The interviewees are:
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How would you describe the current state of the Horeca sector?
Luca Costantini: The Horeca sector has been growing in Italy and France for a number of years, but now there’s increasing interest in the UK and the rest of Europe. Schools and hospitals started the trend, and restaurants, hotels and canteens are definitely following. More and more people lunch away from home on a daily basis and hospitality environments are expanding and looking to improve their service.
Federica Diotallevi: The sector consists mainly of restaurants and bars, which account for three quarters of the sector. According to the NRA (National Restaurant Association), Horeca is one of the few sectors to experience continuous growth since the second world war, and despite the economic downturn it’s still performing well. People still enjoy food and eating out.
Thomas Liccioni: Today, the Horeca market is slowing down and going through a financial crisis.
Antonio Zerilli: It’s a specific market with different features in each part of Europe. Overall, it is a stable sector.
Joe Scaramucci: The hotel, restaurant and catering sector is one of the fastest growing in Europe and it has grown strongly, and hence plays an important role as a job creator in both the whole economy and the service sector in many EU member states.
Stephen Charles: Naturally, in the current climate, the Horeca sector will suffer. However, Vivreau is busier than ever as our core product, the Table Water Bottling system, is specifically designed to provide a cost-effective solution to purchasing pre-bottled mineral waters.
Nick Heane: Hotels and restaurants are looking to differentiate themselves and many are taking the route of corporate social responsibility and brushing up their ethical practices. We’ve seen a number of examples of this, such as restaurants and cafes serving Fairtrade coffee; sourcing food from sustainable sources and avoiding overfished species such as bluefin tuna, and the ubiquitous stickers in hotel rooms requesting that we reuse our towels to reduce water use and the impact on the environment of detergents.
Hotels, restaurants and caterers are also promoting their green credentials to encourage ethical consumers to choose them over their less environmentally friendly competitors. Last year’s anti-bottled water campaign by Sustain and Defra was taken up by the London Evening Standard, Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News and a host of other local press. This led many diners to be brave enough to order a jug of tap water.
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone even ran a competition for the best recycled glass carafe design to encourage London restaurants and hotels to serve tap water. Having said that, London tap water hasn’t got the best taste, so filtering and chilling is still required if you don’t like the taste of chlorine. This has driven some business for UK mains-fed providers in hotels such as Malmaison and Holiday Inn, and also sports facilities such as Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
What should a cooler for the Horeca sector offer?
Costantini: Performance is very important. Horeca coolers should offer unlimited volumes of cold water and be able to fill bottles, jugs and carafes simultaneously, and more than one at the same time. For restaurants, hotels and conference centres, sparkling water is essential. Functionality is also important, particularly portion control, which saves staff precious time.
Diotallevi: A cooler for the Horeca sector should make drinking water management more efficient, economic and fast. Therefore it must dispense large quantities of still and sparkling water in order to offer a valuable substitute to bottled water and speed up service.
Liccioni: Firstly, a cooler for the Horeca sector should have a high cooling capacity. Recently, we saw some coolers being sold to provide 60 litres per hour, but they couldn’t provide 20 litres of really cold water in a cold climate, so what would they deliver during a hot summer? To fulfil its duty, a Horeca cooler should provide at least 60 to 80 litres per hour at less than 10°C.
Secondly, a cooler should meet service requirements and be ergonomic and easy to use with one or no hands (ie with pedals). Finally, design is important if the coolers are located in the middle of the room or at different visible strategic points. The materials and shapes used for the shell remain very important, as these types of cooler are used in tough conditions.
Zerilli: Horeca customers look for reliable products that are made from stainless steel, are easy to use and have strong features in terms of cooling and water quality. All of our Horeca products have Zerica’s Sahara Clima feature – a high power refrigeration system combined with state-of-the-art manufacturing, enabling products to operate at external temperatures of up to 43°C.
Scaramucci: A cooler should be easy to use, reliable and affordable and should offer some new business opportunities.
Charles: Firstly, the system must be designed specifically for its purpose, which is why the new V3 bottle unit is proving to be so successful. The sector has very different demands to most other industries, as there’s no such thing as a typical week, particularly when it comes to conferencing and events. Products must be manufactured to the highest standards, as many sites operate 24 hours, seven days a week, which can put enormous strain on an under-specified system.
Heane: High volumes of freshly filtered and chilled water, with the ability to fill jugs and glasses from the same machine and preferably infection control measures designed into the machine, such as recessed dispenser heads; smooth external shell to aid cleaning; sub 0.5 micron filters to block oocysts and an ultraviolet bulb in the water tank to sanitise the dechlorinated water without adding chemicals back into it.
Have you launched any new models for the Horeca sector recently?
Costantini: Blupura’s range is totally dedicated to the Horeca sector. Our Fontemagna models have been designed for restaurants, canteens, conference centres and hotels.
Diotallevi: Cosmetal is one of the few companies in the sector to have had a professional range for many years. Niagara water coolers have been specifically designed to make drinking water management in bars and restaurants more efficient, hygienic and economical.
Liccioni: We’ve recently introduced an R2000 model with a brand new CO2 injection system that will set a new standard for performance and sanitisation.
Zerilli: Yes, the Refresh G Plus LCD – a tabletop cooler that supplies chilled, ambient and sparkling water.
Scaramucci: We launched our new Juice&Co model in June 2009 at the Avex show in Birmingham.
Charles: The V3 Bottler system is our latest product. Every part of the system has been improved as against the previous V2 model, in particular its output and energy efficiencies. We’re also excited about the recent launch of our new designer reusable glass bottle, which will significantly enhance the customer experience of Vivreau water. The brief to the designers was to come up with a style of bottle that would sit perfectly well on the boardroom table of a blue chip corporate company, as well as a two Michelin Star restaurant. The feedback we’ve received seems to agree that we’ve achieved this.
