Some challenges that airline catering companies face are how to mass produce delicious meals that are served many hours later at altitudes that numb the palate, and how to ensure consistency, variety and food safety. Airline meals may range from simple snacks and beverages that are served on short-distance economy class trips to several-course gourmet meals on long-haul first class flights. Examples of airline catering companies include the Flying Food Group and Gate Gourmet.
To make delicious meals, executive chefs and sous chefs first develop recipes in laboratory kitchens where meals are designed, prepared and taste-tested. The whole meal and its ingredients are weighed, counted and measured. SATS, a catering company that supplies many Asian airlines, taste-tests its meals in kitchens that simulate cabin pressures of aircraft cruising at altitudes of around 30,000 feet, where airline meals are typically served to passengers with numbed taste buds, in order to tweak the recipes and get the flavor right as caterers prepare meals on ground.
Airline catering companies serve tens of thousands of airline meals daily. In order to mass produce delicious meals, they use standardized inventory control systems and manufacturing processes to manage and fulfill demand. Standardized processes and procedures ensure that perishable food ingredients are handled properly with minimum waste; that meals are prepared and stored under sanitary conditions, preventing food contamination; and that the resulting meals remain affordable, shelf-stable, attractive and tasty.
An airline catering company's facilities and processes undergo strict, frequent periodic audits to satisfy in-house quality assurance and global food safety audit standards, as well as HACCP, FDA and USDA regulations.