With the increasing capacity of the Hong Kong International Airport and the opening of the SkyPlaza at Terminal 2, the airport catering market offers more than just good food.
Headquartered in the UK, Select Service Partner (SSP), a food and beverage (F&B) services provider in airports, railway stations and motorway service areas, on-board trains, convention and exhibition centres, and airline lounges, has an extensive portfolio of international and national brands and tailor-made catering concepts in 26 countries, totalling 2,000 restaurants, bars, cafes, convenience stores and food courts.
SSP established its Hong Kong office in 1997. Currently with a total of 27 units in 21 brands and four airlines/VP lounges at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), it handles 50 per cent of the total food and beverage sales at the airport, offering both diversified work exposure and dynamic work experience for its recruits.
Eddie Liu, SSP's Hong Kong general manager says its local F&B outlets are streamed into three main categories: full service restaurant, casual dining and fast food. It also embraces both international and local brands including Burger King, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Ben & Jerry's, Grappa's, Café Deco, Itamae Sushi and Ajisen Ramen. Tailor-made local brands such as Tian Xia Dumplings are also available at SkyPlaza.
Same roof different markets
Mr Liu says although a number of F&B outlets are managed under the same roof, their locations in different parts of the airport reflect variations in market segments and recruitment needs. For example, "dwelling time" in the unrestricted (landside) areas at Terminal 1 is comparatively shorter than that in the restricted (airside) areas, and so fast food and casual dining dominates, while restaurants and bars are comparatively more popular within the restricted areas.
Meanwhile, overseas tourists are in general willing to spend more than local residents in airport catering and have preferences for international brands. There is also a group of transit passengers who spend more than a couple of hours at the airport and they frequent bars and restaurants with live entertainment.
Mr Liu foresees a growing market for F&B outlets at restricted areas because of the new and tighter security measures for passengers, which can lead to longer waiting times.
The opening of SkyPlaza at Terminal 2 in March provided an opportunity to cater for a bigger cluster of local diners. With seven international and local brand units, SSP targets Hong Kong residents as well as those who frequent and work at HKIA. In the future the company will consider branching out to popular tourist spots, railway stations or exhibition and convention centres.
Sarah Lai, SSP's human resources and training manager, says that to cope with current expansion, the company is now recruiting frontline staff such as waiters, restaurant managers and management for the region. With the expansion of Macau hotels and facilities over the past several years the labour market is considered tight. With this in mind, the company has stepped up promotional efforts and has created an impressive remuneration package to attract quality people.
Recruits with good language skills, a passion for serving people and working as a team are much preferred. To ensure a pleasant dining ambience for customers and better hygiene and service standards at the F&B outlets, SSP has adopted a systematic training programme for new recruits.
General staff receive training in customer service, language, health and safety, food hygiene and grooming, while management staff will have the opportunity to take overseas sales training courses and "train-the-trainer" programmes at other professional institutes. An "SSP Advantage" training programme has also been tailored for all supervisors and managers at the company. Trainers of the programme are industrial professionals with over 15 years of experience. It covers all aspects of the international airport environment with focus on the areas of situational leadership, coaching skills, management by objectives, suggestive selling skills and local store marketing.
SSP provides competitive salaries, bonuses, incentives, stable working hours and transportation subsidies to staff. Outstanding staff may also be given opportunities for overseas career advancement. Ms Lai says some of its Hong Kong restaurant managers are promoted to become the general managers of its F&B outlets in China and other Asian countries like Singapore.