“I’m really craving some delicious, freshly prepared airline food,” said no one. Ever.
But now, one European company is hoping you might. German online grocery retailer AllYouNeed.com, owned primarily by Deutsche Post DHL, recently launched Air Food One, a service that promises to deposit airline meals on your doorstep.
Company spokesman Max Thinius says the idea came from requests of AllYouNeed.com customers -- often busy families -- who don’t have time prepare fresh dinners every night. “Our clients were telling us, we like to eat fresh food, not convenience or frozen meals. But sometimes there is no time to cook. Do you have something in between?” said Thinius.
For most, the first response to that filling need would not be to turn to meals prepared for airlines. But because AllYouNeed.com’s parent is a huge international mail and logistics company that already had a close relationship with Lufthansa Cargo, Thinius said teaming with LSG Sky Chefs, the food provider for Lufthansa airlines, was a natural fit. LSG Sky Chefs also does non-airline catering; Thinius said it is the largest catering business in Germany.
And Thinius is quick to point out that the food is supposedly a cut above what most people would expect from airline fare. “The meals are inspired by business-class meals served on Lufthansa,” said Thinius. “However, I would say they are even fresher -- made shortly before they get heated by our clients.”
(There's a case to be made for the idea that the food may taste better on the ground: A German research company found that an air cabin's atmosphere and cool, dry air dulls your taste buds, and the perception of saltiness and sweetness drops by about 30 percent.)
The service, which is only available in German cities Cologne and Dusseldorf right now, is four weeks into an eight-week trial program. Customers can choose between conventional and vegetarian options, which are delivered once a week and can be frozen. The meals, which include dishes like pumpkin gnocchi and Chinese beef, cost about $12 for vegetarian and $13 for meat dishes, and there is no delivery charge. They are delivered cold and need to be heated in an oven. The weekly menus are available online.
The company declined to provide numbers on how many have enrolled in the pilot delivery program but says that it is targeting families, elderly couples and consultants who work away from home during the week but don’t want to eat takeout all the time.
“We’ve had several frequent fliers who ordered our meals. Some people really love this kind of food,” said Thinius. “And we had a suggestion from a 74-year-old lady who said it would be great if we served salads with the meals. We don’t do that yet. It’s only hot food for now.”
AllYouNeed.com will spend the rest of the year analyzing whether the service makes financial sense for the company. “There are so many figures to evaluate. The biggest part is logistics -- it’s not that cheap,” said Thinius. But if all goes well, Thinius expects that Air Food One will be available all over Germany some time in January or February of next year.
As for whether Thinius has tried the food himself: “I tasted it. It depends on how well you cook. It’s not as good as if you cook yourself, but it’s better than frozen and convenience food. It’s somehwere in between.”