Many airports and some airlines have franchised restaurants to improve the hospitality and catering proposition to customers. Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes is looking to reverse the process and bring airline food to the ground, so to speak, through creating a chain of circa 1,000 restaurants.
Fernandes is the founder and CEO of the first Malaysian budget no-frills airline, AirAsia, known by millions for its tagline ‘Now everyone can fly’.
For a long time, Fernandes and AirAsia have disrupted online travel agencies, he now clearly also wants to take on quick service restaurants (QSR’s) in Southeast Asia.
By the end of 2020, the airline group aims to own five restaurants and over the next three to five years add another 100.
The first line of attack is to hit existing operators at their price points, under $4 US for a meal and a drink.
AirAsia will offer dishes including Pineapple Fish Noodle from Cambodia and Chicken Inasal with Garlic Rice from the Philippines.
Restaurant marketing will be focused online with restaurants featuring smart menus equipped with artificial intelligence that will recommend popular dishes based on time, past ordering patterns and demographic taste. Customers can also order directly from a dedicated website and mobile app.
While some operators may question this, they may want to be mindful of Fernandes, when he only had a few planes nobody took him too seriously, watch this space.