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This months Spotlight shines on the brand new RTS unit from Burlodge, which was first introduced to the marketplace in August 2004.

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Watch Out For Fakes

Let’s face it, retherming or regenerating food using advanced methods like convection, conduction, induction and the like have been around for years – say 30 or so. In that time we have all seen the introduction of new ways of using the advanced technology and the leaders in the market have shown us the way. They, the leaders, have survived because of innovation and dedication as well as global distribution. The leaders in this industry have also survived by finding new ways of generating capital to stay alive and invest in new technology. They do this not only by gaining market share through global distribution but by getting new investment dollars through reselling themselves, collaborations, market diversification, and add complimentary sales like small wares and ancillary equipment. In summary then, it is the leaders who have been strategic and dedicated to remain in this industry and through their efforts to survive and capability to take advantage of their economies of scale and market share, they have effectively made it very difficult for entry by others.

So, we have seen in the past years, many companies (call them up-starts) who have come and gone, leaving behind a select few clients with no where to turn. I call these clients orphans. The up-starts were at some time able to get their foot in a door, persuade, build relationships, and ultimately create a believer in a client so they would buy their equipment. But their equipment was not true and tested. The equipment would fail and who would come to the aid of the client ? The up-start often copied other equipment from a leader and forgot that it had taken the leader years of research and development to make that equipment. The up-start would sell equipment that would work well for the first six months but then critical failures would occur and what could be done to help the ailing system at a client’s location while the up-start is trying to sell more equipment with a limited operating budget ? And when that up-start sold a project they often had to lower their price so much that in the end, the project and all the problems they had would cost them more than they made. The up-start soon died a slow and painful death leaving the orphan who, in a global community could not get a voice of dissatisfaction forward to the rest of our industry…thus leaving the door wide open for another up-start to reap havoc.

That is why I want to say ‘beware of the fake’. Watch out for the company who is the up-start. Watch out for the company who says they have a new piece of equipment at a lower price than the leader. In the end, you will end up with frustration, more operating costs, and no where to turn. At the beginning it is exciting to be a part of a revolution or an innovation but in the end, after you have made a purchasing decision, you are stuck and you have no choice but to try and make it work. For heaven’s sake, do you really think that you are going to go to your boss and say how terrible the equipment is after it was you that went to bat for the up-start ? Normally, the orphan just takes it and waits for the next go around to make sure they buy the right equipment from a leader – from someone who will be around in years to come – from someone who has more to loose than the up-start. So watch out, be careful.

The up-start is out there. They are building ‘knock-offs’ of equipment from the leader. They are often in violation of patents. They make promises but cannot fulfill them. Here are some hints that I have found to be very useful when deciding if a company is a leader/a committed partner or an up-start/ a flash in the pan:

  • what is the company’s history ? How long have they been in business ? Have they ever filed for bankruptcy ? What is their ownership ? – and do not make the mistake of asking them…instead do an independent review
  • ask the company for audited statements dating back 5 years
  • how many employees do they have and can you interview them ?
  • can you go to their local office and visit – do this when you are not expected
  • how many accounts do they have and how many accounts do they have the equipment they want to sell you installed at – get names – do reference checks
  • what warranty are they willing to provide you with – ask for money to be withheld for the period of the warranty if you do not get satisfaction that the company is reliable
  • is the company a manufacturer or a distributor of someone’s equipment and if they are a distributor then find out how long they have distributed the equipment for
  • ask to visit the manufacturing plant – inspect and check out their suppliers
  • make sure they have insurance – get proof
  • what are their business hours – what support can they give you after hours ?
  • what is their customer after sales support policy and process ? can it be verified ?
  • ask them for their worst and best account – visit them
  • how many distributors (different distributors) has the manufacturer used in the past – get a list - dig down and test the integrity of the manufacturer – they may be your only hope if the up-start distributor goes belly up