Italian-based catering equipment companies are displaying their resilience in the face of coronavirus following the government’s decision to place the country on lockdown.
On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered people to stay home and seek permission for essential travel.
Emergency coronavirus measures, which include travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings, have been extended to the entire country after originally being imposed on the worst-affected areas in northern Italy.
The impact has naturally been felt by Italy’s burgeoning catering equipment sector, which is the third largest in terms of export sales globally at €3.5 billion (£3 billion) a year.
With workers being ordered to stay away from offices and factories striving to maintain productivity, the situation could become a damage limitation exercise for many organisations.
This week, Italian catering equipment brands have been contacting distribution partners and customers to reassure them that they are doing everything possible to keep business moving.
Milan-based Ali Group is famously the largest and most diverse catering equipment conglomerate in Italy and a significant number of its 38 European factories are based in the country.
Current lockdown restrictions still allow the population to go to work and factories are permitted to ship and deliver goods as usual.
Ali Group has so far refrained from issuing any official corporate statements on the way it is dealing with the crisis, but sources linked to the company said office staff had been permitted to work remotely since the end of last month and tools such as video conferencing were being used to maintain communication with overseas employees that would ordinarily travel to Italy.
The company’s flagship warewashing brand Comenda is based in Lombardy, which is one of the regions originally hit hardest by the outbreak.
Comenda yesterday said it was “facing the current critical situation with fierce determination”.
The company stated: “We are following the instructions of the relevant authorities and have introduced all the measures indicated by the Ministry of Health. We confirm that Comenda business functions are 100% operational.”
The company said that spare parts supply and logistics is “guaranteed as usual”, while its best-selling machines remain “ready for prompt collection”.
Scotsman, the ice machine maker, also said yesterday that all its staff are safe and well and that production at its Italian factory is unaffected.
The working environment in the Scotsman factory is safe due to its very strict sanitation procedures. In addition, all finished products are disinfected before being despatched.
“Scotsman has worked very hard to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 virus on its customers around the world,” said David Rees, marketing manager of Hubbard Systems, which markets the Scotsman range in the UK.
“Their commitment means we can assure our UK partners and customers not only that there is a ready stock of Scotsman products available, but also that we will continue to be able to supply machines and spares as we move into the busy summer months.”
Elsewhere, warewashing manufacturer Krupps pushed a note out to partners reassuring it that the company is following all the instructions outlined by the Italian Ministry of Health, ensuring a healthy and highly hygienic working place for its staff.
“With our usual commitment and thanks to the collaboration of everyone, we assure you that we are fully operational, ensuring regularity of production, shipping, technical service and commercial assistance,” stated export managing director Riccardo Scuotto.
Meanwhile, industry design software firm Specifi, which has its European base in Veneto, confirmed that it is “open for business and operating normally” despite the outbreak.
“Our team is safe, healthy and working remotely from their homes in line with the company’s emergency plan, so no interruption in service is being experienced or anticipated,” confirmed CEO Bob Wolters in an email to partners.
Dozens of UK catering equipment professionals shuttle between the UK and Italy every month for business, but it is likely to be a number of weeks before normality resumes.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel to Italy in line with various controls and restrictions imposed by the Italian authorities this week, while a number of major airlines, including British Airways and Ryanair have cancelled flights to and from Italy.
Childcare facilities, schools and universities are closed until 3 April. Restaurants and bars remain open with restricted hours and reduced seating.