A multimillion pound investment in state-of-the-art warehousing and product development facilities is set to herald a new period of strategic growth for Middleby UK. FEJ editor Andrew Seymour headed to the North West to visit the site and find out more.
As the UK branch of one of the top three largest catering equipment conglomerates in the world, the Middleby Group has finally got a headquarters of which it can be proud. By its own admission, the company’s previous HQ had run its course and lacked the kind of facilities to readily attract users to test drive or view the plethora of branded equipment it offers.
But its new base, midway between Warrington and Wigan, and a stone’s throw from the M6, catapults the business into an entirely different league. Staff relocated to the 50,000 square foot site earlier this year, but it has only been in the past eight weeks that the kitchen development facilities have gone live and operators have been invited to make use of the resources on offer.
The scale of the new facility has afforded Middleby the luxury of being able to develop a showroom and demonstration kitchen that are among the largest and most brand-rich in the industry. They are also befitting of a burgeoning customer base that benefits from using its products, including national chains such as Whitbread, Morrison’s, KFC, Papa John’s, Burger King and Five Guys, as well as a raft of educational and marine catering clients. Middleby owns more than 30 foodservice equipment brands and all of those that are available to the UK market (some are not sold in the UK as they are not CE approved) are represented at the site in one form or another.
Buyers can be cooking chickens on the latest Houno combi ovens one minute and creating innovative food-to-go concepts on TurboChef accelerated cooking units the next. Even equipment from UK sister companies IMC, Britannia and Lincat can be found at the site, while Middleby’s acquisitive strength is evident through the presence of equipment such as Desmon refrigeration.
The heritage of Middleby’s UK business might lie with its Frialator commercial fryer business, but as sales director Kenny Smith notes, the proposition today boasts far more breadth. “I think what we are now able to do is show what Middleby Corporation is all about,” he tells FEJ as he leads us on a tour of the facility. “The key to our showroom is being able to demonstrate all our products to not only the distributor but the end-user. It is for our customers to be able to specify product and ensure that the product they are buying is correct for them.”
I think what we are now able to do is show what Middleby Corporation is all about”
With such a vast array of equipment to trial and test, Middleby UK’s managing director, Adrian Wood, says the facilities offer customers enhanced support, whether they are involved in complex turnkey projects or individual sales. “We also have three meeting rooms, including the boardroom, all with AV facilities, allowing other companies to hold meetings and small conferences. All the visitors we have had to date have been visibly overwhelmed by what they have seen.”
On the day that FEJ visits, a pizza equipment specialist is there to assess some of the pizza machines that Middleby offers and is working with a member of the sales team to put the kit through its paces. It is a drill that the company is getting used to. “The showroom allows customers to come along with their products, try them out and see the results,” says Smith. “At our open days, we had end-users working on equipment like the ‘Fire’ [artisan pizza oven], rolling out their own dough and making their own product. We have had various customers doing the same with our conveyor ovens, Houno ovens and with the TurboChef.”
Middleby UK’s ability to hold stock and sell a greater variety of the group’s brands has also increased as a result of the relocation. It now has double the amount of floor space available to it compared with before, while at 11 metres the new building is over twice the height of its former HQ, making its overall capacity six times larger in total.
There were days at our old place when we had three different clients in one day; our new kitchen means we could easily have four different demonstrations being done at the same time”
The UK business is now seeking to expand its workforce by hiring national and key account managers, as well as a consultant-focused sales executive. And with its parent company continuing to make acquisitions, it can watch proceedings safe in the knowledge that any new additions to the portfolio can be comfortably accommodated in the UK.
There is certainly no looking back, admits Wood. “Year-on-year we look for growth in all sectors and MUK has achieved this since 2009. Our old building, modest that it was, did us proud but we had outgrown the place. There were days when we had three different clients in one day; our new kitchen means we could easily have four different demonstrations being done at the same time.
“Also, we believe it is important that the end-user buys the correct equipment and gets value for money. We can accommodate anyone to come and use and evaluate equipment before they buy.”
The move to new UK headquarters this year has allowed Middleby to consolidate its full repertoire of domestic and commercial businesses under one roof.
Adrian Wood, managing director of Middleby UK, explains: “Middleby Corp has three divisions: Food Service, Food Processing and Residential.The relocation allowed Spooner Vickers, a food processing company, to fully relocate with MUK, as well as Peak Drinks Dispensers, formally based in Chesterfield and part of Wunderbar. Our Viking and U-Line residential brands are based at our new facility at Wigan, and incorporated into the new showroom, is a purpose-built residential area, while Turbo Chef has also now moved its base to Middleby UK.”