Consumer transparency

Consumer-citizens all over the world are evolving very rapidly; they are far more critical than in the past and are rapidly rethinking their choices, attitudes and lifestyles, also because of the critical macro-economic situation. They have refined their demands and consolidated their awareness of what can really be of use to them.

Even consumers’ vocabulary includes new terms, generic words tending to make way for more specific ones borrowed from science, ecology and local culture. There are also new attitudes to food, including a strong tendency towards fruit and vegetables and in general all new types of food that are “green” and low environmental impact.

“People on the move”

Autogrill’s business is based on the movement of people across cities, countries and continents. The steady increase in global travel, partly due to the rise in per capita income and greater affordability of transport and holiday destinations, has been accompanied by growth in short-distance travel such as commuting in and out of large cities. In conjunction with the exponential increase in average travelling distances, time spent in places of travel (airports, railway stations, motorway service stations, shopping centres and trade fairs) is increasing.

Lifestyles, work and spending behaviour in the West and increasingly in the East as well, are driving the dynamics and dimensions of this new mobility, which is also affecting behavioural scripts in other countries.

This cultural phenomenon is generating a demand for travel-related goods, products and services, satisfying both primary needs like eating or drinking, and secondary needs fed by impulse purchasing of things like books, accessories or clothing items.

This is the scenario in which Autogrill steps forward as the best provider for travellers’ needs.

Transversal innovation underpins commercial offering

Autogrill believes that flexibility, variety, the capacity to innovate and integrate different cultures, traditions and lifestyles are key to its successful response to the increasingly sophisticated needs of the traveller, in both the short- and long-term.

Geographical expansion has enabled the Group to increase its know-how and to offer a constantly evolving range of food & beverages, travel retail and flight products, which are both geographically and culturally “contextualized”. To develop this capability, the Group has a continuous process of transversal innovation affecting the more important stages of business, reshaping traditional concepts to fit new lifestyles and consumer demand and developing products and services to satisfy new market segments. The main stages in this process, and some of the solutions the Group has adopted to deal with them, are outlined below.

Stage 1: Concept innovation

The challenge posed by the Group’s market is to identify quickly and accurately new trends/needs and be able to develop specific solutions that can be rapidly brought to market. This is at the heart of concept differentiation, starting with the choice of products, the way they are presented in stores, the equipment used, the decor and colour of the ambience, etc. The concepts developed by Autogrill, thanks to market research and analysis of positioning and constant dialogue with the consumer, are based on four key factors:

  • Simplicity in the food experience;
  • Empathy in the consumer relationship;
  • Strong ties with local customs; and
  • Quality and freshness of products offered to consumers.


Solutions: market research and customer satisfaction analysis
The Group carries out market research, at varying intervals, to analyze brand concept positioning and anticipate nutrition trends. For example, marketing managements in the different countries periodically analyze customer satisfaction in the channels in which the Company operates. The results of this research can suggest re-qualification of brandconcept positioning in various ways including broadening product supply, adjusting prices, developing new logos and alternative pay offs, ambience restyling, modifying the product offering. The consumer in any case always has various ways – toll-free numbers, e-mail, green postcards – to send the Group suggestions or complaints about products/services.

Stage 2: product quality and innovation

In the Group’s testing kitchens (in the USA, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland), food technologists and chefs develop a wide range of products and recipes using dietary and health conscious principles which seek to limit the use of fats and salt.

For example, in the testing kitchen in Assago (Milan), analysts and chefs devise and test around 1,500 new recipes a year (around 400 recipes for Bar Snack, 400 for Ciao Restaurant, 100 for Spizzico, 30 for Burger King) and assess over 300 new raw materials.

Selected raw materials are combined to produce the right balance of flavours and colours.

In 2009, HMSHost worked with top chefs to offer consumers unforgettable experiences in airports, moments of relaxation in which they can try international dishes made with high quality products from all over the world.

The main concepts include David Burke’s “Burke in the Box”, Kathy Casey’s Dish D’Lish, Todd English’s Bonfire, Wolfgang Puck Express, David Wilhelm’s Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge and Martin Yan’s Yan Can.

Solutions: focus on the quality of the products offered and farm animal welfare
Autogrill promotes responsible use of territory and monitors its impacts on the environment. In this context, the welfare of animals is considered a basic moral value, as well as being a guarantee of the quality of the products it offers. Autogrill won the Good Egg Award (organized by Compassion in World Farming, the biggest international farm animal welfare campaigner) for its commitment to using exclusively free-range eggs in its points of sale.

