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Welbilt CEO says demand for kitchen equipment is gradually improving but fears widespread lockdowns

Merrychef oven

Welbilt CEO Bill Johnson says the decline in sales that has occurred since the Covid-19 pandemic started is beginning to ease with each month that passes.

Net sales at the foodservice equipment manufacturer decreased 27% in Q3 to $298m (£225m), but Mr Johnson said the picture was improving and the three-monthly decline was almost half that of Q2.

In the UK, he cited a roll-out of Merrychef high-speed ovens with a grocery store chain, while in the Americas, same-store sales improved for both QSRs and casual dining operators, supporting their increased demand for replacement equipment.

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Demand for Manitowoc Ice machines improved and sales of high-speed ovens increased as it began shipping to a new global customer. Its Crem coffee machine division even saw sales increase year-on-year as it benefited from a small project with an international governmental entity

“We believe overall demand will continue to gradually improve over the next several quarters assuming widespread stay-at-home orders are not reimposed,” he said.

Mr Johnson revealed the business had made progress on a number of strategic initiatives in the third quarter.

It began to build inventory of its new common controllers at some of its brands and will start incorporating those into new units this quarter. It will continue to adopt these new controllers across all of our brands over the next several quarters.

It also recently released its newest version of KitchenConnect, its open cloud solution for the foodservice industry, and are actively migrating users to this version.

Last week, it launched its new mid-tier Convotherm Maxx line of combi ovens in markets such as the UK.

The range complements its line of premium C4 combi ovens while having more features and performance than its mini combis.

“We are continuing to focus resources on innovations that are likely to become more prominent due to social distancing, such as ghost kitchens and enhanced sanitation features within our equipment,” said Mr Johnson.

EXCLUSIVE: An inside account of how a global foodservice equipment corporation is dealing with the coronavirus crisis

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Andrew Seymour

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