Competition shapes up in Kenya’s in-flight catering services
Posted Tuesday, July 3 2012 at 18:14
They may be a joyless culinary experience to some but the small food rations served in plastic tubs and cutlery still come handy to many airline passengers.
Most air travellers have tight schedules on transit routes and having a bite while airborne is a huge convenience and relief from the hustle and bustle in restaurants with little time to spare.
Always at hand to ensure this convenience, are in-flight catering firms which strive to provide the best menu and taste to customers of contracted airlines.
For airlines operating from Nairobi, there is only one main in-flight caterer to turn to — Nairobi Airport Service (NAS) Servair, which has dominated the market for more than six decades.
This dominance could however be shaken soon following the expected entry of a player being scouted by the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).
The KAA put up a repeat international tender on Tuesday for the development and management of an in-flight catering kitchen at the main Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
An initial call for bids in March flopped.
“It (the March tender) wasn’t responsive,” said Allan Muturi, KAA’s general manager for procurement and logistics. Sources say many companies tendered, including international firms with local partners, but did not meet all the requirements.
KAA is, however, optimistic of finding a qualified caterer in the next round of bids but NAS Servair will not let competition catch it flat-footed. The firm is eyeing aggressive modernisation and expansion to boost its chances in a more competitive environment.
As the main airline caterer it provides in-flight meals for airlines operating at JKIA and Moi International Airport, Mombasa, which accounts for 80 per cent of its revenues. It’s also looking at setting up operations at the Kisumu International Airport.
As a new player is expected, NAS Servair is investing in improving the quality of food, plans to cut costs and broaden its business offering from in-flight catering to other opportunities.
“Soon there will be another player; this could see us lose some of our customers. But the competition will enable us to prove to the market that we are good and competitive,” said Eric Rouvillois, NAS Servair’s general manager, in an interview at his JKIA office.
“I haven’t heard anything from KAA on who will come in.”
In March, the company invested Sh60 million in new equipment which allows the facility, based at JKIA, to use the Sous-vide method of cooking. A French method of cooking in vacuum sealed plastic pouches at controlled temperatures.
“We get returns on quality and save on yield. It also allows us to organise on projects because of the quality,” Mr Rouvillois said, adding that since the introduction of this method of cooking there are less complaints on meat quality. “The meat is juicy.”