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Then and now


RETROSPECTIVE Relationships rule OK


John Long, executive vice president business development at Flying Food Group, has been in the onboard catering industry for 40 years and tells Jeremy Clark it's still all about the people


Take a look at all the mod cons and technology of today's catering units and it's hard to believe how things used to be. When John Long had his first brush


with the industry (in 1968) he was loading aircraft from a catering facility created from an old converted WWII nissen hut. His was a summer job, as port steward with Pan Am at Honolulu Airport, but it clearly gave him the travel catering bug and he's been a part of the industry ever since.


Attitudes to operations were different too with job demarkation fervently defended and union power at its height. John remembers for example a notice on the staff coffee pot which declared: “Only to be refilled by chefs”.


Upon completing school in Oregon and returning to Honolulu, John joined Host Inc in 1973, then an expanding business just moving into airline catering. When Braniff and Air New Zealand became clients, John took on the management of the airline catering unit until, in 1978, he transferred to LA, and in 1981 Host Inc was bought out by J.W. Marriott.


John recalls: “It was a different culture back then. “Relationships are still important but back then they were key in fostering the trust upon which business was developed. Face-to-face time was a crucial element of establishing lasting business relationships. Today, someone sends an email and they think that counts as a conversation. It’s just not the same.”


It was strong business relationships From nissen huts to million pound deals


It may be hard to believe but in the 1960s Pan Am's catering facility in


Honolulu Airport was based in an old converted WWII nissen hut!


Anyone for lunch? There was a time when lavish client entertainment and long lunches to do business were the norm


which helped him negotiate the biggest challenges. Offered an opportunity in a start-up called Air-La-Carte, built around a deal with Singapore Airlines, John worked to build three units in HNL, LAX and SFO. At the eleventh hour, the SQ deal fell through, leaving John with three brand new catering units and no customers.


“This was one hell of a learning curve,” he reflects. No kidding! But through relationships forged previously and a degree of skill, he secured Air New Zealand and Air Samoa, plus other contracts, to save the future of the operation.


“During those days I met many people who became life-long friends,” he says, reflecting on the strength of relationships in the business and how they have been at the core of his work ethic.


Unions were strong and job demarkation lines fervently defended


60 WWW.ONBOARDHOSPITALITY.COM


Face-to-face time was a crucial element of establishing lasting business relationships


Worldwide web arrives and emailing becomes the norm


1960 1970


1980


REFILLED BY CHEFS ONLY TO BE


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