Good on the move

Autogrill Switzerland’s portfolio contains over 30 brands that vary in their innovative concepts, making the company one of the most diversified and forward-looking food and beverage service providers in Europe

Being among the top ten companies in Switzerland’s food and beverage market speaks volumes of the credibility Autogrill Switzerland has across the Alpine country. The regional representative of Italy-based Autogrill – the world’s leading provider of food and beverage services for travellers, has long maintained its prominent position in one of Europe’s most competitive markets, achieving its best profit margin in over a decade in 2018.

“As a multichannel company, we are present at airports, on motorways, at train stations, and in locations such as shopping centres and the High Street, with the most important channel for the group being airports,” Maximilian Schiedt, COO and President of Autogrill Switzerland, points out. “Over the past few years, we have established ourselves as the dominant market force in all Swiss airports, courtesy of our impressive experience and extraordinary operational capabilities.”

One of the main highlights for Autogrill Switzerland, with regards to its recent activities on the country’s motorways, has been the development of several Burger King outlets. The company is now the largest Swiss franchisee for the chain, running nine restaurants, and in Maximilian’s words, it has discovered the right formula for Burger King’s future growth in the country. “Owing to its worldwide popularity and our own coffee, snack, and gastronomic concepts, and reliable partnerships with various stakeholders, we are confident that our collaboration with Burger King will continue with success.”

Discussing the forthcoming developments within the market that are guaranteed to impact Autogrill Switzerland’s operations, he adds: “The advent of electric cars might change the landscape, in the sense that people will have to stop at charging points that will not be positioned on the motorways themselves, but in specified parking spots. The other major change will be the legalisation of selling alcohol on the motorways, which will come into effect next year, and which should help us boost sales.”

To Maximilian, train stations represent the biggest growth opportunity for Autogrill Switzerland, and he is willing to apply the aforementioned tried-and-tested approach of pairing its concepts with well-known international brands to penetrate the country’s biggest five or six train stations. “It is another highly competitive market, but it is also one that has the highest percentage of native consumers, therefore, it is less likely to be influenced by external circumstances,” he comments.

“As for our last main channel, which is shopping centres, the truth is that we have slowly started to shift our focus away from this market. Due to a number of factors, including the rise of internet shopping and the ban on smoking in shopping centres, people go to the mall much less often, so it makes sense simply to abandon this channel,” Maximilian suggests.

He also notes that Autogrill Switzerland is gradually changing its profile, in order to highlight its commitment to operating as a franchisee to some of the largest fast food restaurant chains. “Burger King aside, we are excited to share that we are shortly opening a KFC outlet at Zurich Airport, at a wonderful location just next to McDonalds. Moreover, we have plans to open even more restaurants in the coming years. KFC is quite new to the Swiss market and we are up to the challenge of increasing its presence here. I am also incredibly proud of the fact that we are bringing LEON Restaurants to Switzerland for the very first time, opening our first location at Basel Train Station this autumn.

“Brands like Burger King, Starbucks, or McDonalds fall into the first of four categories we have divided our business into,” Maximilian proceeds to explain Autogrill Switzerland’s structure in terms of brand grouping. “The second category includes brands that have more of a local or national significance. Obviously, McDonalds has a global appeal, but certain regional brands are equally important for specific markets. For example, we recently begun working with a gourmet burger chain called Holy Cow at Zurich Airport and its focus on local food is definitely arousing the interest of natives.

“The category that has the highest value for the company, involves the concepts we have designed with the view to multiply them in different parts of the world. Take our Bistrot concept, which is associated with the Slow Food movement, as we promote authentic food preparation. For example, we bake bread the way it was made 200 years ago, taking our time to create stellar-quality products in the airside area of an airport. It is a very original concept, which can already be seen in over 30 locations worldwide. Crucially, it not only brings revenue to the group, but also adds brand value and builds upon our reputation as an innovative concept creator,” Maximilian maintains.

“Having spoken about the highest-value category for us, I should also mention the one that is the largest, purely in number of properties. It contains all of these tailor-made concepts and brands that we then group into different platforms. We have bar, café, and snack platforms, to mention a few, and we can then adapt our food offering to their specific goals. Especially in Switzerland, we run more than 30 brands that are key to the diversification of the channels we operate within.”

Hailing from Italy, Autogrill Group is understandably proud of its coffee heritage. Referred to as its ‘black gold’, coffee is the business’ number one product and as such, its packaging is shortly getting a new look that will reflect its provenance. “By doing this, we will respond to one of the trends that are driving the industry,” Maximilian says. “There is a growing excitement about authenticity. Consumers want to know more about the background of the product they are about to engage with, so it is important for us to be transparent and communicate clearly what our offering is all about.”

Digitalisation and sustainability will be two other key themes for Autogrill Switzerland, as the company addresses new market requirements. Following its parent organisation’s strategy, it has embraced a selection of high-tech tools to eliminate all non-value-adding 51steps of the customer journey, including ordering kiosks and digital payment options.

“Personally, I am also very enthusiastic to make the company more sustainable,” Maximilian continues. “We have already eliminated plastic straws and we aim at becoming plastic-free in all our takeaway packaging by the end of 2019. Furthermore, we are looking to reduce our food waste by 30 per cent. As a whole, the various initiatives we have in place will help us to save about five tonnes of plastic a year.”

Examining the growth opportunities for Autogrill Switzerland in the next five years, Maximilian concludes by sharing his ambition to see the business double in size. “Realistically, however, we will most probably grow more slowly, by making a series of acquisitions and opening up new branches to the brands we operate.”