer base. And you’ve then got the peace of mind that you can go into your kitchen, fire up your equipment every day, and it works as good on day one as it does 15 or 20 years down the line.”

With the best part of 1,500 products spread across its portfolio of eight separate ranges, Charvet can offer a solution for pretty much every kitchen setting. Its bespoke manufacturing capabilities are perhaps what it is best known for historically, but a concerted effort to significantly expand its modular offer lies at the heart of a UK strategy to provide real value to multi-site operators.

“We’ve got the PRO1000 that can work in CPU environments, delivering high volumes of prepared sauces, stocks and bulk cooking wet dishes and things like that, but then we’ve also got the PRO700, PRO800 and PRO900 that will form the frontline of an operator’s business. It can just sit there day in, day out, doing hundreds of covers a day, thousands of covers a week, tens of thousands of covers a year, and not miss a beat.”

Charvet suites are renowned for their heavy duty build, but Aird is well aware that the significance of this point needs constant emphasis if customers are to truly understand where the value of any investment actually resides.

If you’ve got a consistent product, you then get a returning customer base”

“Every manufacturer has their version of heavy duty but there are not many, if any, that hit our kind of build standards and our build quality,” he insists. “It kind of comes down to a mini statement, which is that we build to a spec not to a price. All product lines share common components, so the burners that are used in the bespoke suites are used in the PRO series of equipment.”

While this might be the case, there is another challenge to consider: if customers are led to believe that they are getting a superior product then they will almost certainly expect it to come with a higher price tag.

Aird doesn’t dispute this but claims the gulf isn’t as big as some might perceive it to be — certainly not with its modular ranges — and especially when you consider whole lifecycle costs.

“Ultimately, when you put [our ranges] up against some of the templates that we’ve been working on with some of the multi-site operators and the chains then the difference in price isn’t as astronomically high as people would think. In some cases you’re talking £1,500 more against a comparable suite.

“There was a well-known beer manufacturer that used to use the slogan ‘reassuringly expensive’ and we could probably use that mantra in a way because when you buy Charvet you get that peace of mind that it is a truly heavy duty build.

“We use 304 stainless steel across the entire range, from the chassis to the worktops to the side panels. We’ve done comparisons with some other brands and on weight alone you can be talking up to 50kg more. That tells you it’s heavy duty, but that doesn’t mean it costs thousands and thousands of pounds more.

“A lot of it is about educating the market and understanding customers’ cooking platforms. For example, we’ve got an operator at the moment that is looking at a plancha. The one they’re currently using goes up to 200°C and I think it tops out at 300°C, whereas ours tops out at about 450°C so it’s more efficient, higher powered and has the build quality.”

Every operator wants their cooking platform to work as hard as the chefs that use them”

While Aird acknowledges that Charvet won’t be the right fit for everybody — no brand is, of course — it is increasingly working with operators that wouldn’t necessarily have entertained the idea in the past. This includes breweries and food-led pub operators such as Fuller’s through to operators with premium casual dining offers such as Gordon Ramsay Restaurants. The likes of Hilton and Harbour Hotels have also turned to it to fulfil different F&B briefs.

“Good chefs deserve strong equipment and a nice working environment. Our job is to listen to them and give them the products that they want and need. From the conversations we have had, we already know that we have templates which can fit small, medium and large operations within those groups. If we can take the feedback on board and design products for the environments they work in then we will expand the number of operators that we work with in the future.”

Indeed, Charvet’s new larger, more powerful griddle was developed with breweries in mind, while its PCF multizone plancha provides an electric alternative to the traditional gas solid top as operators pay closer attention to energy costs.

The expansion of the PRO1000 line, meanwhile, to include products such as 200-litre boiling kettles and 260-litre bratt pans in particular, reflects the immediate needs of operators with larger CPU and satellite kitchen facilities.

Moving towards more generic designs and templates for multisite operators poses a different challenge to the ones that Charvet would have faced in the past, but it can tackle it with considerable competence due to its extensive experience.

“The market deserves a product range that has the heritage of a brand like Charvet. The durability, versatility, great ROI and reduced service costs allow us to work with operators in all sectors of the market place,” concludes Aird.

An emphasis on build quality

Charvet’s business model has always been shaped around the design and build of its cooking suites. Here are the features that contribute to that:

• All PRO range worktops are 3mm thick

• AISI 304 grade stainless steel throughout

• Chrome coated aluminium alloys for all controls

• Heavy duty cast iron developed for use at high temperatures

• Each cooking module is built on a single supporting chassis, welded throughout for longevity

• Full and half modules available

Tags : Charvetcooking suites
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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