Five questions about Bertazzoni for Chris Honer

Chris Honer is a man of several hats. Currently the managing director of Britannia Living and responsible for a clutch of brands that includes Britannia, Bertazzoni and BEST, he was previously the MD of distributors BCG and has enjoyed stints with Waterline and MWD.

Chris Honer, managing director of Britannia Living Ltd
Chris Honer, managing director of Britannia Living Ltd

Britannia Living itself is part of the Glen Dimplex Group and it includes Stoves, Belling and New World – three very strong UK cooking brands.

The UK consumers’ love affair with range cookers is well-documented and to a certain extent Bertazzoni rode on the back of this by providing a collection of cooking appliances that had a high specification with a strong appeal to the more serious hobby chefs. It effectively carved a niche for itself that was above the other range cooker offers from within the Glen Dimplex Group and Britannia in terms of both product spec and price point.

Bertazzoni is on the point of being seen as a status symbol within range cookers. Increasingly owners are taking their Bertazzoni cooker with them if they move home and there are plans to extend the brand across a range of cooking accessories. But now arguably comes the Bertazzoni brand’s biggest gamble – can it equal this success in the built-in arena?

Grahame Morrison: Apart from the engineering quality of its appliances, what do you think it is that makes the Bertazzoni brand stand out from the crowd?

Chris Honer: What really sets Bertazzoni apart is its Italian heritage and passion for high-quality engineering, both of which are beautifully translated into its product design. Little touches like the oversized retro dials, branded brass hob details and the quality feel of the dials contribute to the stylish look and feel of Bertazzoni models.

Bertazzoni products are created in the region famed for its supercars – they are also painted in the same factory where the most prestigious and famous Italian cars are painted. A six-step process provides these designer range cookers with the vibrant and hard-wearing colours that they are renowned for.  Even the company logo itself, looks like it would be at home on a supercar, nodding to the heritage of the brand and making it a desirable marque amongst domestic chefs.

GM: A recent report from GfK suggests that demand in the premium range cooker market has started to slow down. Is this what has prompted you to push the Bertazzoni built-in collection?

CH: Britannia Living is not experiencing a premium cooking slowdown, if anything since last year’s acquisition and the initiatives we have put in place for our customers such as: a) increased stock holding b) home deliveries 6 days a week, we are gaining new accounts and growing share within our existing retailers.

The Bertazzoni Design Series built-in oven
The Bertazzoni Design Series built-in oven

The move into built in with the Bertazzoni brand..just makes sense for us. It is not new for Bertazzoni as it has successfully sold built in appliances in both Europe and the US for many years. We are positioning Britannia Living as the ‘Home of premium appliances’. Bertazzoni built in is just one of many introductions that will be happening over the next 48 months.

GM: We in the UK know Bertazzoni as range cooker specialists; can it successfully make the transition into the built-in arena?

CH: Predominantly famed in the UK as a premium range cooking brand, the company now sells its products in more than 60 countries internationally. Established by Antonio Bertazzoni in Emilia-Romagna in 1882, the company has a love of food and engineering at its heart. The Bertazzoni family were so passionate about cooking that they created a family recipe book and legend has it the original, handwritten version of which is still housed at the company’s HQ in Italy.

GM: What will be in the Bertazzoni built-in collection?

CH: The collection of Bertazzoni built-in appliances includes electric 60cm multifunction ovens, matching 45cm combi-microwaves, warming drawers and barista coffee machines. The line-up also includes a matching combi steam oven which combines steam, hot air and grilling for fast and healthy cooking that seals in flavour and vitamins.

Bertazzoni Professional Series Segmented Dual-Fuel hob with gas, griddle and induction zones.
Bertazzoni Professional Series Segmented Dual-Fuel hob with gas, griddle and induction zones.

It also features a choice of 90cm segmented hobs which can combine gas, griddle and induction within the same hob.

