Interview: Mohammad Al Falasi, AVP, Emirates Flight Catering
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Interview: Mohammad Al Falasi, assistant vice president, Emirates Flight Catering

Interview: Mohammad Al Falasi, assistant vice president, Emirates Flight Catering

Emirates Flight Catering’s AVP tells us about the company’s diversification plans including private event catering, its focus on sustainability and the growing popularity of Emirati cuisine

Neesha Salian
Mohammad Al Falasi AVP Emirates Flight Catering

Tell us more about some of the emerging trends in the hospitality and private catering industry.

The hospitality and private catering industry are continually evolving in the UAE. We have a strong gastronomic culture and the privilege of being home to some of the world’s best restaurants and chefs.

Across all our customer bases we see that clients are wanting more locally sourced and sustainable food options. They are conscious about where the food is sourced and reducing the carbon footprint. This is a strong strategic focus for Emirates Flight Catering to drive operational efficiencies and reduce our carbon footprint.

Additionally, we have seen a rise in requests for vegan/plant-based menus and we expect to see this continue to grow in the future.

There is an increased demand for local/Arabic cuisine. We receive many requests for both authentic and fusion options. Over the past six months, our culinary team has worked hard at expanding our offering and developing a fantastic range of menu items that will take customers on a culinary journey from classic Emirati dishes to exquisite fusion dishes, combining flavours from the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

How is Emirates Flight Catering leveraging these trends?

We have a diverse customer base, and we receive regular requests for traditional Emirati cuisine through to contemporary vegan menus. We work closely with our clients to ensure every detail is met from the get-go through to execution.

Emirates Flight Catering is the largest supporter of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and it is our focus to continue driving this commitment. We work with several SMEs to source both local products, and items, where the significant value add has been provided locally such as yoghurts, seafood and many vegetables.

We recently launched ‘Emirati Kitchen’ as part of our wider private catering offering based on feedback and demand from our customers. We offer traditional Emirati cuisine, which can be enjoyed alongside contemporary international dishes. We have a team of Emirati chefs who have crafted an authentic menu, which they have complemented with an impressive selection of fusion dishes, providing customers with a great range of menu options.

Tell us about your operations and its key offerings.

Emirates Flight Catering is one of the world’s largest catering operations. Our core business was traditionally airline catering for both commercial and private flights, but in recent years the business has diversified with our non-airline operations. This is now a significant and growing part of our business.

Our business streams include:

  • Linencraft, our laundry facility, serves airlines, hotels, healthcare, government, and corporate organisations. Our state-of-the-art facilities have the capacity to process 265 tonnes of linen and 32,000 garments per day.
  • Our Food Services division supplies the hospitality industry across the UAE and the wider GCC. We have a strong portfolio of cold cuts, protein, bakery items, salads, and ice creams to name a few.
  • Foodcraft, our e-commerce food delivery service, has a great range of ready meals with healthy and convenient options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between.
  • Emirates Flight Catering Events has a highly experienced operations and service team. We cater to a diverse range from international mega-events to small intimate gatherings. We offer a wide span of menus and can also work with clients on tailored solutions to meet their tastes and budgets.
  • Emirates Flight Catering has over 15 outlets across Dubai, these are homegrown concepts and include: Grains & Greens, a healthy make-your-own salad/smoothie bowl concept; La Patisserie, a French-style patisserie with homemade sweet treats and savoury tarts; Deli 2 Go, a grab and go concept that includes a range of fresh salads, sandwiches, breakfast pots and ready meals, and The Galley, which offers an international menu with a selection of ready-to-serve and à la carte dining options.
  • Bustanica, the world’s largest vertical farm located in Dubai, enables Emirates Flight Catering to support in driving sustainability and food security, whilst also delivering a true farm-to-fork experience.
  • Kosher Arabia – a joint venture with CCL Holdings – offers fresh, quality kosher meals to customers in the Gulf region’s aviation, hospitality, and events sectors.

Why did the company decide to expand into exclusive private event catering?

As part of our diversification strategy, we identified a gap and considerable demand in the private events space, and we knew we could extend our current corporate events catering. We have a multicultural team of talented chefs, who bring together a wealth of experience and knowledge, catering for events drives further innovation and creativity, and every dish is handcrafted by our culinary team with the key focus of delighting the customer.

Our strong buying power enables us to be competitive and to provide customers with high-quality and fresh produce, ensuring that every dish we serve delivers an exceptional culinary experience.

We also have scalability in what we can offer from a culinary perspective. Our state-of-the-art kitchens, logistics and operations team enable us to cater for both small and large-scale events.

What was the vision behind the introduction of authentic Emirati Cuisine through “Emirati Kitchen” as part of a new private events catering portfolio?

Over the years we have seen an increase in demand for authentic Emirati cuisine across our businesses. We have subsequently made it a strategic focus to build a team of UAE National male and female chefs.

We recognised that there was a market for a caterer with our scalability to offer authentic Emirati cuisine alongside an extensive international menu. Our team of Emirati chefs were passionate to create a traditional menu and spent a lot of time researching and developing the menu to ensure that it delivers quality, value and authenticity.

Since launching the Emirati Kitchen, the response we have received from customers across all seven emirates has been beyond our expectations.

How is the company incorporating sustainability into its business?

Sustainability is an ongoing strategic focus across our business. We built Bustanica which is a significant sustainable initiative and supports the broader UAE water and food security initiatives, using 95 per cent less water than conventional farming.

Linencraft has cut carbon emissions by around three million kilogrammes annually since the introduction of a state-of-the-art solar power system across our facilities.

Since 2019, we have saved 750 tonnes of cardboard waste annually by replacing cardboard packaging with reusable crates to store and transport inflight meals.

Tell us about your partnership with Bustanica and how it has helped the company’s overall business and sustainability goals.

Bustanica is the world’s largest vertical farm and is a joint venture with Crop One Holdings, the US-based industry leader in technology-driven vertical farming.

It supports both our sustainability goals and also the wider UAE’s National Food Strategy 2051 and Water Security 2036 agendas.

Through Bustanica, we secure our own supply chain of high-quality and locally sourced leafy greens, while significantly reducing our carbon footprint.​

We have built the world’s largest vertical farming facility in Dubai. The facility harvests 2,700 kilogrammes of high-quality, herbicide-free and pesticide-free leafy greens daily, using 95 per cent less water than conventional farming.

The proximity of the farm to the point of consumption also substantially reduces carbon emissions associated with transportation. It also ensures the quick delivery of fresh products, reaching customers within hours of harvest, and therefore maintaining high nutritional value.

Read: Emirates Flight Catering opens world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai

What are the emerging trends in in-flight catering, particularly with travel picking up?

 We work closely with our airline partners to try and see where we can enhance the guest experience through the inflight culinary offering. This includes leveraging special occasions and seasons like Christmas, Diwali or Easter, during the festive season we offered hot chocolate and marshmallows that proved to be a popular treat for passengers. Our aim is to enhance the passenger experience from the airport through to the sky.

Recently, we worked closely with Emirates on developing a vegan menu for all class categories and this has received very positive feedback. The goal was to develop a menu that would entice all passengers, not just those who follow a plant-based diet.

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