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Genuine surprise as British Airways ditches its caterers for DO&CO, the best in the business

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It is fair to say that the HfP view so far on the promises of major improvements in Club World business class is sceptical.

It has, after all, taken a year to roll out a new blanket across the network.  BA couldn’t even get that right, as the original batch was apparently the same colour as the aircraft carpets and had to be scrapped as a trip hazard ….

Yesterday, however, came some very interesting news.

British Airways is ditching its current caterers.  This means goodbye to Gate Gourmet and DHL at Heathrow and Alpha at Gatwick, although Gate Gourmet will continue to provide inbound catering on some routes.

Here is the shocker.  The Heathrow contract has been given to DO&CO.

If you’ve never heard of DO&CO, they are effectively the Mercedes / BMW of the airport catering world.  They are responsible for catering on Austrian Airlines which is the best regarded long-haul European airline for business class food.

DO&CO was already providing the catering on the New York JFK and Chicago routes but did not have the capacity at Heathrow to do more.  This new contract launches in 2020 for 10 years and presumably runs long enough to justify DO&CO investing in new facilities.  In reality they may end up buying the current Gate Gourmet operation.

When British Airways originally launched its upgraded Club World catering proposition – you may remember Anika’s lengthy article on the press launch which involved a specially chartered aircraft – the food they presented to the media was DO&CO.

There was an implication that DO&CO was taking over the entire operation.  It came as a bit of a shock, a few months later, to realise that – on routes apart from JFK and Chicago – the new Club World catering was generally the same old Gate Gourmet stuff on fancier plates.

Of course DO&CO can only work with the money that British Airways is prepared to spend, but it would be odd to bring in a high-end caterer and then not give them the money they need to do a proper job.

Over at Gatwick, catering is being taken over by Newrest.  Newrest currently supplies catering at London City for CityFlyer and inbound from Santiago, Lima, San Jose, Accra, Lagos, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

As usual, the proof of the Club World pudding will be in the eating, but this is positive news.

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Comments (54)

  • Genghis says:

    Interesting. Flew BA to Chicago a few months ago and thought the food was very good. Didn’t realise it was separate catering from most other ex-LHR flights.

    • Steve-B says:

      Agreed, good experience on my trip to ORD last month as well.

    • James Henson says:

      Sounds better than my last flight on the A380 to Miami. The food was average to say the least.

      • Nicky says:

        I flew Club on Monday, food dreadful, ended up having an economy main course. Crew the worst I have ever experienced: disappeared into galley after food eventually served in dribs and drabs. A bit to much gossiping and not enough service. Service I would expect in economy but not Club. Even PE seemed to be treated better. No drinks offered at all until afternoon tea rolled out 30 minutes before landing: this was on a day flight. Would like to add I will go elsewhere but as a leisure traveller and collector of Avios, travelling business on another airline would be out of my price range. Complaint to BA on my return, that’s a promise. Really disappointed.

        • trickster says:

          Why should you expect that service in economy – nobody on the plane should expect bad service.

        • Shoestring says:

          Nothing to stop you asking for a drink whenever you feel like one

        • shd says:

          I flew CE on Sunday, sat in row 1, after the seatbelt sign goes off, the passenger next to me asked for a drink, the crewmember told her he was told by BA not to do any drinks rounds until after he’d finished giving all the meal trays out.

          She commented that this wasn’t great. He said he was sorry, and continued with the meal trays. She got her drink 10 mins later, by which point I’d almost finished my meal.

          The “use your call bell” thing is a rubbish response when the problem is poor customer service.

  • Paul says:

    More jam tomorrow stories from the masters of jam tomorrow hype.
    Reality is my last club world in May provided tasteless food from LHR inedible food home. First class in July was ok but AA food on 6 domestic first and business sectors was substantially better.

    • Simon says:

      So, food is poor, company goes to best in class to improve, and people moan……..

      • shd says:

        Strangely pax want poor things to *actually* get better, not to read press releases.

  • Alan says:

    I suspect changes like this take time, but BA needs to wake up to the fact that their Club offer both in short haul and long haul has fallen behind the competition. Offering better food will not change the offer. To little too late. What we want is more leg room on short haul and getting rid of the stupid layout in long haul.

    • Leo says:

      You are not wrong.

      • John says:

        He is wrong about short haul, most people (and companies) won’t pay for it.

        Long haul more complex, but still…

        Good news about catering though. I’d like bigger range of non-alcohol drinks rather than elaborate plate layouts though.

        And some decent chocolates.

        • Leo says:

          Leg room in short haul is ridiculous. I want them to go back to 32″ pitch before I pay for CE again.

    • Ian says:

      Exactly. This is why those of us who have the choice always travel long-haul with another airline.

      • Alex Sm says:

        BA is going down not slowly but surely. Flew First with them to SIN a couple of weeks ago and understood why it is described by many as “the best business class”. Same about the return flight in PE, which had nothing premium about it. So, basically each class on BA should be really seen a notch below of what it is branded (First is effectively business, Club is PE, WTP is Economy, WT/ET is LCC). Nah?

