THE CHASING PACK…

The threshold for inclusion on this year’s list was £18.23m in turnover, but there were a handful of companies not too far behind.

HTG Trading, which was number nine on the list last year, recorded a turnover of £17.99m in 2017, a rise of 3% on the previous 12 months.

With the dramatic fall in sterling causing a sharp rise in costs within the catering equipment sector, bosses at the Suffolk-based supplier conceded that the business had struggled to recover the full cost impact of equipment and parts increases on items imported into the UK.

The Scotsman and Taylor distributor estimates that adverse currency movements added some 14% to overall raw material costs in 2017, underscoring the severity of the challenge it faced. This added burden led operating profit at the company to slip from £1.7m to £909,000 during the year.

Elsewhere, British warewashing brand Classeq posted a 9% increase in turnover to £16.73m last year, with directors of the firm, which is part of the Winterhalter Group, deeming the performance to be “good” given market conditions.

Although the company managed to increase its top line in the same year that it moved into a new state-of-the-art factory in Stafford, profits were squeezed. Operating profit reached £1.8m versus £2.4m in the corresponding period the year before.

Meanwhile, on the cooking equipment side of the market, Blue Seal grew its turnover by 10% to £16.33m for the year to 31 August 2017, as the company expanded the range of customers adopting its Blue Seal, Turbofan and Waldorf branded equipment.

A tight control on margins and increased market penetration led to operating profit climbing 22% to £2.37m.

Catering equipment job creation

Despite the challenges facing the industry last year and a general squeeze on operating profits, the top 10 catering equipment suppliers collectively employed almost exactly the same number of staff as the year before.

In 2017, they were accountable for 4,614 employees, compared with 4,610 previously.

Lincat emerged as the manufacturer which grew its headcount the most last year, adding 17 extra heads to its wage bill in 2017.

The most productive in terms of revenue generated per head, meanwhile, was Rational. For every member of staff that Rational employed in the UK, it made £892,000 in sales.

In terms of profitability, Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM) and Welbilt deserved the plaudits.

FEM made operating profits of £92,000 per employee last year, while Welbilt earned £60,000 per employee.

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