We’ve also launched our architect-inspired V2O system, which provides chilled, still, sparkling or boiling water from one modern, designed single-dispense tap and can therefore be installed front of house or back of house.
Heane: Tana Water UK launched the Tami 4 T5 Fizz at the Total Workplace Management Show at Olympia, London in October 2008. This was developed in direct response to requests from customers in the Horeca sector.
What are the products’ main features and benefits?
Costantini: Hygiene, performance and functionality, along with style and design. They supply 150 litres of cold water per hour and always offer sparkling water. They can also fill two bottles at a time, which results in practically unlimited volumes of cold water. This level of performance is possible due to ice bank technology, which eliminates the need for storage tanks, as it uses a stainless steel spiral immersed in ice.
“The style and design of the model is also very important, as it will fit in with all contemporary modern interiors. What’s more, customers are more likely to pay (or to pay a bit more) for mains water if they can see that it’s being dispensed from stylish and modern, professional equipment. Water cooler distributors are always on the lookout for strong bottle designs, but the design of the equipment that purifies, chills and makes the water sparkle is just as important.
Diotallevi: We have just upgraded our existing models in order to offer technologically advanced products. The standard electrical Niagara feature a double coil that allows simultaneous dispensing of cold and sparkling water. We’ve added a safety valve that significantly reduces the risk of flooding. In addition, the models feature a self-diagnostic system and energy saving device that reduces energy consumption when the machine is in standby. Niagara water coolers offer an efficient, economical and eco-friendly service.
Liccioni: It provides very cool and highly carbonated water that satisfies central European tastes for sparkling water. Carbonation levels can be adjusted to please all tastes. This new system brings sanitisation efficiency to another level.
Zerilli: All of our products are designed with the requirements of end users and maintenance technicians in mind. The result is a product with double access for maintenance: one for customers and another for skilled personnel. This model also has a sophisticated microprocessor-based control and management system. The main operating functions can be personalised and automated using the digital display for beverage supply temperature programming and readouts, and for setting up the two most used container sizes (for example, cups and carafes) with user specified capacities. In addition, the control system monitors the state of the filter elements and lets you know when standard maintenance is required. The system can also stop the supply of water when the filters haven’t been replaced, which avoids any potentially dangerous situations arising.
Scaramucci: Juice&Co is the only one in the world dispensing room temperature, cold and sparkling water, coffee, barley coffee, ginseng coffee, hot/cold tea, hot milk and fruit juice in various flavours, including orange, red orange, apple, pineapple and tropical.
Heane: The T5 Fizz delivers the same high-quality filtering and ultraviolet light treatment as our standard T5 machine, with the option to dispense chilled sparkling or chilled still water from the same machine. Visitors to our stand at TWM couldn’t believe they were drinking filtered London tap water.
Are you planning to launch a new Horeca cooler over the next 12 months?
Costantini: We’ve just launched the Fontemagna Light range, which offers the same sleek and modern design as the other units, but is more economical as it has mechanical taps instead of a touchscreen. In some locations, such as schools, the touchscreen is a bit too sophisticated.
Diotallevi: We’re working on many projects at the moment. We will unveil further information soon …
Liccioni: We have two projects for the Horeca sector at the moment: one brand new cooler with a very innovative design, as well as some new designs for production.
Zerilli: Perhaps. Our prototype designers never stop, but not all of the models reach the market.
Scaramucci: Yes, we’re actually testing the new Smile cooler. It will be ready at the end of September. We will implement the new touchscreen and a new chip card slot. All components will be, as always, made in Italy.
Charles: Vivreau is always innovating – that’s what defines us against our competitors. Watch this space!
Heane: We’re talking to our customers, particularly in the luxury/boutique hotel sector, and we’ll be delivering products tailored to their requirements.
What does the future hold for the Horeca sector?
Costantini: The future is bright. Bottled water is becoming more and more expensive due to distribution, handling and recycling costs. Schools, hospitals and canteens could provide quality water at a fraction of the cost of bottled water. Restaurants and hotels are keen to establish their brands and want to differentiate themselves from the competition by introducing new concepts. An increasing awareness about the environmental impact of bottled water has encouraged establishments to explore alternative ways of serving and consuming water. If a restaurant menu offers ‘house water’, together with branded bottled water, it’s up to the customer to decide which to opt for.
Diotallevi: As I’ve said, people enjoy food, so the sector won’t suffer too much and will be back in full swing very soon.
Liccioni: The Horeca sector is an evolving, yet niche market with small volumes and high levels of customisation. To succeed in this market, we need to have very effective and reactive production tools, as well as high levels of after-sales service.
Zerilli: In three words: products will be affordable, high performance and look great.
Scaramucci: A very positive future! Trust me.
Charles: I think that, generally, business is picking up and the sector is going to turn the corner pretty soon. Our offering has been very attractive in these leaner times because it offers the opportunity of making significant savings as against pre-bottled mineral water, and it answers customers’ (and their clients’) concerns about safeguarding the environment.
Heane: While the chains will continue to focus on lowering costs, I believe that there’ll be more differentiation and innovation in the boutique hotel sector. We’ll see a lot more luxury for the higher end market. Horeca is about offering luxury, not just run of the mill. Hotels and restaurants will be looking to source their products from higher-end suppliers that can demonstrate that they share the same environmental and ethical principles that the hotel or restaurant is promoting to its more discerning customer base.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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