Catering to new markets

posted on 14th March 2023
Catering to new markets

Catering and in-flight services company Ferier is adapting to changing market dynamics in Europe. Mark Pilling reports

Poland’s Ferier has carved out a significant market for itself in the eight years since its formation in 2014. It has a diverse customer base ranging from low-cost carriers to top-end business aviation players, to whom it delivers a range of catering and in-flight services. The company is also a partner of Gategroup in Poland, and recently joined ACA, the Airline Catering Association.
Ferier’s management team of Chief Executive Pawel Litkiewicz and Commercial Manager Joanna Kordel is diversifying its product offer as traffic volumes pick up. “Traffic in Poland has recovered, and business levels will grow, not rapidly, but at a reasonable pace this year,” outlined Litkiewicz. “We are already responding to a several tenders for new catering service, so things are looking promising.”
“However, the catering market looks a little different in the post-Covid era,” said Kordel. “Pre-Covid, airlines would have several aircraft on overnight stays in Poland that would be locally catered on departure in the morning,” she explained. Airlines have changed working practices to reduce overnight stays and the need for local catering.
“In addition, many airlines have simplified their on-board catering offer, changing their product so they can get supplies from their home bases – meaning they no longer order in Poland,” she explained.
This change was driven partly by a need to make the on-board product simpler and safer when the virus was at its peak, and partly by a desire to reduce costs. “It was the same for low-cost and network carriers,” said Kordel. There could be a change back to a larger product range at some point, but the likelihood is that it will be a permanent move.
Faced with such changes to its main product offer as airline needs change, Ferier is branching out. “Everything we look at is the in-flight business, but we are diversifying from the classic catering to on-board retail management for a wider variety of clients,” said Kordel.
In summer 2022, Ferier began working with a handful of charter carriers offering a ‘no-risk‘ on-board retail product, explained Kordel. “Our advantage is we are able to do this on a local basis and in a very flexible way,” she said. Three carriers took the service where Ferier delivers the on-board catering, duty-free and retail products that are sold by the airline’s cabin crew. “It works for carriers flying point to point with a small fleet,” she added.
“We changed our approach to risk,” said Kordel. “The airline doesn’t pay for anything.” It has been a successful move, with the airline and the tour operator able to offer an improved passenger experience and Ferier also making a return.
Kordel is confident this seasonal business can resume this year after its promising start. “We already see that the charter segment is likely to grow in Poland [in 2023] so we hope to definitely do more on-board programmes,” she said.

Business aviation
The business aviation market is a smaller segment of Ferier’s business, said Litkiewicz. “However, we are seeing more general aviation, business and VIP customers,” Kordel pointed out. “The needs of this market are completely different to airlines. The orders are usually at short notice and there are no standard menus.”
Ferier will continue to target the business aviation sector and is further diversifying in partnership with airports to offer PRM (passenger with reduced mobility) services. “We provide this service at Gdansk and would like to expand to other locations,” said Kordel.
Another business line being developed is Ferier Logistics: the company is taking advantage of its existing infrastructure to provide warehouse and logistics support for customers at its network of five airports in Poland, she explained.
This year Ferier expects to add some 30 staff to reach a complement of 120 as it restores its numbers to almost pre-Covid levels, said Litkiewicz. It has been able to ramp up fairly seamlessly by recruiting experienced staff that have worked in both aviation and non-aviation businesses.
Ferier’s operation, which currently offers services at Poland’s five main airports of Warsaw, Gdansk, Krakow, Katowice and Wroclaw (but is also licensed and able to provide services at other Polish airports), sees it working with a network of suppliers to provide its catering assembly lines with products. “This ensures we can flex up and down as demand dictates, so our fixed costs are not huge,” said Litkiewicz.
This year the firm will focus on rebuilding its Polish business base while keeping an eye on opportunities elsewhere if there is a suitable opportunity, said Litkiewicz.
One of Ferier’s advantages is the strong relationships with airlines that Litkiewicz and Kordel have built up during their careers, both having worked with other ground services companies in Poland.
The firm is one of three catering service providers in the country. Competition is strong and pricing is too, but relationships and the ability to deliver are critical. “It is vital to deliver the quality and punctuality that airlines need – it is more important than every single Euro in the menu,” said Litkiewicz.
Post-Covid, it is Litkiewicz’s view that carriers recognise more than ever how important a strong ground service is to their product. “It’s not all about prices; it is more about customer focus, flexibility and being able to deliver,” he said.