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From The Field - Brian Ward

Brian WardBrian Ward, co-founder and chief editor/associate publisher, has brought an enthusiasm for machinery to E&S publishing for nearly 20 years. That "gearhead" interest in how things work shows in FER's informal, candid style that "talks" to readers the way they talk with each other. He serves on the NAFEM Technical Liaison Committee as well as the advisory board of the Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, Calif.


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The Market Keeps A-Bubblin’

June 01, 2011

Yes, change is a constant. But if you’re looking for patterns, the recent round of changes is interesting.

Take a look at this month’s news section, just for example. Acquisitions are on the rise, and the tone is notably international. In May, the news buzz grew louder when Yum! Brands first announced it had made a “preliminary proposal” to acquire more of Mongolia-based Little Sheep, which is a casual dining concept with some 480 locations, mostly in China with a few in Canada, Japan and the United States. Yum! had acquired a 20% interest back in 2009, and added another 7.2% last year. The original announcement clearly underscored that it was only a preliminary proposal, and there was “no assurance the company [would] make a formal offer.”

Soon thereafter, however, and just barely before our deadline, Yum! announced it had in fact made a formal offer to raise its stake to more than 90% of the company. There are some regulatory hurdles to clear, so we’ll see. Check out the news story for more details.

Also among acquisitions, Vollrath bought Traex, a domestic transaction that appears to be a good fit. And Middleby Corp., which had just recently bought U.K.-based Lincat Group and has been on an expansion tear for a while now, went overseas again to acquire Australia-based Beech Ovens. Beech makes stone-hearth, tandoor and rotisserie ovens and is big in emerging global markets.

And on the distribution front, recent issues of our FER Dealer Report electronic newsletter included items on Hockenbergs Food Service Equipment and Supplies Co., based in Omaha, Neb., buying Global KES from Sub-Technologies Inc. of Summit., Mo.  And Tundra Specialties of Boulder, Col. picked up Cen Tex Supply Co., a paper distributor also located in Boulder.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Hendrix Hotel & Restaurant Equipment & Supplies and Longo Food Service Equipment merged. And that same edition also reported the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index in February hit a 40-month high for operators’ intent to make capital purchases within six months.

All of which says some companies have money and are willing to spend it, and the global flavor of activity in general is on the rise.

Also on the rise: New additions to our LinkedIn group. People seem to be signing up at a quicker pace these days, and fewer of them appear to be recently displaced. What does that mean? Hard to say. Maybe more people are looking to network in general. Maybe many are expecting more equipment to be changing hands soon, and they’re looking to make contacts. Maybe some think the job market will be loosening up. At press time, we had 670 members at  tinyurl.com/FERonLinkedIn.

Another interesting point: Recently, more and more of the new members are international. The most recent batch included industry people from Greece, Indonesia, Italy, and the U.K., among others. In the past few months, we’ve welcomed members from numerous countries across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America, along with our own North America.

With all the activity, and so much of it cross-border, it looks pretty clear that things are picking. And to borrow a line from an old General Motors ad campaign, it’s definitely not your father’s foodservice industry anymore.

Brian Ward

Chief Editor

 

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