Keeping a busy commercial kitchen properly ventilated is essential. If you could see inside the kitchens of your favorite restaurants in Lake County, whether it’s The Olive Garden or Red Lobster, you’d see the same name time and time again—CaptiveAire.
CaptiveAire has been manufacturing commercial kitchen ventilation systems since 1976. Under the direction of founder and president, Bob Luddy, the company has more than 90 sales offices in the U.S. and Canada and six manufacturing plants, including one in Groveland. Not only is CaptiveAire known as the leading manufacturer in the industry, it was also voted Best in Class Overall under the ventilation systems category for the past 15 years.
According to Trevor McLain, plant manager at the Groveland facility, CaptiveAire chose the Lake County town due to demand for products in Florida. Prior to opening, products were shipped here from Oklahoma or North Carolina.
“Florida was in our top three sales states, so it made sense for us. When we ship our hoods, they’re fairly fragile, and it costs a lot to ship them. The cost of damages and shipping were getting high, so it made sense for our customers. Rather than passing that cost on to them, we opened another factory,” says Trevor, who has a degree in physics and a masters in industrial engineering. He was previously an engineer for CaptiveAire at the Oklahoma plant.
From the moment you walk into the immaculate facility, you sense employee pride and dedication to quality. To the untrained eye, the process look like a relentless maze, but the complex series of machines creates a well-known product. It begins with the layout department with the selection of metal sheets that are cut into various parts. Next the punch press, a machine from Italy that Trevor calls the “heartbeat of the plant,” cuts the necessary holes for screws, rivets, and bolts, and generates the parts in flat form. Finally, the metal goes to the machine that bends it to the correct size and shape of the fans or hoods needed.
CaptiveAire recently added to their facility, almost doubling its size—from 48,000 to 84,000 square feet, looking toward future increases in business and production. The company takes energy conservation very seriously and constantly encourages customers to meet governmental mandates early.
“We’re developing fans that work off sensors and timers rather than manually turning them on and off, as well as regulating speed based on the temperature that’s needed,” Trevor says.
Though the Groveland plant was one of the company’s smaller facilities, it has grown to 80 workers on site. “We’re producing about 10 percent of our plant sales, but we’re at one third capacity of the other factories,”
Trevor says. “The first year we were doing about five to 10 hoods a day. Last year we averaged around 15 a day, and this year our goal is to get close to 20. Our sales growth this year is 40 percent over last year.” Trevor added that the company feels employees are an investment, and they appreciate the loyalty and dedicated work.
Always aware of competitors, CaptiveAire seeks to be a leader in the market. “We have a really short lead time for a high quality product. If you wanted a complete hood system, we could have it for you in five days. That means our customers in binds at the jobsite know they don’t have to plan way ahead,” Trevor says. “They can just call and say, ‘Hey CaptiveAire, can you give us this right away?’ Our customer service means we can get products to them very fast.”
Trevor said he received an email the day before from a customer who needed a fan quickly in Clermont. “I just put it in the back of a truck and ran it over there.”
Whether the customer is a contractor or the owner of the company, customer service is of prime importance to all employees at CaptiveAire. For ease of purchase, you can even buy the equipment on Amazon.com.
CaptiveAire’s employees enjoy giving back to the community. Trevor teaches welding at Lake Tech and has also hired graduates from their program at the plant.
“What I like most about working for CaptiveAire is the challenge,” Trevor says. “With our low lead-times and high quality, each day presents a new set of challenges. It keeps you on your toes and the day definitely goes by quickly. “