[ INTERVIEW ] The making of a new onboard retail concept: Part 1

In November 2020, we announced that Retail inMotion would support the Lufthansa Group on their path to a new onboard retail concept. Fast forward five months and planning for the new business model is well underway.     

RiM is supporting the global aviation group by providing its expertise and best practices in the development and management of a customer-centric and premium retail concept. Together with the three airlines under the umbrella of the Lufthansa Group, we designed individual product concepts that focus on fresh, regional, sustainable, and high-quality food and beverage products.

We talked to Nicole Beckers and Claudia Witt, Team Leads Retail Program Management at Retail inMotion, about the concept behind the culinary offers, the implications of implementing a project virtually due to pandemic-induced constraints, the processes, priorities, and more.

 

Retail inMotion is supporting the Lufthansa Group airlines on their path to a new onboard retail concept. What was this experience like for Retail inMotion, specifically for category management?

We were excited about the opportunity to develop the retail program for not one, but three amazing airlines at the same time!

For us, it was very important to make sure we take into consideration the brand identity of each airline in order to meet their standards and demands. At the same time, we also wanted to build synergies among the different airlines.

What we did in our category management team was split up the different airlines among team members. However, we always kept close contact in order to share various ideas, best practices and approaches.

Due to the tight deadlines and unknowns triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, this project came with new challenges but in the end, it was a great success.

How is RiM supporting the airlines in building a best-in-class passenger experience?

As we already have many customers ranging from low cost to premium, we have gained experience in various areas in the Buy-on-Board sector.

We are therefore able to select the best program for our customers, which perfectly reflects their brand values and identity and meets the high standards of their passenger base.

Furthermore, we are always up-to-date with the latest food trends and we quickly adapt our solutions to challenging environments.

We always strive to create a customer-centric strategy for our customers and even though the requirements of the airlines come first, we always have the end customer in mind when designing the retail program. We have weekly meetings with our clients, even during the COVID-19 pandemic (virtually, of course!) in order to understand their needs and expectations.

By joining forces with strong, experienced, and well-known brand partners, we make sure that the airlines receive the best assortment of food and beverage products.

How does the culinary offer fit into the airlines’ new customer-centric approach? 

Gone are the days when passengers could only choose between a sweet or salty snack. They can now choose from a wide range of healthy, regional treats from well-known brands.

Nowadays, more and more customers demand healthy and sustainable food choices and packaging. Regionality and heritage play a significant role, too. Furthermore, by going regional and joining forces with strong, experienced, and well-known brand partners, we make sure that the airlines receive the best assortment of food and beverage products. All these needs have been translated into the new catering concept.

RiM is involved in both concept creation and product selection. How did you translate the initial idea(s) into a proper concept?

First, we analyse the airlines: their brand, heritage, their values as well as their business segment, customer profile and customer journey. Then we take into account the current trends and industry developments.

We develop various ideas and concepts in order to see which one fits the best, then we present it to the client. A clear concept is easier to implement, for sure. We strongly believe that a catering concept should evoke emotion in passengers, generate curiosity and keep them engaged.

For concept creation, even in COVID-19 times, the Retail Program manager holds brainstorming sessions, which are meant to ensure that the concept is applicable with regard to product selection also design setup.

As far as product selection is concerned, we identify the airlines’ needs and we look at the latest trends and innovations before we decide on the right products for the respective program.

Could you walk us through some of the work that went into product selection?

Some of the things that we are involved in are as follows:

  1. Choose the right brand partner (with the airline and local caterer) and the products they are known for.
  2. Develop ideas for new product innovations and make use of bestsellers or products that we know the airline’s end customers (passengers) prefer.
  3. Take into consideration various aspects that influence/limit the product choice, such as route mix, loading and service concept, shelf life, ethnical reasons, passenger profile, sustainability, etc.
  4. Decide on different categories and products that are included in the program, based on experiences and sales figures.
  5. Develop an initial product list and contact suppliers and purchasing organizations.
  6. Narrow down the product list and negotiate the prices and conditions with the supplier.
  7. Prepare menu presentations for the client and decide on the products.

 

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we focus on the culinary offer, the importance of offering both choice and quality, and the sustainability requirements.