LSG: Beyond the fact that we have the largest network in our industry, LSG Sky Chefs is leading in quality and sustainability. We manage our company with a long-term view whilst striving for continuous improvements in our day-to-day activities.
Additionally we have an excellent track record of working with partners in order to drive our expansion into new growth markets and locations – geographic expansion – and to enhance our vast range of products and services – portfolio expansion.
AGS: What recent achievements have you made?
– Improvement of operating result fifth year in a row in 2013
– Increase in catering revenues in all regions
– Expansion into train services in Europe: New business wins from Thalys and Eurostar in Belgium, Alleo in Germany
– Growth of retail business in the US by expanding with existing customers and attracting new ones
– Opening of a new facility in Moscow-Domodedovo (DME), Russia
– New Management Agreement with Novaport (airport operator) for Chelyabinsk (CEK), Russia
– Construction of new facilities in Auckland, New Zealand and Panama
– Joint Venture Agreement with technology provider Retail inMotion (RiM)
– Launch of SPIRIANT brand for onboard equipment (www.spiriant.com)
AGS: How has your company grown and developed?
LSG: LSG Sky Chefs has been able to benefit from the overall positive economic development in 2013. In combination with continued stringent management focusing on growth and cost control, it has once again managed to increase sales and operating profit. This success is based on a very solid foundation that has been built by gradually transforming the company. Next to the successful standardization of process flows, the company’s flexibility has grown substantially. Also, entry into new geographic as well as adjacent markets was successfully accomplished with the help of innovative business models.
In 2013, consolidated revenues rose by 3.3 percent (nominally 0.4 percent) after currency adjustments. Changes in the group of consolidated companies led to a revenue decrease of 74 million EUR compared to the previous year. The operating profit of the LSG Sky Chefs Group totaled 105 million EUR, meaning that it rose stronger than revenues (4 percent) in 2013. Earnings improved again for the fifth consecutive year despite higher restructuring costs.
AGS: Please give us an overview of your typical operation at a large airport.
LSG: The airline meals are produced in one of our 200 facilities which are located at or in close proximity to the airport. There are exceptions to this, including, for example, frozen-food components which are created, among others, at our frozen food plants and sent to other facilities. We also have standard items that every facility receives prepackaged.
After the preparation of each item, the meal components are put together in the so-called ‘tray set-up’, in which all components for a meal except warm dishes are arranged. These trays are then loaded into trolleys, which are generally cooled using dry ice. The warm component is also cooled to 5°C and held in storage ovens before being loaded into the oven on board. The trolleys, containers, and any other equipment are put on a truck designed especially for the loading and unloading of on-board equipment, and is then driven to the airport, where everything is brought onto the plane by an LSG Sky Chefs driver. This is where the handover meeting with the cabin crew occurs.
AGS: How do you ensure that your operation is safe and secure, particularly on the ramp, for example minimising damage to aircraft?
LSG: LSG Sky Chefs’ responsibility is to provide on-time performance to our airline customers, while maintaining efficiency in a safe, healthy and respectful manner. We strive for zero aircraft accidents, damages, or incidents. In order to reach these goals, we follow Standard Operating Procedures, such as:
• All ramp staff have to participate in initial Ramp training ranging from minimum of three weeks up to three months depending on the size and the complexity of their respective operation.
• All ramp staff have to participate in annually documented refresher training
• Documented Ramp Observations of a minimum once per month per employee.
• Incidents, accidents and damages are reported to Corporate including follow- up corrective actions and shift briefings for ramp staff communicated globally.
• Every damage is followed up by an inquiry board to find root causes of the damages and incidents.
• Global network between ramp safety leaders to deliver a fast communication.
• Monthly review on KPIs for Ramp Safety.
AGS: In what ways do you cooperate with ground handling companies?
LSG: We share best practices and experiences by attending various Ground Handling Conferences. On a regional level, we are involved in Airport Safety Committees where they exist.
AGS: Do you operate any specially designed equipment? If so, please tell us about your cooperation with equipment manufacturers.
LSG: We certainly operate specially designed high-loaders and trucks in order to deliver our products to the airplanes. As a prerequisite, all of our suppliers need to fulfill all standards required to operate on the apron and deliver to an airplane.
We are in constant dialogue with our suppliers in order to benefit from each other’s experiences and brainstorm on new technologies to increase security and safety of our operations. Additionally, we are also engaged in decreasing the environmental footprint of our fleet and therefore exchange newest trends on alternative power sources.
Last, but not least, the standardization of our fleet is one of our goals in order to increase flexibility (moving vehicles from one location to another) and user-friendliness for our drivers.
AGS: Please give us a brief overview of the range of services you provide to low-cost carriers and full-service airlines.
LSG: As low-cost carriers continue to exert their influence on the passenger flight experience, airline caterers are also being required to adapt to changed norms and individualized passenger expectations. Alongside traditional catering concepts, new ideas are emerging on how to combine high-end, complimentary services for premium guests with reasonably-priced, innovative offerings for Buy-on-Board passengers.
The challenge lies in defining a concept that reflects the airline’s brand identity, is appealing to passengers and can continue to uphold high standards for operational efficiency – that is, a smooth service.
LSG Sky Chefs provides the full range of services in regards to airline catering: pure Buy-on-Board concepts, mixed or hybrid concepts as well as the classical service in two- or three-class configuration. LSG Sky Chefs also provides services to VIP flights.
More than just “Chicken or beef?”
Finnish flag-carrier Finnair flies to over 80 domestic and worldwide destinations. The airline is proud of its in-flight catering, although Maarit Keränen, Head of Service Concept, admits there can sometimes be obstacles to overcome. “Finnair flies to numerous second-tier airports,” he says. “Sometimes there is no suitable catering unit at the airport. Sometimes it is challenging to get western meal choices. If there is only one catering unit the price level might be high due to a lack of competition.”
Nevertheless, the airline goes far beyond the old, familiar choices of “Chicken or beef?” with its new range of signature menus designed in collaboration with some of the country’s top restaurants. The meals, which will be prepared by LSG Sky Chefs, have a seasonal focus and will be served on long-haul routes from Helsinki from January 2015 to Spring 2016.
“We have received very positive feedback from customers regarding our previous partnership with top Finnish chefs, and we want to continue to offer delightful culinary experiences to our customers while also highlighting Finnish world-class expertise on our long-haul flights,” says Keränen.
The menus will be rotated seasonally. The first is designed by Matti Jämsén, Executive Head Chef at G.W. Sundmans and will include touches such as whitefish, glazed pork cheek and cod.
The menu by Kari Aihinen, Executive Chef de Cuisine of Savoy, is inspired by summer. The menu, which will be served from spring 2015, includes ingredients such as asparagus, salad made from new potatoes, honey as a condiment, and grilled corn-fed chicken breast.
The autumnal menu, designed by Ari Ruoho, Head Chef at Nokka, draws its inspiration from the harvest season and includes Jerusalem artichoke, northern pike eggs and pumpkin soup.
In winter 2016, Fishmarket’s Signature Menu will have, as expected, a focus on fish.
The influence of these new menus will extend throughout Finnair’s services. In economy class on long-haul routes, customers can try traditional Finnish meals designed by the chefs, such as minced meat and macaroni casserole or lamb meatballs. Business class meals on European routes have also been influenced by the signature menus.
The menus will be accompanied by a range of wines specially selected to complement the food, and served on tableware by famous Finnish design house Marimekko.