ariis
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Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Sun Mar 06, 2005 6:43 am

Hi there,

I'll illustrate my question with an example (example airline, airports of origin and destination).

When Lufthansa plane flies back from Tokyo to Frankfurt, during lunch or dinner passengers are given trays with LH dishes (new cups, spoons, plates, all with LH logo) and meals often with LH logo embossed as well (not to mention the LH salt/pepper bags). But often e.g. butter, jam or cups with sealed mineral water have Japanese markings, bread seems Japanese as well.

Here is my question: Is LH plane flying from FRA to NRT carrying all the dishes and meals for the return flight? (except water, bread and butter/jam) Or is there a catering facility in Tokyo that will supply LH branded clean dishes and meals?

Of course, my question is not limited to LH, FRA and NRT only, but is rather a general one. I expect also that situation is dramatically different depending on an airline/airport.

If someone could share some behind the scenes secrets of the airline catering, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance and best regards
FAO
FAO - Flight Activities Officer
 
bri2k1
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Sun Mar 06, 2005 7:08 am

There was a good show a while back on Discovery Wings channel about airline catering. There is good money in that industry, if it's run efficiently. As I recall, the preexisting contract between the airline and the catering company would allow them to leave the dirty service items in the destination city. The next time catering is replenished on an LH flight in that city, those dishes would be reused. The same catering company might have branches at various airports as well, so it's not really a major issue for most carriers to have the right catering items available. It would be highly cost-ineffective for the outbound leg to carry the weight of all the return leg service items, plus the extra fuel to carry that extra weight, and so on. This is almost never done.

Most airline catering foodservice lines employ world-class executive chefs. Personally, I've never been impressed with any airline's food, but that's just an opinion.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Sun Mar 06, 2005 8:46 am

Most airline catering foodservice lines employ world-class executive chefs. Personally, I've never been impressed with any airline's food, but that's just an opinion.

My wife's aunt and her husband used to work in the food industry (yes I said industry, as opposed to restaurants) so I have some small inkling of the things involved.

As any chef will tell you, a big part of the equation is timing. If you are in a restaurant you can control the timing from kitchen to plate perfectly. Just to give you a related example at better Japanese restaurants the green tea is always perfect drinking temperature when you get it. At crappy ones it's scalding. Given control over timing, a good chef will ensure that when your plate hits the table in front of you the meal is perfect in every way.

On an airliner, there is no way to control the timing. Also the food has to lend itself to reheating while the ingredients are already in the same dish. Most food doesn't do this well. Pasta of course becomes soft and soggy etc etc. And you get the typical mush.

One of the other big problems with preparing processed foods is the lack of control over temperature. My wife's aunt often worked in food testing, which can involve seeing how the food will react to preparation at widely differing temperatures and with differing preparation times. Sure it says 250 degrees on the package, but your oven could be at 200-300 for all you know. And while the engines are lovingly cared for, how often do they check the ovens?

Bottom line, if world class professionals weren't involved in planning and preparation, it would go from tasting passable at best to tasting like dog poo.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
ha763
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Sun Mar 06, 2005 12:47 pm

They can and do clean and reuse the dishes, but most items with airline logos are stocked by the caterers, including extra dishes and utensils. These are items are ordered and sent by the airline to their stations for use to service the aircraft.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:07 pm

Is the Meal Balanced Diet point of view.Or its just any Meal.
regds
MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Sun Mar 06, 2005 10:48 pm

Is the Meal Balanced Diet point of view.Or its just any Meal.

Airline meals tend to be surprisinly balanced except for the fact that they are too salty.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
jcavinato
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Sun Mar 06, 2005 11:03 pm

I did a lot of consulting in this industry in the late 90s.

Long distance flights often have catered stuff handled in one of two ways. Biz and first plates, cutlery, etc. are generally taken to the caterer who puts them into near freezer temperature rooms. When they have the time they are taken out a washed/disinfected then used for outbound flights. There is a lot of coordination among the world caterers -- of which there are only about three or four big players in that industry plus a lot of local ones.

If it involved complete throw-away stuff, that it taken to a heat chamber to kill bacteria then to a regular garbage system (land fill, etc.).

Gate Gourmet (owned by Swiss Air in the late 90s) was actually the world's largest buyer of champaign (mostly for BA at London airports as well as at CDG).

I have quite a collection of china from many of the airlines. In the 90s I started to see the pressures on the airlines to cut costs in any ways they can. And, the elegance of first and biz food service was gradually starting to get the flinty eye of auditors.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:17 pm

Quoting Starlionblue (reply 5):
ne meals tend to be surprisinly balanced except for the fact that they are too salty.

Why does the Fruit salad contain 70% of Melons.What about the other Fruit.

BTW 9W cutlery look real good with their logo embossed on them.
regds
MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
bri2k1
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Tue Mar 08, 2005 2:51 am

Quoting HAWK21M (reply 7):
Why does the Fruit salad contain 70% of Melons.What about the other Fruit.


I would hardly consider that unbalanaced, HAWK21M. See http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/pyramid.html for a good definition of a balanced diet.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Tue Mar 08, 2005 3:01 am

Why does the Fruit salad contain 70% of Melons.What about the other Fruit.

My guess is that melon is comparatively cheap (by weight) and keeps flavor/moisture for comparatively longer.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Tue Mar 08, 2005 10:24 pm

Bri2k1....Interesting link.
Thanks.
regds
MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
willo
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Wed Mar 09, 2005 12:32 am

Quoting Starlionblue (reply 2):
And while the engines are lovingly cared for, how often do they check the ovens?


judging by the state of some of the galley fans we have for repair, not too often.
 