GM: The built-in market is a crowded sector too! What are the features that will give Bertazzoni built-in appliances their appeal?

CH: The stunning built-in collection from Bertazzoni epitomises Italian design. The oven models are available in both the Design and Professional Series. They feature micro-processor controlled cooking modes while the doors have at least triple-glazed insulation. New advanced materials are also used to insulate the oven cavity and further improve energy efficiency.

Showroom space – the final frontier?

Is your kitchen or bathroom showroom a honey-trap for kitchen or bathroom buyers? Is it poised, like an anorexic Venus Fly Trap, ready to spring shut the next time some juicy prey wanders in? Or is it a cross between Steptoe & Son’s yard and the local ‘recycling’ centre?

Venus-Fly-Trap
Ahh – another customer!

What is it about your showroom that is going to help you part your clients from their savings? Do you just rely on room-set displays of the fabulous kitchens and/or bathrooms you sell, or do you have a working kitchen or bathrooms to add a certain ambience to your surroundings?

Does the smell of freshly brewed coffee greet your weary visitors, who may have been on a grand tour of the other kitchen and bathroom showrooms in the area (or online), or does it have all the welcoming atmosphere of a Tupperware pot?

When was the last time you went into a showroom and couldn’t wait to get your cheque book out and go on a spending spree? Do you think the kitchen and bathroom markets can learn a trick or two from other sectors and if so, what are they – the sectors and the tricks that is?

I’m trying to find out what it is that makes a good kitchen or bathroom showroom tick in addition to product displays and knowledgeable staff. And if you have any little tips to offer, I’d love to hear about them via the Reply function on this blog – thanks!

AXOR brings the sound of quality to bathrooms

How can a bathroom specialist present quality to a showroom visitor? Oh, like world peace we are all in favour of quality, but it can be a devil to demonstrate to a customer in a hurry proudly wearing their ‘I’m just looking’ badge.

Given time, you may be able to wax lyrical about the high quality of the materials that goes into the baths you have on display, but they look to the showroom novice much like the other baths they have seen. You may be able to point to the 10mm thick toughened glass of the shower enclosures you have on display and pray that they see this as a real advantage over thinner versions that to them look almost the same as the other enclosures they have seen elsewhere.

If looking at quality is fraught with problems, what about the sound of quality? Is it time to take a leaf out of the car showrooms book?

When Toyota launched its Lexus range, one of the quality touch-points its engineers came up with after a year-long study of lifestyles in California (now that is a job I would have killed for!), was how important the sound of a car door closing was as a quality indicator. Consequently Toyota spent quite a bit of time and money literally fine-tuning the sound the Lexus doors made when they were closed.

The new range of AXOR Universal Accessories can bring that all-important sound of quality to your bathroom showroom. The collection is another work of genius from AXOR’s long standing design partner Antonio Citterio. It consists of just 12 items that between them can provide what seems like an endless combination of possibilities with a design signature that is so universal it can be used in conjunction with virtually any style of bathroom. And it sounds like quality!

AXOR Universal
The AXOR Universal Accessories collection consists of 12 items that offer an almost endless combination of possibilities.

The heart of the AXOR Universal Accessories collection is the bath towel holder (available in two lengths) that doubles up as a rail. It can be used to hang towels on, or it can be mounted above a basin for example where other accessories such as a toothbrush tumbler, soap dish or shelf slot into it – and it is slotting in the accessories that gives you the sound of quality and the feel of luxury.

AXOR Collection shelf
Not just a towel rail but a shelf support as well with the sound of quality when fitted.

“Accessories have a significant effect on the overall appearance of a room; they are an essential part of its décor”, said Antonio Citterio. “When I design something, I strive to create products that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. For instance, bars inside the shower function as a support for other accessories and serve as towel bars outside the shower”.

There may be other ways to let your customers sound and feel quality when they are in your showroom, but I don’t think too many of them will want to take a shower while they are there.

At least, not on a first date.

