DFMi at 30

Onboard Hospitality - - Focus On -

This year DFMi marks its thir­ti­eth year in the air­line in­dus­try. Julie Bax­ter dis­cov­ers how the com­pany has weath­ered the storms and stayed on trend through three tur­bu­lent decades

Founded in 1988, ini­tially to serve the U.S. mar­ket, DFMi soon ex­panded into Europe and has since then suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated three decades of fast-paced in­dus­try chal­lenge and change.

Gra­ham Fel­ton, ceo, says: “30 years ago there were 30 air­lines in the in­dus­try.

As it con­sol­i­dated, DFMi had to ad­just, and ex­panded its prod­ucts and ser­vices to meet ever-chang­ing needs and re­quire­ments. We have con­stantly sought out in­no­va­tive prod­ucts, pro­grammes and so­lu­tions.”

The com­pany started as a part­ner­ship be­tween Fel­ton and Wolf­gang Diehl

(the D&F) who met while Gra­ham was man­ag­ing the air­line busi­ness for Gen­eral Foods and meat com­pany Os­car Meyer, and Diehl was the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for on­board ser­vices at East­ern Air­lines. Diehl had ex­pe­ri­ence as a Euro­pean ex­ec­u­tive chef and Gra­ham brought ex­per­tise in sales and mar­ket­ing. To­gether they cre­ated a busi­ness founded on hon­esty, in­tegrity, flex­i­bil­ity and a pas­sion for in­no­va­tion.

On 9/11 the in­dus­try changed for­ever and like many cater­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and sup­pli­ers, DFMi’s five year plan in­stantly be­came a five month plan. As do­mes­tic food ser­vice was dis­con­tin­ued and

U.S. air­lines be­gan to fo­cus on global ex­pan­sion, DFMi rode the storm. Later as air­lines emerged from the 2007-2010 re­ces­sion and re­turned to prof­itabil­ity, the DFMi team was quick to re­spond to new op­por­tu­ni­ties with new prod­ucts and brands, by tap­ping into trends to sup­port the air­line in­dus­try’s grad­ual re­vival.

Fel­ton adds: “Today, air­lines are more fo­cused than ever on the per­son­al­i­sa­tion of the pas­sen­ger’s on­board ex­pe­ri­ence. Whether it is on­board en­ter­tain­ment, com­fort items or food and bev­er­age, we have to con­stantly watch for chang­ing trends and pas­sen­ger pref­er­ences. Stay­ing abreast of what is hap­pen­ing in the food in­dus­try and the de­sires of the next gen­er­a­tion of pas­sen­gers is a key part of our fo­cus today. “

To mark its an­niver­sary, DFMi will host its VIP cus­tomers to a spe­cial morn­ing cafe and happy hour dur­ing WTCE and is run­ning a retro 1980s mar­ket­ing cam­paign which re­flects its 30 year his­tory.

Look­ing ahead Fel­ton con­cludes: “The heart of the com­pany will al­ways be about serv­ing our cus­tomers, sup­plier part­ners and each other with hon­esty and in­tegrity. That’s what re­ally mat­ters most.

"In the next 30 years this in­dus­try is pro­jected to have a global pas­sen­ger growth of 4.8% com­pounded an­nu­ally. New air­craft and gal­ley de­signs are launch­ing at a record-break­ing pace which will re­quire new prod­ucts, pro­grammes and in­no­va­tive pack­ag­ing to fur­ther en­hance the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence. We look for­ward to serv­ing the world for the next 30 years. ”

the heart of the com­pany will al­ways

be about hon­esty and in­tegrity. that's what mat­ters most

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