To your door in 48 hours: BCE shines with SA dealer network

For over two decades, BCE Foodservice Equipment has been the backbone of the restaurant and foodservice industry in Southern Africa. Founded in 1987 by Grant Henegan, the company was purchased by a consortium headed by Global Capital Ltd. in 2003. On May 1, 2010, Universal Holdings became the new equity partners of BCE Foodservice Equipment.

BCE (formerly Business and Catering Equipment) is based in Johannesburg with branches in Cape Town and a satellite office in Kwa Zulu Natal. The company has carved out for itself a reputation as a leading supplier of kitchen utensils, industrial cookware and commercial kitchen appliances to the Africa continent and Indian Ocean Islands, by adhering to a strict ethical code and an extensive product range.

And extensive is not an underestimation. BCE offers over 4000 products through its dealer network. These are categorized in the BCE Buyers Guide under heating, processing, refrigeration, washing, utilities and smalls, buffetware and Infiniti buffetware. BCE only sells directly to a dealer network, who then liase with owners of hotels, restaurants, institutions and so forth.

“We carry approximately 55 different brands, and have a warrantee on every single one of them,” Michael Thurley, Managing Director of BCE, explains. Thurley believes this is the reason that BCE keeps an exceptionally high stock holding at any given time. “Whatever we sell, we back up in terms of a warrantee, and any product you buy from us is guaranteed for a 12 month period.”

BCE catalogue

The BCE catalogue is something of a “must have” in the industry. Close to 100,000 copies are printed and distributed every year to BCE’s dealers. “We put it out every year and there are several new products every time. If you don’t have the catalogue, you don’t sell the product,” says Thurley.

At any time, BCE carries R70 million worth of products, and at all times has a full range of spares for every product (including discontinued products which are shelved for five months after production ceases). Thurley is proud to promise that “if a customer places orders today, we deliver tomorrow.”  The company’s policy is to do whatever is necessary to maintain a 48 hour turnaround. Says Thurley, “we will deliver the goods to your front door. Our logistics team will track and monitor the progress of all deliveries until a destination has been reached and within the agreed time frames.”

Dealer network

At BCE, the dealer network is the musculature for the company. When asked what attracts dealers to BCE, specifically, Thurley cites the business model from which the company has never wavered. “Our policy is very strict in that we have a model that has worked for 23 years, and we have never deviated from that model. From a credibility and ethical perspective, if a dealer does their purchasing from us, they can be assured we will never deal directly with the customer. The policy is quite clear—we never deal with end users.” Certainly that is an advantage for BCE and a reason why dealers support BCE. “This is a culture that is not common and in this industry—it is totally unique. Our people are highly competent and have been here a long time, some since inception.”

The dealer network is paramount for BCE’s perpetual innovation. Typically, the company has a number of brand managers who go on site to demonstrate products to dealers or to end users on request. Going forward, BCE will increase its focus on Brand Managers who specialise in specific brands. Any concerns a dealer or end user has will be directed back to them.

Quality over quantity

Having been in operation for over two decades, BCE has seen changes to the South African market. The rise of China in the manufacturing industry has forced companies to adapt. BCE was not immune to its magnitude, but it never lost its course. “Once the Chinese market opened up, things obviously changed, yet BCE remain the largest wholesale in the country. Chinese competition hurt our market for a period of time, but once the end user gets to use the product and realises the BCE product is superior in terms of reliability and service back up, they revert back to us,” says Thurley.

This year, in particular, will be an exceptional one for the company when the influx of tourists comes to see the Soccer World Cup games. Thurley looks forward to increased sales, but also to display his beloved country to the world. “The world will see we have a beautiful country with a lot going for it. The benefits of the games will reverberate long after the Soccer Wolrd Cup is over.”