New generation to support IRCG’s greener vision

October 22 2019

International Rail Catering Group’s chairman, Roger Williams, introduces a new cohort of on-board service trailblazers, making rail catering industry representation more inclusive and sustainable in the digital age…

Exploring innovation

Beautiful cities demand your attention; captivating visitors with their charming style, making you want to protect their environment. Great onboard hospitality on railways should do the same … enthusing you to travel sustainably again and again.

This was the visionary environmental message for railway caterers from across the world at IRCG’s General Assembly, held in Vienna and Linz – both cities that inspire just such a response.

Brilliantly hosted by the leading Austrian rail caterer, DoN Travel, with a fantastic banquet laid on by DoN’s own catering staff at Palais Schönburg, we enjoyed a wide-range of motivational presentations that took us on a journey of culinary adventure featuring on-board service innovations from the USA, across Europe and North Africa and even to China, highlighting many innovations to assist with improving our footprint.

New age leadership
Following an excellent four-year term, which saw IRCG expand its exhibition and membership activities, president Mike La Malfa announced his retirement as he moves into a different sector of the industry.

Building on Mike’s success a new generation of IRCG leaders have stepped forward, with Petr Pospisil, coo of JLV voted our new president and Daniela Corboz, ceo of Elvetino, as our new vice-president.

Both Petr and Daniela are driving forces for diversity and youth and share a vision of sustainable on-board service excellence based firmly in the digital age. With their change agenda already planned a new social media communications strategy will increase networking, news and advancement of sustainability best practice.

New members

Following growing interest in IRCG through WTCE, the Onboard Hospitality Forum and (of course) Onboard Hospitality Magazine itself, we also welcomed four new members.

London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) joined as a full member – a leading UK train operator they offer complimentary catering in First Class and retail in Standard with over 800 on-board staff.

Additionally, three suppliers who are leaders in their specialist areas joined our supplier category – ECR Retail Systems (PoS & smart solutions for travel & retail), Kaelis (on-board hospitality equipment designer & manufacturer) and Ratcliffe & Brown (wines & spirits specialist for travel).

All bring significant rail industry experience to benefit the members of IRCG for the future.

Most Innovative Caterer Award

Traditionally our conference highlight, this year’s Most Innovative Caterer was… Elvetino!

Congratulations to the team (pictured above), led by Daniela Corboz, for ‘going the extra mile’ in delivering a really great concept, maximising local menu provenance and use of social media to encourage sustainable train travel. Here’s a quick overview of their winning concept…

In a record year with Switzerland hosting several major cultural events plus thousands travelling to others in adjoining countries, SBB provide 1,300 more trains to cope with the demand including for the National Gymnastics Festival, National Wrestling and Mountain festival, Winemakers Festival, Zurich Street Parade, Film festival Locarno and of course the Oktoberfest!

Elvetino embraced these events in every part of their catering with;
• Special “sharing platters” of traditional local Swiss foods served plated to encourage couples & larger groups to dine on-board
• No reliance on plastic equipment or heavily packaged products and benefits from low food miles
• Staff in traditional costumes, dining cars colourfully decorated and upbeat music playing to get customers in the mood
• Great PR from using digital channels to engage with customers before and after travel, using the online feedback to encourage new customers to experience the fun and help change public perception about dining on-board

Such an effort created some very special journey experiences, helping raise sales and bringing really great publicity for Elevtino and SBB.

Credit too for joint second place finalists – DoN Travel for their advanced crew management IT system completely removing paper from management processes and JLV’s “Mr Maurer’s dining table” on-line booking concept showing just how inventive IRCG members really are!

So the future’s… a little bit brighter?

Just like Elvetino’s winning approach, I expect a rise in social media engagement by train caterers with more effort to raise awareness of great local provenance, packaging and single-use plastic reductions and generally promoting a sustainable journey experience.

There should be more focus on leisure customers (not just business), with extensions to weekend offerings – a demographic often missed (though clearly not in Switzerland!).

The value of putting “hospitality first” is critical to turn our customers into advocates of long distance train travel, driving new solutions for trains of the future and inspiring a new generation of travellers and industry leaders keen to help the environment, all underlining the relevance of rail catering in the modern travel arena.