JEDDAH – The Saudi Airlines Catering Company (SACC) forecast a bright outlook for its business amid planned expansion of Saudi Arabian Airlines, SACC Chief Executive Officer Christophe Parent said.
In an interview with the Saudi Gazette, Parent, who joined Newrest, a French company holding 14 percent share of SACC, said that “within 2016, Saudi Airline’s airplanes are going to be expanded from 100 to 124 and will have a bigger capacity as to serve a surge in religious tourism, an increase in the number of expatriate workers who go back home every year and the country’s geographical size that makes it easier to travel via airplane.”
“At the moment, SACC covers 95 percent of Saudi Arabia’s inflight catering market. Our aim is to use the experiences and strengths we developed within Newrest to diversify SACC’s offer and develop the non-airline market. Today 83 percent of our turnover depends on Saudi Arabian Airlines but our objective is to reduce this figure to less than 60 percent within 5 years,” he added.
SACC is on the right way to achieve this goal and has already signed important contracts with the British and American schools, Princess Noura University, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Saudi British Bank (SABB), the National Commercial Bank (NCB), the Saudi Arabia Mining Company (MAADEN), Saudi Aramco and other factories.
The catering business, which he describes as steady and strong, will witness an upsurge due to intensified passengers’ traffic, fueling SACC’s growth. “On top of that, our non-airline market is equally stable and can be hardly shaken. You may have in fact the worst economic crisis, but people will continue to eat and go to schools and hospitals,” he added, noting that enhancing the quality of hospitality on board represents a must for Saudi Airlines.
However, “we won’t be the cheapest in the market as we are one of the safest catering companies worldwide. We don’t make use, for instance, of products that are very close to the expiry date and members of our staff are subjected to frequent and rigid medical examinations. Our company also follows the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), a control system that identifies where hazards might occur in the food production process and prevents them. Following these extremely rigid hygienic and security constraints has a cost, Parent said.
Moreover, SAAC is fully supporting the government’s Nitaqat program and since privatization, the percentage of Saudis raised to 33.5 percent, above the 30 percent level required to be in the Nitaqat Platinum zone.
“We really want to work with local people. Our executive committee has a majority of Saudis and the company’s 5 units in Jeddah, Dammam, Riyadh, Cairo and Madina are run by Saudis.”
About women employees, he said that when he joined the company in 2008, none were there. However, “there are now 142 women who are very productive and encourage us to continue with this trend.”
Describing his experience in SAAC as intense and interesting, Parent said the company’s “turnover has gone up 75 percent and profit before taxes has soared 225 percent.”
Parent’s extensive experience in banking, finance and the catering industry has no doubt contributed to determine these figures. SACC’s current CEO joined the catering business in 1982 with Sodexo, the largest catering company worldwide, having 400,000 employees and branches in 78 countries.
“SACC’s shareholding structure comprises two main groups: Saudi Arabian Airlines Group that includes 4 companies and owns 51 percent shares and Strategic Catering Company LLC that includes 3 companies (Abdulmohsen Abdulaziz Al Hokair, Injaz and Newrest) and owns 49 percent shares,” Parent noted.
Newrest represents the partner that provides technical know-how to SACC. The group is specialized in offering airline hospitalities including management of first class lounges, meals and sales on board. Established in 2005, Newrest is a young and yet already large-sized company with branches in 46 countries that also provides railway and offshore caterings and serves schools, hospitals, embassies, factories and offices.