The “SWISS Taste of Switzerland” culinary program aboard Swiss International Air Lines flights has proved immensely popular with passengers for a number of years. The airline, however, decided that it needed to reduce complexity on short- and medium-haul routes while still creating an element of excitement for frequent fliers and maintaining its market positioning.
SWISS invited Gate Gourmet to hold a couple of creative workshops last summer. In a first step, SWISS and Gate Gourmet worked together to reduce complexity of the meal types and materials. In a second step, the teams worked to develop a new concept based on Swissness and surprises. Based on a clear briefing from SWISS, Oliver Fischer, Head of Menu Development and Production at Gate Gourmet Zurich and Daniel Luchsinger, Executive Account Manager for SWISS, worked with the gategroup Marketing department to come up with the “Wow!” factor the airline wanted.
“We’re based in the culture of Switzerland. We are SWISS’ hub caterer in its home bases. We have worked closely with them on many projects, so we know the airline well. We listen. We anticipate. That’s the benefit of having a supplier who is also a strategic partner,” Luchsinger said.
What emerged from the internal Gate Gourmet brainstorming session delighted the airline and it started flying on SWISS Business Class Europe in February 2012 . The program is called “SWISS Traditions,” and like the continuing “SWISS Taste of Switzerland” concept on longer itineraries, it focuses on authentic Swissness in food, themes and products. Whereas SWISS Taste of Switzerland emphasizes the countries regions and top dining establishments, SWISS Traditions takes into consideration the country’s historical and cultural events, translating them into a unique onboard experience.
The menu features “honest, authentic comfort food such as mushroom risotto or a “Bündner” cold plate with air dried meats and hams from the Eastern canton of Switzerland. Six menu cycles change on a weekly basis in a twice-a-year seasonal rotation,” Fischer said. Special touches on the tray support the Swissness theme. Crème brûlée, for instance, is served in jars similar to those in which Swiss farm wives would preserve jams.
In another unusual departure from typical onboard tableware, the Gate Gourmet team proposed, and SWISS adopted, a black stone cheese board. “This is something you would expect to find in many Swiss homes, not in an airplane. But it brings that authentic touch to the meal presentation,” Fischer said.
To spice up the menu and provide the variety frequent travelers desire, Gate Gourmet also designed themed meals and presentations for seasonal events tied to Swiss festivals and pageants that reflect the country’s German, French and Italian history and cultures.
For instance, in Zurich the end of winter is celebrated at Sechseläuten in April. Winter is burned in effigy in the form of the Böögg, a large paper and wood figure of a snowman stuffed with explosives. The meal for that week would feature a Zurich specialty, such as “Geschnetzeltes” – veal slices in a mushroom cream sauce accompanied by rösti, a Swiss-style potato pancake. Dessert would naturally feature a chocolate fire with a decorative snowman. Visual highlights on the tray support the surprise effect with vivid Illustrations of the themes, and the event is further celebrated through various SWISS communication and marketing channels.
The “SWISS Traditions,” which occur six times per year, will be celebrated onboard for a week at a time, providing variety for SWISS’ customers and simplicity from a supply chain and operations perspective.
Sarah Klatt-Walsh, SWISS Director Inflight Products & Services, said: “We are very excited to launch this creative concept. It perfectly reflects our commitment to being ‘The Airline of Switzerland’. The concept is quite smart as well – we have simplified the logistics behind our meal services on board, while adding more variety and excitement for our guests. SWISS and Gate Gourmet worked hand in hand and Gate Gourmet has been a great partner for this project from the beginning – from idea development through to implementation and marketing support. A win-win for all involved!” she said.