The fryers of choice for half of the world
Small but mighty: With a staff of just 25, the Valentine company in Romanel-sur-Morges makes top-quality fryers for professional kitchens around the world.
Have you ever ordered French fries in a Swiss restaurant? If so, they were probably prepared using a Valentine fryer. Although this family-owned company exports approximately 80 percent of the some 4,000 fryers it produces every year, the domestic market plays a very important role. Its fryers and other types of kitchen equipment are developed and manufactured in Switzerland – from start to finish.
"The fact that our products are made in Switzerland is one of the most important criteria in our customers' purchase decisions," says CEO Christophe Paris. He is a member of the third generation to lead this family-owned business, which was founded in 1953 by his grandfather, in collaboration with Aldo Valentini. A great deal has happened since then: There is a new factory building, the organization is leaner and its hierarchies are flatter. What hasn't changed are the company's high quality and Swiss production. "While nearly every professional kitchen includes a fryer, these are still niche products that are made by only a few companies," Paris explains. Chefs know that a Valentine fryer will last for a long time, but they also know that if it needs repairing, replacement parts will still be available 20 years from now. This creates trust and sets the company's products apart from the competition. According to Paris, who holds a degree in economics, another important factor is Valentine's focus on close contact with its customers. "Our dealers know that my team and I are always available to provide support."
Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis
This emphasis on close contact with customers, coupled with the fact that the hard-hit restaurant industry is Valentine's target market, has led to significant challenges during the pandemic. "A video conference is not the same as meeting in person for lunch or over a glass of wine," CEO Paris points out. Still, he is optimistic. He lived through the Swiss franc shock of 2015 and the financial crisis of 2009, so he has experience dealing with unforeseen events. What you have to do, he says, is take a deep breath and consider your next steps. One solution to a restaurant's lack of capital is leasing, for example. During the crisis, the company's product development team has also been coming up with new ideas – such as a touchless sauce dispenser. Although Valentine is best known for its fryers, it also produces other types of kitchen equipment for professional chefs.
Preparing for the future
The restaurant industry tends to be relatively conservative, Paris explains. While interconnected kitchen appliances are becoming increasingly important in private homes, professional chefs prefer to avoid unnecessary bells and whistles. What they want is sturdy, reliable equipment. Nevertheless, Valentine's development team is exploring possible innovations, working in a special lab. For example, they are looking for ways to maintain high quality when frying at low temperatures, or even to eliminate the use of oil entirely. "I'm confident, however, that fryers like the ones we know today will still be in use in the kitchens of the world's restaurants 10 years from now."