What Your In-Flight Catering Says About You

A highlight of any flight over a certain length is the catering. But what do your in-flight culinary efforts speak of your steps towards providing excellent service? Andre Fodor shares some pointers...

Andre Fodor  |  14th March 2023
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Andre Fodor
Andre Fodor

With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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What does your in-flight catering say of your service levels

Recently, I met two pilots whose principal had just upgraded from an Entry-Level Jet to a Super Mid-Size Jet. They expressed that they were completely lost as to which services they should now be providing their principal.

With the upgrade in cabin size and range comes a need for improved service and quality. Since the trips would be longer, the pilots needed to start planning for catering and additional cabin comforts.

While feeling daunted by the task of delivering at that higher level, both pilots were clearly committed to excellence, and they retained me to help them prepare, learn, and deliver. Together, we created a system that would facilitate what was now required.

We began with a review of the basics of food service and preparation, how and where to order, what to stock in the airplane, and how often to rotate consumables (such as wines and snacks). We still meet quarterly, improving and tweaking the services, and their boss is thrilled. The crew’s job longevity is assured!

Optimized Catering = Optimized Productivity

When it comes to managing catering, without downplaying the value of professional in-flight food caterers who are based at airports (some are truly outstanding), I usually source from local restaurants and high-end purveyors, giving us the opportunity to provide local flavors and variety.

We plan the catering based around our destination, the length of flight, the time of day, and the need for productivity. For example, if we have a daytime trip, we will refrain from serving heavy and starchy foods that could cause drowsiness, and instead plan energy-giving, lighter meals that support productivity.

Consideration is also given to the time of day at the destination, and we plan the catering accordingly, helping passengers arrive more able to adapt to the local time-zone.

For the smaller aircraft operator, smartphones and food delivery apps have revolutionized their ability to improve catering options – especially given the limited on-board space for food storage and preparation. Light Jet and Turboprop operators can pre-order breakfast and lunch on their smartphone and have it delivered to the hotel or FBO ahead of departure.

Indeed, the charter broker that supports our supplemental lift requirements uses a worldwide coffee and breakfast chain to supply its morning catering needs. By ordering the night before, there is ample time to respond to potential delivery issues, provided what’s ordered is non-perishable.

Safety, Hygiene and Personal Preferences

It is important for a flight attendant to get to know the likes and dislikes of passengers, as well as any allergies or special dietary requirements.

One of the important challenges is to prevent too much similarity when serving favorite food items. I remind our cabin team that quality comes first and there are plenty of ways to present and plate the same dish, thereby preserving taste but delivering a new and original look each time.

Allergies and intolerances should be taken into consideration – for example, if one of the passengers has a nut allergy, no nuts should be served aboard the aircraft during the flight – snacks or otherwise.

And, given the confined nature of an aircraft cabin, strong dislikes and smells should also be taken into account when it comes to planning the catering. For example, raw onions, brussels sprouts and fish have strong odors, especially when they’re re-heated.

Other ‘no-go’ items to bring aboard a private aircraft are items of food that are either hard to handle or keep fresh. Sushi or raw meats present a danger of food poisoning due to the time between preparation, transportation, storage and consumption. Ultimately, plan with safety and hygiene in mind.

And if you’re ordering your catering from a restaurant, bring your own metal trays that fit your oven size, requesting the food be separated into different containers to allow for organized heating and plating-up.

Request for the meats to be slightly undercooked to ensure they will be just right once they’ve been reheated.

Visible Presentation of Quality Service

Ultimately, the level of service that you will provide will be driven by the expectation of your principal. Some may have low expectations, so it’s up to you to show them the possibilities. Personally, I prefer to elevate service, giving passengers yet another reason to enjoy and look forward to flying in the business jet.

Our passengers know that we are doing our best to excel, and dishing up tasty food during the flight is a very tangible way to highlight this.

While the business jet can be the ultimate office-in-the-sky, that doesn’t negate the need to deliver the atmosphere of a home or favorite restaurant in the sky to support productivity, or relaxation after a busy day of meetings away from home. It solidifies the aircraft ownership experience, leaving a good taste in the mouths of all who step aboard.

Read more articles related to Flight Department challenges HERE

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