[INTERVIEW] A behind-the-scenes look at developing Austrian Airlines’ new catering concept

Austrian Airlines’ new catering concept, developed in collaboration with Retail inMotion, is now available to Economy Class passengers on short-haul flights. Starting today, passengers will be able to purchase fresh, regional, and high-quality food and beverage products within the context of the Austrian Melangerie.

We talked to Sven Meissner, Retail Director at Retail inMotion about the concept behind the culinary offer, the implications of implementing a project virtually due to pandemic-induced constraints, the processes, priorities and more.

 

What qualities make a catering concept successful?

Sven Meissner: The most important goal for us is to create a catering concept that reflects the airline’s values and brand identity. Each product available onboard must represent a piece of that culture, and the offer as a whole must be able to tell the story about the brand, its values and identity.

What quality standards were followed when developing the new catering concept for Austrian Airlines?

Sven Meissner: The focus for the Austrian Melangerie was on the Austrian identity and the premium aspect. Sustainability was also a factor, as well as bringing iconic food brands to the skies for a traditional Austrian experience. Our mission was to mix these characteristics together and create a concept that’s tailored to the airline’s brand.  

Aspects such as quality and freshness are crucial when it comes to choosing the right products for the Austrian Melangerie.

What are some of the products that are synonymous with the Austrian character?

Sven Meissner: Around 50 products were included in the Austrian Melangerie, so it’s quite difficult to choose. I would say the classic Brettljause platter is a very good example of a product that’s synonymous with the Austrian character. The platter comes in a sustainable wooden box, so in addition to the flavour and freshness, it also meets sustainability expectations. The culinary offer would not be complete without the Original Sacher-Torte, the most iconic Viennese dessert, and famous Austrian sweets like Manner wafers and Mirabell Echte Salzburger Mozartkugel.

What are the fortes of the “Austrian Melangerie”?

Sven Meissner: Aspects such as quality and freshness are crucial when it comes to choosing the right products for the Austrian Melangerie. Regionality is also a forte – if you look at the concept, you will find a number of products that are either from Vienna or from the region. But even when all these aspects are taken into consideration, what matters most is adjusting the program until it becomes what it is today.

Due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail concept was implemented completely virtually. What were the benefits, challenges, and lessons learned?

Sven Meissner: In this case, the line between benefits and challenges is very thin. On the one side, not having to commute to work on a daily basis has its perks but this also makes it more difficult for me to distinguish between work and personal life. All the meetings and planning have gone digital, including menu presentations!

One of the benefits of implementing the program virtually is the fact that all parties involved understood the importance of working together, helping each other and just making it work. Although doing this remotely took some adjustment, once we found our rhythm, everything clicked into place.

The focus for the Austrian Melangerie was on the Austrian identity and the premium aspect. Sustainability was also a factor, as well as bringing iconic food brands to the skies for a traditional Austrian experience.

Having successfully completed such a complex project virtually, what does this mean for future projects?

Sven Meissner: Doing something like this demands trust, motivation, and willingness to go the extra mile. Even though we had to implement the program virtually, with all the hardships and constraints induced by the pandemic, the RiM team has proven that it is more than capable to use the digital revolution to its advantage. 

More and more innovative concepts will be boosted by digital technology. How does Retail inMotion plan to continue to drive innovation and strengthen its competitive position?

Sven Meissner: Digital solutions such as pre-order, cash-free payment, contactless technology, digital receipts, as well as digitally animated menus are only a few measures we are developing and implementing to safeguard the passenger experience throughout the customer journey. We believe that technological innovations will become instrumental in making sure that passengers can continue to experience both the necessities and luxuries of the inflight experience.