Luciano Berti, chairman of Ali Group

The latest edition of Foodservice Consultant magazine features an in-depth interview with Luciano Berti, Chairman and CEO of Ali Group. Here he tells Michael Jones about company growth, industry opportunities and life away from the boardroom

In 1963 when Comenda, the first company in the Ali Group, was incorporated in Milan, did you have any idea of the journey that this would take you on?

Certainly not, but I knew I wanted us to become one of the world’s best manufacturers of commercial dishwashing machines.

Why was the acquisition of Champion Industries in 1979 so important for Ali?

It doubled our sales volume and the success of that operation in a foreign, huge and difficult market strengthened our confidence in our objectives and in our ability to realise them.

Do you ever worry about Ali becoming too big and unwieldy?

Our present size and coverage of the world market (which took us 50 years to achieve, don’t forget) gives us the assurance that we can grow even more. Of course, from time to time I ask myself questions…

Where would you like the Group to be in five years time?

We are not used to setting goals or limits. We just try to improve and to expand our performance, in terms of quality, innovation and market acceptance.

What kind of new dimension has the acquisition of Scotsman Industries added to the group?

Scotsman is another example of a very successful multibrand and multinational group, which we always looked at as a very well run, admirable and reputable company. It added over $300m to our sales volume.

Which acquisition are you most proud of in Ali’s history?

Certainly Carpigiani, but also the Hackman-Metos Group, the Moffat Group in Australia/New Zealand and most of our single brand units.

What ambitions do you still have for the Ali Group in the Middle East and Asia?

Ours is always a long-term approach and certain markets grow faster than others by their own nature.

What advice do you have for FCSI consultants on any untapped opportunities on the horizon in the business?

These are the questions that we generally ask them. I would also encourage them to talk to us so that we can submit our tender offers. Over the last 20 years our AliContract division has developed a superb roster of satisfied customers, especially with the great hotel chains such as Four Seasons and Marriott.

What do you think will be the most pressing issues and challenges facing the foodservice industry over the course of the next few years?

The slowdown of the European markets.

Who have you learned the most from in your own career?

I have learned a lot from the people who have worked for me. Plus some of our clients, consultants and bankers, whom we have worked for.

What was the most important thing that your time spent living in the US taught you?

To pay taxes 100% – without any ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’.

What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

I think in terms of ‘lessons’ rather then advice.

Have you ever harboured any political aspirations?

No way.

You have had a hugely distinguished career. What is left for you to achieve?

A few more years in good health.

Which restaurants around the world do you like to dine at?

Mostly French, both in Paris and New York.

What’s your favourite dish and bottle of wine?

Spaghetti and Chianti.

How do you relax in your spare time?

Reading history books, skiing (but now only cross country), swimming in the Mediterranean, hiking in Aspen and the Italian Apennines.

 

Read the full interview with Luciano Berti in the print copy of issue two of Foodservice Consultant magazine

Michael Jones

 

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