Sustainability and savings with style in hotel sector

There are some great examples in the energy intensive hotel sector of eco awareness that can translate to households and other businesses, writes Guest Blogger Mark Sait.

Mark Sait, managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com
Mark Sait, managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com

Clearly, it’s crucial that sustainability strategies do not impact on guest experience and satisfaction, which is why savings with style should be the guiding principle.

I touched upon this during the round-table session sponsored by Hansgrohe UK at the Independent Hotel Show (IHS) which brought together four experts to discuss important aspects of hotel bathrooms, chaired by Grahame Morrison.

I wanted to share more detail about the great potential for every hotel property because the eco agenda can and should extend beyond the bathroom to cover all areas, including back-of-house areas, such as kitchens.

In my experience, the all-embracing approach to sustainability pays the best dividends, focusing on water management, lighting, heating & ventilation (HVAC), intelligent controls and smart pumps. Here, I can focus on water and lighting.

Hinkley Island, flagship property in Hotel Collection group – great commercial benefits from water efficiency
Hinkley Island, flagship property in Hotel Collection group – great commercial benefits from water efficiency

The panel at the IHS agreed that water saving can be the hidden jewel of sustainability projects because water conservation is not a part of the national carbon reduction programmes and so does not attract the same amount of attention as electricity and gas utilities.

But efficient water management is an important contribution to cutting bills while reducing carbon emissions. We can forget that the water supply consumes energy through heating and pumping so by substantially reducing usage, hotels can make a big difference to the bottom line and their carbon emissions.

Fitting well designed eco showers, eco taps or tap aerators in guest bathrooms is a twin win, improving the aesthetics and cutting water use.

Hansgrohe EcoSmart shower head – cutting water consumption by more than 50%
Hansgrohe EcoSmart shower head – cutting water consumption by more than 50%

Groups like The Hotel Collection can bear witness to the dramatic benefits of sustainable water management, where eco showers and taps in the bathrooms and kitchens delivered savings of more than £100,000 in less than eight months, with a project spend of £65,000.

The water savings continue to boost the bottom line month after month as water flow rates have dropped from 19 litres per minute to 8 lpm – with no negative feedback received from guests.

Beyond water, every hotel bathroom and kitchen should have the most efficient lighting available. That’s where it can get tricky – energy-saving lighting is a minefield, as some properties have learned from harsh experience.

Soraa full-spectrum, energy-efficient LED lamps with design flexibility and style through the SNAP system
Soraa full-spectrum, energy-efficient LED lamps with design flexibility and style through the SNAP system

Not all LED lighting products are brilliant – and we’ve probably all seen the awful blue tinge and harsh light or flicker in some LED installations. Natural LED light that easily matches the best halogen quality is now available. In fact, it’s been developed by the inventor of the blue LED, who has just won the Nobel Prize for Physics. His company, Soraa, has definitely raised the bar for energy-efficient, beautiful lighting.

Leading properties like The Grove in Hertfordshire have found the right energy-saving solution for the kitchens, and guest rooms, by choosing their LED lighting solutions carefully. Quality and matching the lighting design were crucial for the luxury hotel, as well as improving working conditions.

Carlson Rezidor’s Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson properties in UK have been very proactive in responding to the global company’s Think Planet initiative which has an ambitious target to reduce water and energy consumptionacross the group’s portfolio by 25 per cent over a four-year period to 2016.

Focussing on LED lighting retrofits and water efficient solutions in bathrooms and kitchens, the UK properties have achieved substantial reductions in energy and water costs, with savings of more than £250,000 in a first phase alone.

Better water management goes hand in hand with a range of other utility efficiency improvements, from low-energy LED lighting to smart lighting and heating controls that cut energy consumption, and reducing electricity use through smart pump solutions like Variable Speed Drives.

And the best thing is that these do not have a negative impact on guest experience. It is up to each hotel to decide whether to promote the green benefits in its marketing but I’ve seen that it is something that people check for more frequently now.

