July 25, 2024

IRCG annual conference in Madrid, Spain

The International Rail Catering Group (IRCG) held its 58th annual conference from September 27-29 in Madrid, Spain.

Day One’s Welcome Event was at the Picalagartos Sky Bar overlooking Madrid’s Gran Via, the Spanish capital’s central artery. The main conference on Day Two was at the uniquely designed Hotel Puerta America, where members from across the rail catering industry presented their 2023 news and ideas for the future.

The key focus was ‘developing sustainable growth’. Everyone is facing significant inflationary pressures from energy and raw material costs, resourcing shortages as well as the environmental challenges of achieving net zero by 2050 or before.

Several notable trends emerged during the 58th annual IRCG conference: a reduction in large global brands; increased use of local and regional products; new marketing campaigns offering alternative products and non-core services to gain additional income streams; increasing staff retention by improving on-job training and digital communications; use of solar and other renewables in logistics; and a move away from using disposables onboard.

The peer-voted Most Innovative Caterer Award was won by Swiss railway caterer, Elvetino, for their cleverly targeted sales promotions. They advertised additional and non-core products in their dining cars which enhanced the customer journey experience, offered additional value and raised valuable new revenue streams, factors that are so important in today’s commercial situation.

Day Three saw the group travel out early in the morning, courtesy of RENFE on their Spanish intercity rail network. Joining the premier high-speed Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) service from Madrid Atocha station, all enjoyed a tasty breakfast in First class supplied and served by Serveo staff. The fresh meals are produced for them by Newrest in Madrid. Afterwards, a trip to the large café bar for coffee was also a must.

On return to Atocha, a tour was given of the purpose-built logistics centre, which has direct access to the station platforms – ideal for managing the ‘final mile’.

Roger Williams, Chairman of IRCG, said, “It is great to see onboard catering at the forefront of the customer’s railway travel experience – it adds such value to the journey, is clearly well appreciated by customers and makes all our hard work worthwhile.”

The event was hosted by Spanish members Kaelis and Serveo.

The IRCG will next meet at the World Travel Catering Expo (WTCE) from May 28-30 2024 in Hamburg, Germany.