How Does the Airline Food Catering System Work?

airline stewardess serving food on an airplane

You might not think much about it unless you’re in the catering business, but airline catering is a huge industry, worth $6 billion in the U.S. alone. Airline catering companies need to source hundreds of snacks or meals for almost every flight every day, which can add up to be a lot of food. There are also a lot of logistics that go into making this happen smoothly. Read on to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of the airline catering industry for both commercial airlines and private jets.

Commercial airline catering

For commercial airline catering, each airline has a team of culinary professionals that are in charge of selecting what food and beverages they’d like to offer on their flights. While the menus tend to be rather small, they often have a few menu options that they cycle through depending on what location the flight leaves out of and what time of year it is. The culinary teams are always looking for feedback from flight attendants and monitor food trends to make sure their menus are popular with customers and fit their dietary needs.

While snacks or meals in coach can sometimes leave something to be desired, first-class and business-class passengers often receive larger, fancier meals and have more choices for food and beverage options.

Meals are usually prepared at a catering facility located on-site or close to the airport and then are transported to the aircraft in the small-time window while it is at the gate. You might recognize the lifted catering trucks of the major companies like Gate Group or LSG Sky Chefs in the U.S. or Dnata in Australia from flights you’ve taken in the past.

Private jet catering

As you might imagine, private jet catering works a bit differently. Private jet customers are paying top dollar for their services and tend to have more varied and specific needs than commercial airline guests do. Private jet catering is usually an entirely customizable menu and experience for guests.

For example, Deluxe Catering, a leading private jet caterer based in the UK, has an extensive menu with over 3,500 items available. On their high-end flights, they tend to receive orders for anything and everything—even things most people might consider bizarre—so they are prepared to meet their customers’ needs, whatever they may be.

Deluxe uses FoodStorm, our premium catering software, to keep track of all of their orders. Since Deluxe operates out of two major UK airports, they need to be equipped to turnaround last-minute orders quickly. They also service both domestic and international flights and need to keep track of taxes, since VAT must be charged on any flights that land in the UK, but not on any international flights. Luckily, FoodStorm automates all these processes for them and makes the logistics easier.

Deluxe also works with multiple third-party private jet companies so they have to source, manage, and deliver orders to many different companies and locations. One of the most useful features FoodStorm offers is the ability to link catering orders directly to each unique aircraft registration, so you never have to worry about mixing up orders.

How are menus created?

Whether you’re talking about commercial or private jet catering, every airline catering company has the challenge of making enticing menus with food that tastes good. Airplane food has a reputation for being bland, and there is a reason for that.

People lose up to 30% of their ability for their taste buds to detect salt in food when at altitude. This means that many companies add extra salt or other flavor profiles to their food to help it taste palatable inflight.

Since airplane catering companies need to place very large orders of their ingredients, they tend to place orders very far in advance and have a complex supply chain, so it is very important to stay ahead of culinary trends and predict what people might want to eat. Catering software can help keep track of ingredients and previous orders to assist in menu management. By monitoring dietary trends and gathering extensive feedback from previous flights, airplane catering companies can ensure they are satisfying all customers.

Catering software for every catering style

FoodStorm Catering Software knows each caterer has nuances and intricacies that need to be understood and incorporated into their operations management. The FoodStorm team has over 15 years of research and development experience, ensuring these nuances and intricacies are front-of-mind when creating and delivering our catering management software.

If you’re ready to learn what FoodStorm can do for you, contact us today to speak to a specialist.

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