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Roger Williams RAIL CATERING


support professionals.


For example, for the 18 or so years since the UK’s rail privatisation, and during a time when there has been multiple rail franchise changes, this model has been offered by Rail Gourmet and has provided a stable supply chain foundation for many train operating companies (TOCs), helping them expand services and incorporate more complex operations, such as complimentary meals throughout First Class and taking washing up off-board.


With continued high demand in the UK for non-reserved walk-on/walk-off departures and the numerous last minute changes which regularly affect train departures, RG’s robust railway proven processes help maintain onboard services to hundreds of thousands of trains every year. Elsewhere in Europe, problems have been experienced with more complicated commercial models, where different parts of the supply chain, procurement, logistics and onboard service are spilt between different contractors. Inevitably the train company has much more to manage in terms of contractual relationships and risk levels and costs are much higher.


The key learning here seems to be ‘keep your commercial models simple’ – there is no point in over- complicating and adding risk into an already complex environment.


Onboard service outsourcing Another successful model is to outsource the whole service. From a train company point of view, it may be difficult to see how to make this move – there may be Transfer


of Undertakings – Protection of Employment (TUPE) implications and it takes a different management approach, requiring a leap of faith to ‘give away’ responsibility for this key point of contact with the customer. But the rewards are clear. Where services are outsourced, sales often improve dramatically. Good examples can be seen in Ireland and Norway where privately-run restaurants, café bars and trolleys have pushed sales penetration up to 40% - a favourable comparison to the 15% - 20% in a mature market such as the UK.


Standard Class trends The research highlighted 100% of the 18 intercity routes analysed had a café bar and nearly 50% had a supplementary at-seat trolley service. With ‘trolley only’ services, feedback showed the overall satisfaction was lower than being served from a bar.


❝ With trolley-only services, feedback showed the overall satisfaction was lower than being served from a bar due to the limited range a trolley can offer





Bars can provide chilled food and drinks, hot food, draught beer and premium coffee. Importantly, only one or two people are required to serve large customer volumes and a café bar can be visited any time in the journey. VR in Finland is investing in new restaurant coaches, all of which will be kitted out like a modern café – refrigerated displays, bean to cup machines, draught beer on tap, combination ovens for a great range of tasty hot food, digital advertising screens and segregated restaurant with dining seating.


In Switzerland, the aim is to trial a full blown Starbucks Café on-board in 2014 and Eurostar’s experiment with selling Waitrose products from their café bar has recently launched, although the financial success of this is unclear. Unfortunately, it seems the UK’s new IEP trains will not be providing a bar counter service and will rely solely on trolleys for Standard Class – surely a missed opportunity given our research. Meanwhile, the more technically advanced companies have already started to develop on-line pre-order services and in the Czech Republic, caterer JLV is trialling a customer self order app where customers order via their smart device for delivery of food to seat.


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