        • Shoestring says:

          ET HBO (Economy Basic) is LCC

          Deliberately so – it’s fantastic value in Europe these days if you buy ahead when the tickets are cheapest. Can’t see why anybody would complain – flying from LHR in decent seats for SH, good food & drink selection (at a cost), reliable fleet and great crew apart from the wrinkles.

          ET Economy Plus (ie with the checked luggage, £16 more) is LCC++, similar comments.

          CE – waste of money (it’s Europe), maybe it’s not your money or money means less to you than to me. Or you want 2 checked bags. If paying with Avios, much easier to justify. Effectively £40-£75 more than ET with double checked luggage, lounge, free F&B on board etc – & @ T3 you get to try out all the other great Oneworld lounges on your lounge hop, get there 5 hrs early and bear one thing in mind – don’t get flight barred if you can’t stand up straight or talk coherently.

        • Rob says:

          AA Business (77W) was very good yesterday I have to say. And 15 years ago I would have been carted away to an asylum for saying that.

        • Genghis says:

          @Rob initial thoughts on the St Regis NYC? I’m looking to book shortly.

          • Rob says:

            They’ve upgraded me to a 100 sq m suite selling for $2800 per night so I can’t really complain, but it is a bit odd. Great location, beautiful historic property, no view from room despite 14th floor, ludicrously expensive in every respect, annoying $50 destination fee (albeit if you eat and drink in-house you get it back). Worth doing once, would probably not go back even if I thought I get a 100 sq m suite again.

            Here’s an example. My $2800 per night suite has no coffee maker. On check-in you’re allowed to ring your butler to get a pot of coffee for free, which I did. This afternoon I tried again. Apparently he will only bring me coffee before noon unless it is my check-in day. If I want coffee after noon I have to ring room service and pay (cost of coffee + $8 delivery charge + 18% compulsory service charge + taxes, plus probably 15 minutes to get it and it is probably cold by then).

        • Genghis says:

          🙂 Thanks. I look forward to the more detailed review.

  • Jamesay says:

    Very interesting! The photo provided doesn’t tie with reality of the bread. Two rolls in that wee metal basket. Please! Since new catering a choice of bread products in club has gone. All I’ve had for months is a heavy seeded roll made to fill that basket. It’s like sawdust. Tasteless and heavy and seeded. Bring back bread choice.
    Overall food has improved tho in both Club and First.

    • Rob says:

      That bread is DO&CO signature bread, you only get it on New York and Chicago. Hence the comments about BA never making it clear that Gate Gourmet rubbish would continue on other routes.

  • Ian M says:

    DO&CO also already do the Club World catering on BA flights to Beirut and Moscow which I’ve taken this year. The food has been good.

    The funny thing with some of these improvements to CW is that it’s overtaking First in some areas. I flew Moscow to London in First the other day and when I wanted the bed made up for a quick nap the cabin crew said they would see if they could get me a Club World pillow as these are a lot nicer than the First Class ones.. crazy

    • kelly says:

      Agreed; we flew first class a few weeks back to China and the First Class offerings were dismal and the service sub standard going out (superb coming back); the staff had to go to CW for food after First Class passengers were returning food as it was so bad.

  • Phil Gollings says:

    Unless you must fly a certain route at a certain time then why would you pay more for an inferior service which BA is. AA / Delta have far better food and seats going west. Emirates, Qatar etc have a substantially better product going east.

    • Rob says:

      Anika and I have done both Delta and AA in the last fortnight in order to do two articles on exactly this topic.

      • Paul says:

        I will be surprised if you are not positive about AA hard product and food. The latter is generally unfussy but tasty and substantial. Their version of raid the larder has been terrific in my experience.
        I came back from New York on the 200 with the reverse Seats and again servicevand Seats substantially better than BA by some margin.

      • Rob says:

        Looking forward to reading those reviews!

    • Doug M says:

      Because if I get Upper Deck on a 747 BA is for me still a better seat. AA seat much more consistent, but best BA seats still better. AY seats good on the A350, which is a much nicer plane, decent air quality and low noise. Horses for courses. For all the BA bashing the planes are hardly empty. I always enjoy the this is better and that is better, as if it’s inconceivable for someone else to find the BA seat better. If you’re Gold you can get the very private window seats that do have direct aisle access. Yes they’re not all like that, but I don’t have a problem stepping over.
      In October I’ll take my first VS flight in UC, to Miami, I’ll be interested to compare that seat for myself.

  • Clive says:

    Does his only affect the club world catering? Not First or WTP?

    • Marcw says:

      All culinary services short and longhaul, according to Do&Co press releases. Which reads as, except BoB, everything else in LHR

  • Russell says:

    “it would be odd to bring in a high-end caterer and then not give them the money they need to do a proper job.”

    Odd… but also oddly predictable…

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