Rail so­lu­tions

Onboard Hospitality - - Opinion -

De­spite the suc­cess of high street branded sta­tion out­lets at at­tract­ing cus­tomers to buy be­fore board­ing, vir­tu­ally all on­board café bars and trol­leys across Europe re­main un­branded.

In­stead they use a com­bi­na­tion of in­di­vid­u­ally branded prod­ucts as part of a wider range but with­out any over­ar­ch­ing cater­ing iden­tity. This ap­proach means trains don't com­pete on equal terms and my chal­lenge to cater­ers is: bring in suit­able part­ners and ramp up the com­pe­ti­tion.

Ex­pe­ri­ence shows that sell­ing is as much about peo­ple as prod­ucts. The best prod­ucts, with the best pre­sen­ta­tion will be in­ef­fec­tive if the crew is not en­gaged or trained to sell. Our mem­bers con­tin­u­ally look to find tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions to of­fer more choice and use of on­board ser­vices. Pre-pur­chase sys­tems for meals are of­ten via a link from the train op­er­a­tor’s web­site, and a few ‘buy at seat’ apps have also been de­vel­oped, such as in Czech Repub­lic by JLV and in Poland by WARS.

How­ever, there is po­ten­tial for more in­tu­itive en­gage­ment on cater­ing, as done for tick­et­ing and sched­ul­ing in­for­ma­tion. The pace of de­vel­op­ment in Europe is a worry, es­pe­cially with high-speed train jour­neys di­min­ish­ing ser­vice times, and on busy ser­vices where cus­tomers don't want to leave their seats.The more tra­di­tional style re­tail restau­rant cars

are still used by a sur­pris­ing num­ber of op­er­a­tors in Europe such as DB,

SBB and VR. This is mainly for so­ci­etal rea­sons, but cost man­age­ment is dif­fi­cult and rev­enues vari­able. Else­where about 50% of meals are now pre-pre­pared in pro­duc­tion kitchens, de­liv­ered in mod­ules and served on trays to cus­tomers at seat. I think this trend will con­tinue as it means more cus­tomers per train can be served, and costs can be in­cluded in the ticket price.

In the mod­ern high-speed rail en­vi­ron­ment cater­ers need to pro­vide ever-greater flex­i­bil­ity, to man­age events and dis­rup­tions too. Whether it’s a last minute change of train, en­gi­neer­ing or in­creases in pas­sen­ger numbers, hav­ing the right struc­ture with all ser­vices un­der one roof gives added pro­tec­tion to op­er­a­tors and en­ables con­tin­ual im­prove­ments in cost and op­er­a­tions.

The grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of eth­nic taste pro­files such as tapas, Asian fu­sion, sushi and Mex­i­can food sug­gests on­board menus could re­flect more ad­ven­tur­ous recipes and in­gre­di­ents, es­pe­cially in café bar re­tail­ing which has been restricted to pre-packed

sand­wiches for years.

The best prod­ucts, with the best pre­sen­ta­tion will be in­ef­fec­tive if the

crew is not trained

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