That could well be because consumers are actively seeking ways to cut their ever-increasing energy and water bills. The eco upgrades in hotel bathrooms and kitchens are a great guide for households that want to cut 80% or more from their lighting bills and reduce water use by more than 50%.

With the right solutions, that blend savings with style, every home can benefit by following the hotel sector’s lead.

Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com, a full-service efficiency partner helping businesses and households reduce energy and water consumption, and cutting carbon emissions to improve sustainability.

(If you have a comment you would like to make about kitchen and bathroom retailing in the independent sector I would LOVE to hear from you! But before you rattle off 5000 words on your pet subject please click here to check out the Guest Blog section. You will save us both a lot of grief – and quite possibly save me a lengthy jail sentence too.)

The curse of kitchen and bathroom retailing

I don’t know if you heard the interview on You and Yours – BBC Radio 4’s daily consumer programme – with Dave Cullen, the CEO of Ultra Finishing Group which bought distributor Mark Two last year, and Winifred Robinson, but to me it raised more questions than answers.

Tesco writes on its website: “Following a review of our Tesco Kitchens and Tesco Bathrooms provider, Mark Two Distributors Limited, we identified concerns about their ability to deliver the service our customers expect. This is despite the fact that Mark Two had supplied and installed over 11,000 orders.

Mr Cullen meanwhile has said that the terms of the contract with Tesco was “onerous”, although said ‘onerous’ contract has apparently been in place for over five years.

But the question Ms Robinson kept putting to Mr Cullen was that although Mark Two had been paid for kitchens (and bathrooms) by Tesco customers, it was unable to deliver or install the kitchens or bathrooms ordered and paid for. It was a question that Mr Cullen did not answer on the programme.

Obviously I do not know what has happened in this particular case but for years the curse of kitchen and bathroom retailing has been companies that had been paid in good faith by customers for goods or services, failing to honour their contracts. Every time it happens, the ‘good guys’ who deliver what they have been paid for, get tarred with the same unreliable brush.

It is probably tales of or even the experience of lost deposits or unfulfilled kitchen (or bathroom) orders that drives many kitchen or bathroom purchasers into the arms of B&Q or IKEA where they feel safer. Certainly in the case of IKEA, where the customer can actually hump all of the kitchen bits onto a trolley and then pay for them, this could be a factor.

Another question I have is why did several of the Tesco/Mark Two customers take their existing kitchen out before the new kitchen was delivered? The family I highlighted in my earlier post about this sorry tale, and customers interviewed by You and Yours had stripped out their old kitchen in advance of the new one being delivered or installed.

How common is it I wondered to rip out the old kitchen before the new one is installed. And talking of a kitchen being installed, Tesco who did not actually make or install kitchens or bathrooms itself was a member of the iKBBI (Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installers). Does the iKBBI recommend a consumer has an existing kitchen or bathroom removed before the new kitchen or bathroom is delivered and installed?

Sadly, my attempts to get the iKBBI to provide me with an answer to this and other installer-related queries concerning the Tesco situation have not so far been too successful. A statement from Damian Walters, founder and director of iKBBI said it was “very aware of the situation” and that it was “concentrating the majority of our efforts on supporting our installer members”.

When I asked specifically if it was iKBBI policy to suggest to consumers that they rip out their old kitchen ahead of the new kitchen being delivered and installed, the iKBBI sent me, via its PR company, a print out from the Tesco Kitchens website and the following comment:

“In answer to your question, these details need to be sorted between the manufacturer, installer and consumer. The iKBBI is working actively to arbitrate between the companies involved in this unfortunate state of affairs, as you will appreciate this is an extremely sensitive situation and therefore further details of the iKBBI’s involvement may be released at a later date.”

Perhaps at “a later date” I may have a good reason to recommend that independent kitchen and bathroom retailers use iKBBI-registered installers.

Perhaps…