HOPING to break into a continental European train catering market which it values at over £500m per year, Britain’s OBS Services has relaunched itself with new branding and a new name, European Rail Catering. Repositioning itself as growing financial pressures on continental operators are squeezing out support for train catering (RG 2.97 p89), European Rail Catering hopes to build on the 15% growth it has experienced in Britain since entering the private sector in October 1995.

OBS Services was sold to a Management Buy-Out team led by Managing Director Terry Coyle and currently comprises three divisions. The Products Division delivers food and drink in Britain to trains of nine franchised operators, which are sold and served by the companies’ own personnel; the On Board Services Division provides complete, fully-staffed train catering for five franchised operators, charter services and the Royal Train. The third division encompasses European Rail Catering’s share in the Cross Channel Catering Company, a joint venture with Wagons-Lits and Sabena which provides catering products and staff for Eurostar services.

In Britain, European Rail Catering currently supplies food and drink to some 1000 trains a day and caters on 350, 95% of the total rail catering market. A network of 36 station-based service centres distributes 700 product lines and 220 million products a year; annual turnover is £40m. Since privatisation in 1995, the company has expanded its activities to include staff training, vending, vehicle and equipment design and food safety consultancy.

The Prego concept

European Rail Catering is hoping to expand its activities to include a complete on-board service package where its staff would undertake revenue protection, cleaning and ’meeting and greeting’ duties for train operators. Trials have begun of the Prego concept, comprising the Prego Express trolley (inset) for at-seat service and the Prego Café Bar (right) for catering vehicles deployed on medium to long-distance services.

Produced by Aerolux and currently on trial on board South West Trains services, the Prego Express trolley has compartments for both hot and chilled products and staff are equipped with Electronic Point of Sale units (top left). The Prego configuration for catering vehicles aims to match the highest standards at principal stations and elsewhere, offering ’the sounds, smells and atmosphere of a continental café bar’ generated largely by a coffee machine for the preparation of espresso, cappuccino and latte. South West Trains is to install the first Prego Café Bar.

Traditional café bar music and service will also feature, as will a range of drinks and luxury snacks including salads and sandwiches made with ’ciabattas and other exciting breads’. Future developments envisaged for the Prego Café Bar include the sale of newspapers and wall-mounted chiller cabinets for cold snacks and salads to which passengers help themselves. o

CAPTION: Left: ERC logo

Above: Prego Café Bar