Once again, the NBAA Annual Convention – held in Las Vegas earlier this month – was phenomenal. Although my primary interest is aviation catering, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the sheer scale of the organization and the civic cooperation shown by that vibrant, exciting city.
At the Henderson Airport static display, my heart went pit-a-pat as I watched aircraft landing and departing with synchronized rhythm and precision. NBAA’s Joe Hart (resplendent in safari hat) on top of a scissor-lift, orchestrating the landings and placement of every aircraft like a symphony conductor in the bright Nevada sun. For anyone with a passion for aviation, this convention should be on your future ‘to do’ list.
As I walked the aisles of the exhibition halls, I closely observed the trends and products that might positively impact the catering world of general aviation.
Technology for caterers is expanding fast and furiously. For years, we have seen the introduction of networks with massive ordering systems and they have become part of most every catering operation. We as caterers (because we are generally small family-owned and operated) don’t have the financial resources to create our own point-of-sale software, so we have been dependent on these networks. Don’t get me wrong! They’re great, and I want to be part of every networks’ privately selected club. London-based InflightEx Technologies, currently celebrating its second anniversary, has created catering point-of-sale software. It links the client directly to the caterer without either party having to be part of a network. The scheduler/ flight crew can connect from a computer or smart phone directly to an order entry system that goes to the caterer. The system allows you to place your order, which will be instantly priced. If you have noted a food allergy, the system will identify that the item you have requested contains that allergen. You can maintain customer profiles, pull up your last order, and critique the food once you receive and consume it for others to see your opinion. I’m not certain how other caterers feel, but, a system like this will surely force the catering community to raise the bar to prevent negative critiques.
A similar system, but very different by nature, is about to be released and you can say you heard it here first. It’s called FlightBridge and has been created by Pallas Technology. I was fortunate enough to have seen the plans for this software that will take all of the headache out of trip logistics for flight departments and basically anyone involved in trip planning. Dudley King, Principal in the firm, says, “It’s a platform for sharing information between Flight Departments, Pilots, Crews, FBO’s and their service providers” (caterer’s come into the picture here ). Mr. King also says that: “It is not limited to catering but consolidates the management of all types of bookings and service requests in one place. To make it even easier it will integrate with PFM (Professional Management Flight Management Systems) that many flight departments are currently using. What I loved most about this was that when a change takes place everyone connected to that trip is notified instantly. No excuses now for not being kept in the loop. Keep your eyes open for this to hit the market in the very near future!
BE Princess, an established company, recently debuted new company branding . BE Princess owners Annie Balshi and Linh Nguyen, have been proactive in planning ahead to meet their clients’ needs and wishes for more unique and branded items for the general aviation aircraft. In addition to recreating their website in an easier to use format, they are now offering broken cases and lower prices to meet the requests of their clients – a boon for those smaller flight departments that don’t need a full case of an item. They introduced several new lines of amenities from well know designer companies such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Bulgari which include lotions, towels, and soaps. They also introduced a new gourmet line of individual portioned food items that include 50 ml. bottles of all natural salad dressing with trendy combinations such a fig and balsamic, raspberry, passion fruit, and rape seed oil vinaigrettes. And the new cookie line, WOW! I am a cookie lover by nature and very hard to please – All butter based, all natural butter cookie, Ummm!. The goat cheese rosemary biscuits were outstanding. Of course, I had to force myself to sample everything.
They also had products I would never have thought about for an aircraft…. a mini collection of shelf stable bruschetta, hummus and baba ghanoush. There were also Mario Camachio olives in single serve packets . . . no more waste. These are all great things to stash in that condiment drawer for an unplanned snack or as a way to save the day after a catering order mix up. More than the new products, I was impressed to see that every product BE Princess carries, from medicine to food, is directly linked to the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s recall registry for immediate response to pull the product or notify their clients of a recall. With so many food recall items affecting us globally, this linkage was beyond my expectations.
The newest in disposable linens for the aircraft . . yes you heard right. Mydrap produces actual cotton or linen cocktail, luncheon, dinner napkins and placemats on a roll like a paper towel, colored in all natural vegetable dyes, safe for the environment. They can be washed and reused if you want , but if not, they are biodegradable. Your company logo can be added if you want to customize these linens. The per piece price I saw was less than the cost of dry cleaning or laundry. So if you want a cost effective way to have elegance without the expense, this is something to look at.
The new galley equipment I saw demonstrated at the show made me realize that the new generation of galley equipment may actually help the flight crew prepare and serve a better food. I fell in love with the IACOBUCCI line from Italy. I have seen it in magazines, and wondered if the idea would work; and it does. They have a new type aircraft oven that is similar to one that I wish I had in my kitchen. It does it all . . . air fry for those low fat diets, steam, grill, sauté, and yes it has a toaster that produces perfect toast. The bread was crisp on both sides, done fresh on the aircraft. It was an induction oven – the interior and exterior never get hot to the touch . . . no more burns from the galley. It cooks in very short time, reheats in even shorter time. Want something crispy? This unit can do it. You buy the inserts that you need . . . don’t want a steamer, you don’t have to get it (I would – just think about the fresh vegetables steamed to perfection, crisp al dente, no more limp and colorless veggies, not to mention the addition of steam in cooking on an aircraft with low humidity) . Awesome!
Dietmar Duller with Training Solutions, Switzerland and FACTS Training announced that they have jointly created a soft skills flight attendant training program in Amsterdam. Congratulations for a fantastic blend of quality programs. I recently attended one of Dietmar’s programs and was very impressed.
All in all, at this NBAA Convention, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on several industry presentations, meet up with old friends, make numerous new acquaintances, and learn about trends and products that will affect the aviation catering industry. I give the staff of NBAA accolades for the hundreds of tireless hours it took for them to put this convention together and to make it seem effortless. The NBAA staff was constantly out there, walking the floor and open to questions and introductions. What an outstanding group of individuals!
For the full article:
NBAA 2011: From a Caterer’s Point of View