Unified Rational out to take a bigger bite of contract catering market

Rational expects to make deeper inroads into the contract catering sector now that its combi oven and multifunctional cooking system business are going to market as a unified brand, its UK managing director has said.

Rational has been seeking a more joined-up approach since the end of 2016 when it integrated the sales activities of what was then its Frima business into its own.

And last year it dropped the Frima name entirely and rebadged the brand’s flagship VarioCookingCenter with the Rational moniker.

Last week at the Professional Kitchen Show it launched a marketing offensive geared towards demonstrating the power, speed and precision of the equipment.

“We are still educating end-users to the benefits of the VarioCookingCenter,” explained UK boss Simon Lohse. “People understand the combi technology, they understand the SelfCookingCentre, but the VarioCookingCentre is still a little bit new so we are really pushing hard on that.”

Mr Lohse said the company was attempting to reach out to more contract catering-type operations, which it really feels could benefit from the technology.

“Traditionally Rational has been very strong into restaurants, into hotels and into chain accounts but although we have done work into catering it has been a smaller amount of the business and I think that is where the great opportunity lies now we have got the two products together. When I say ‘smaller’ we are only talking 60/40 but I think we recognise there are good opportunities and we can bring the benefits of our product through to the contract catering organisations.”

Mr Lohse said there was signs that the market has picked up since the turn of the year, and while he remains concerned about the uncertainty that Brexit brings, the uplift in January has been encouraging.

“Certainly in the fourth quarter last year we saw a lot of project work being put on hold or delayed, but what we did see was an increase therefore in distressed purchases – that’s fine for our SelfCookingCentre because there is a volume of product out there but the VarioCookingCentre is very much project-led.

“But we did see a recovery in December, which is always helped by the fact that Christmas is there and people suddenly think, ‘oh I need this for Christmas’. January has started really strongly. I know it’s only three week but we are above plan in both orders and sales, so that’s really positive for us.”

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