JHSfan
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Wed Mar 09, 2005 6:33 am

Dear Ariis

Usually airlines has a contract with a catering company at many of the airports they fly to. If they fly to an airport on a daily/regular basis it will be normal to have the local catering company taking care of the food and equipment and to have extra sets ready before departure.

When I say local catering company it may well be a part of Gate Gourmet or LSG Sky Chef.

The equipment arriving will only leave the airport on the same plane, together with new food, if the airline only comes once in a while (say once a week). Of course the turn around time for such a flight must be at least a few hours for the catering company to cleaning the set and packing new food. If the turn around time is too short the use of disposable foodservice products is the solution.

Bringing along the food for the return trip usually only happen if there is no catering company at the airport or if the quality is too low or simply too expensive.

I have worked for SAS Service Partner from 1986 to 1994. SAS Service Partner was bought by Gate Gourmet in the late 90's.

Yours in realtime
JHSfan
Look at me, I´m riding high, I´m the airbornmaster of the sky...
 
jcavinato
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:26 am

I've seen round tripping of food from the U.S. to Central America and Caribbean destinations in first class. Here it makes sense, for 12, 14, or 18 single tray servings that can be kept cool on the outbound trip for returning passengers.
 
ariis
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Wed Mar 09, 2005 8:18 pm

Hi there,

thank you very much for all your very interesting replies. I have learnt much here.

Best regards and I wish your food onboard will always be tasty  Smile
FAO
FAO - Flight Activities Officer
 
JHSfan
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Wed Mar 09, 2005 9:14 pm

BTW: I know a homepage with a 16 minutes video (Windows Media Player only) of how an airline catering company works. The video is from 1998, so it's no brand new, but still giving a good impression of how things work in general in a catering company.

Go to Media on Demand and search for the keyword "airline".

If you have a program like NetTransport you can download the streaming video.

- JHSfan
Look at me, I´m riding high, I´m the airbornmaster of the sky...
 
sunking737
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Thu Mar 10, 2005 10:49 pm

This is in reply to airline catering. As I work for an airline in catering, I have some insight to what goes on behind the scenes. Every airline works with the caterer on what they want on their aircraft.

Flight Kitchens are big because they need large storerooms to hold everything, and anything with the airline logo on it. Sugar packets, creamer, beverage & dinner napkins, silverware, plates etc.

The flight kitchens have people whose job is just to keep track of inventory. Then they have to let each airline know what they need supply wise. Most times if it is small amounts it can be sent as COMAT or Company Material onboard the aircraft as cargo.

Most airlines work with the caterer to come up with menu ideas. Airlines can tell the cater we want this item or that item, but we will only pay this price. The Caterer can buy locally items like meat, eggs, ice cream, dairy. But when it comes to beer, wine, etc., some airlines only want Coke not Pepsi or Miller MGD but not Budweiser. If they serve a brand not found locally, then it must be shipped in.

We used to have a commissary in LAS, but we would ship in our coffee, as we could not get it locally or we could get a better price in MSP. The same with beer, and the Bloody Mary mix. Since we were flying DC-10 to LAS from MSP, we would send whole pallets of stuff.

Now we do things a little different, as we only have a commissary in MSP. Every flight that leaves MSP has food for both flights. Out and back. The outbound food is packed in the oven inserts, the return food is in boxes and then put into the food carts. After the Flight Attendants serve you your meal they then load the ovens with the food for the return flight. On the longer flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Anchorage, we give the passengers a little extra. With the breakfast sandwich they get a bag of fruit snacks, or cookies with the lunch or dinner sandwich.

First Class is done almost the same. Your out bound food is in the oven inserts, But instead of the all the food being on a small dish, it is in a small foil pan and the flight attendants serve it up on a plate, then take the try set ups out of the cart and serve you the try. On the tray is a plate, silverware, napkin, salt pepper, any fruit, mini muffins, or roll, butter. Sometimes desert is on the try or it is served after you are done.

The amount of food in the pan depends on size of the portions. If breakfast is an omelet then potatoes,& sausage is also in the pan. Servings can be 2 or 4. Lunch / dinner can be in separate pans. Entrée in one, vegetables in another, rice or potatoes in a 3rd. Entrée, rice, potatoes, & veggies can have 4 servings in a pan . We have 12 First class passengers so we have 3 pans of each. We keep everything separate so they don’t get soggy.

We then have everything packed in a food cart for first class in one cart. Keep in mind most of our flights are out and back so they are carrying on food for 2 flights. We do have a flight that does 4 legs so it does get crazy trying to pack all that food.

We change First class menu about every 4 to 6 months. The kitchen people come up with ideas for the menu, then they put on a luncheon were the Director of In flight and anyone she wants to bring, like CEO, COO, or some of the staff from corporate headquarters. They eat talk, then the Director looks at prices, and can suggest some changes. With in a few weeks we change the menu.

When the plane comes back in the afternoon we restock the plane with coffee, juice, hot & cold cups, etc.
The dirty carts and oven inserts are removed and replaced with new items for the next flight. The trash removed. Fresh ice is put onboard and we check with the flight attendants to make sure they have everything then we go on to the next flight.

When we get back to commissary we unload everything , and the dirty food carts and ovens go to the dish room and get washed. The liquor carts, soda carts etc., go to the liquor room for cleaning and restocking.

The cycle continues.

I hope this helps.
Just an MSPAVGEEK
 
ariis
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RE: Food/dishes Onboard - Where From?

Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:51 pm

Sunking737,

thank you very much for your impressive post. It does help indeed.

Best regards
FAO
FAO - Flight Activities Officer

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