Lincat boss Chris Jones believes there are signs the “sleeping giant is starting to awaken” as some of the UK’s largest restaurant brands bring more of their sites back online.
Only the healthcare sector and small parts of the education sector have operated in any meaningful capacity during the past two months, with the rest of the hospitality industry largely out of action.
That has led operators and suppliers to encounter the bleakest period in the market’s history.
But there are now signs that the hospitality industry – worth more than £130 billion a year to the UK economy prior to the crisis – is “breathing again”, according to Mr Jones, who is group managing director of Lincat, IMC and Britannia, as well as Middleby Commercial Foodservice.
Reflecting on the situation during this week’s episode of Market Talk, he said: “The industry went into shellshock a few months ago, as we all well know, and order run rate dropped off the cliff. However, that has been steadily increasing. And I would use the terminology that over the last 10 days it seems this sleeping giant is starting to awaken.
“Now, the reason I say that is if you’re a chain or a national account with several hundred or maybe a few thousand sites, it’s not a case of, ‘right, we can open our doors on July 1’, it’s a case of you have to start investing – you can’t just open a kitchen up from a prime cooking point of view, you actually have to visit that kitchen, there will be service companies involved and you need to recommission it.
“As they are going through this process, they are identifying products that need replacing because I’m under the opinion that a lot of these kitchens closed quickly – they just shut it down and ran out of the premises.
“So we are seeing an upturn in sales because they are starting to get ready for hopefully opening in the first week of July. We are seeing a steady increase, and certainly over the last 10 days at Lincat it has been very noticeable that our order intake is increasing.”
Mr Jones said that sister company Middleby Commercial Foodservice, which has a number of brands within its portfolio, including TurboChef, Houno and Pitco, had seen things pick up a little quicker due to its exposure to the fast food sector.
“Middleby UK, the division based in Wigan, is very focused on QSR, so most of the brands service the QSR market. They have continued to see growth through the pandemic because the likes of the larger chains, Deliveroo, delivery service, it is a growth area.”
Other catering equipment manufacturers are reporting similar trends.
Taylor UK, which supplies ovens and ice cream machines to QSR chains, said operators were contacting it about recommissioning equipment.
Marketing manager David Rees commented: “We are in close communications with the major chains and their franchisees. Alongside discussing recommissioning kitchen and front-of-house appliances, there’s also considerable interest in longer term ‘peace of mind’ service packages, which is an interesting development and may reflect changes in attitude in terms of how businesses will operate in the ‘new normal.’”
And yesterday, Foster Refrigerator confirmed it was making plans to step up its manufacturing activities again in response to the re-opening of fast food chains across the country.
Market and development director, Chris Playford, said: “We are pleased to see that the level of demand from the market is increasing, which is beginning to safely adapt to the changing situation. Household names such as Greggs, McDonald’s and KFC have all announced plans to begin a phased reopening programme through May and June for their takeaway services, in line with the necessary social distancing requirements.”
Chris Jones was speaking during the latest episode of Market Talk, a weekly video series from FEJ and Catering Insight that delves deeper into the week’s news and developments.
View the full episode, which also features Regency Purchasing Group’s Alex Demetriou, HERE.