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Rail Catering OPINION


Gourmet meals track growth


Research by the International Rail Catering Group shows there's a real hunger for quality food services from an increasingly sophisticated and rapidly growing passenger market. Roger Williams reports


With the increased speed of trains, shorter journey times and the growth of station cafés and restaurants, one might think there is a declining requirement for onboard rail catering. However, recent research across Europe has shown the exact opposite, including that only 20% of customers actually buy at a station before boarding. Good quality F&B is helping convince customers of the benefits of train travel versus the car and plane – and customers who already understand that time onboard a train is more relaxing and productive than spending stressful and wasted hours driving are now adding catering to their points of differential.


Catering for the customer 100% of the 27 European rail operations surveyed had a strategy to continue to provide onboard catering and, over the next five years, 92% saw catering as an area of growth. Why? Well of course it’s what caterers have been saying for years – rail companies who take the trouble to provide good quality catering services to customers are much more likely to engage with those customers and earn their loyalty over the long term.


Loyalty means repeat ticket sales, better reputation, successful businesses, better press … all of which is so crucially important to train companies in the franchised world of modern railways.


How is catering delivered? Currently there is an approximate 50/50 split between in-house and outsourced onboard operations. This is skewed by Eastern Europe where the majority of caterers


36 WWW.ONBOARDHOSPITALITY.COM


are part of state-owned railways. Conversely, in Western Europe, there’s a higher propensity for private sector involvement, with the current notable exceptions of Germany and Denmark. In-house operations can find difficulty in matching the offering from private catering companies, which benefit from retail expertise, lower overheads and a more flexible front line operation. If not carefully managed, this can impact negatively on sales and customer loyalty, leading to a misconception that there is





Rail companies who take the trouble to provide quality catering are much more likely to earn customer loyalty





a reducing call from customers for onboard catering.


Product supply and logistics Often the logistics and back-of-house support services are outsourced, even if the onboard staff remain employed by the railway company.


This model allows for the more specialist elements of new product development, such as purchasing, supply chain management, IT systems and station-based logistics operations to be provided by the partner’s catering


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