July 25, 2024

“We have to be nimble and responsive to exceed expectations”

Avanti West Coast F&B proposition manager Julie Harper reveals how the operator is planning its future catering offer

Avanti West Coast is the new train operating partnership between First Group and Italy’€™s Trenitalia. Together they run Britain’€™s premier intercity route between London and Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Evidence based
When bidding for the West Coast route, Avanti conducted in-depth catering market research to find out what the customers really wanted. In First Class, we looked at complimentary services, particularly at weekends, whilst in Standard Class we asked what products customers wanted to buy, how they should be packaged, ordered, paid for and delivered (e.g shop or in-seat).

It was no surprise that two key expectations in Standard were easy access to good wholesome food and great coffee at all times. This reflects the trends at stations, airports and on the high-street. The message about products was also clear’“ familiar and branded – mirroring regional trends and sourced from along our route.

New offers
Avanti has recently welcomed back by popular demand Tilting Ale, a pale ale brewed especially for us by Red Willow Brewery, which stands alongside the West Coast route, less than half a mile south of Macclesfield station.

Additionally, we’€™re offering Ethical Rain Forest Alliance coffee and local products such as Wenlock Edge water and Rubies in the Rubble chutney. Going forward, we’€™ll continue focusing on healthy, sustainable options and nurturing our SME partnerships.

Individual service
As not everyone in First Class wants the same thing, with different needs by time of day, route and purpose of travel, a degree of flexibility in our service will be required to enable more personalisation, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

We’€™re also reviewing our weekend First Class service to create a more consistent seven-day-a-week offer for passengers onboard.

All these changes require strong relationships with our supply chain partners and constructive responses to customer feedback, ensuring we are entirely ready for the forthcoming introduction of the refurbished Pendolino fleet and new Hitachi fleet due online in the coming years.

Interview by Roger Williams