In Europe, there are over 300 million egg laying hens, of which over two thirds are still raised in battery cages where each animal only has the space of an A4 sheet of paper. In Italy, around 37 million hens (86%) are reared in this way. In 2012, a European Union ban on “conventional” battery cages for egg-laying hens will come into force.

The Good Egg Awards are organized by Compassion in World Farming to offer a certain visibility to companies that ensure a more ethical treatment of hens, ahead of the European ban. The award went to Autogrill Italy and Autogrill Belgium, a Group subsidiary that operates in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Compassion in World Farming believes it is important to publicly recognize food industry and Food & Beverage operators that decide to anticipate and also go beyond the 2012 ban so that all cages will become a thing of the past. The initiative supported by Autogrill is an important statement in favour of ethical food procurement.

Stage 3: solutions tailored to customer needs

Understanding and satisfying consumer needs is one of the Group’s strengths. This also means being able to respond to the specific needs of those with special dietary requirements: from gluten allergy sufferers to vegetarians and vegans, from athletes to those observing religious beliefs, etc.

Solution: menus for celiacs, vegetarians and Muslims
In certain countries where it operates, such as Austria, Italy and Spain, the Group has developed complete gluten-free menus in its self-service concepts and a breakfast menu in its snack bars. And in collaboration with various celiac associations, it has organized special cooking areas to prevent any cross-contamination.

The American HMSHost, in collaboration with a prestige American nutritional consultancy, is starting to develop gluten-free products so it can offer “gluten-free” menus next year.

As for vegetarians and vegans, Autogrill Italy and the Italian Association of Vegetarians have prepared a number of dishes which can be found in Ciao restaurants and snack bars that display the Association’s logo.

Lastly, in some European countries a Halal menu has been developed, offering veal and chicken dishes prepared according to the rules of Islamic slaughtering.

In America again, HMSHost works to federal regulations issued by the United States Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration, and in compliance with local laws in each State, which require most American restaurant and fast food chain menus to indicate calorie content and ingredients.

The Company decided on a voluntary basis to print nutrition information on the packaging of all its take-away products.

Stage 4: quality partnerships

Identifying reliable partnerships is an important driver of innovation for the Group and helps create value for all of its stakeholders.

Solutions: cooperating with reliable partners to constantly increase supply quality
Autogrill is an active member of EMRA (European Modern Restaurant Association), which brings together major players in the Food & Beverage sector.

In America too, specific guidelines are used when developing menus; in this case the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, a document that stresses the importance of creating menus with quality products that are light and low on fats.

In order to respond to the growing interest in organic food in recent years, Autogrill Switzerland has started to work with BioSuisse, a Swiss association of organic food producers.

Lastly, the Group continues to participate in round tables:

  • the international Animal Welfare Platform, which aims to ensure more traceability and transparency as to the use of animal products;
  • the “Ente Nazionale Italiano di Unificazione” (UNI - Italian Standards Board), which set up a working party on “fresh agrifood products for human consumption (IV Gamma)” and on “minimum requisites for the drafting of tender notices and rules for the outsourcing of catering services”. In 2009 Autogrill also participated in the drafting of the following regulations: “Non-GMO seeds, feeds and food – minimum requisites”, “Animal welfare” and “Fishing products”.

Stage 5: additional consumer services

Experience gained over the years has allowed the Group not only to develop products and services that improve the quality of the stopover but also to satisfy the specific needs of certain customer segments.

Solutions: initiatives for children, motorcycle services, pet areas
In the airport market, particularly the American one (the testing ground for advanced solutions and services), the Group is introducing information and communication services which seek to satisfy the diverse needs of travellers, especially high-target ones, who are avid IT users.

Thanks to partnerships with networks like CNN and Fox News Channel, locations now offer 24-hour information services in high-tech environments.

Particular care is taken over children, for whom Autogrill has developed special services and menus. In Italy, for example, Ciao, Spizzico and Burger King restaurants offer menus responding to the dietary requirements of children and also provide play areas and baby rooms. There are also Berry Gang Kids Areas equipped with chairs, table football, smaller trays, placemats for colouring, free pencils, videogame consoles and big-screen TVs for cartoons.

In several European countries, the Trucker Club package offers free services to truck drivers, including showers, parking with video-surveillance and entertainment areas with pay-tv.

The Bikers’ Club is the result of surveys of security, products, services conducted by Autogrill together with the Italian Motorcycle Federation and the main Spanish biker club, “Motorpress”. A number of innovative services were developed in conjunction with Ducati and Dainese including futuristic design covered parking areas and video-surveillance and relaxation areas for stretching, etc. Lastly, the Fido Park service provides special areas for pets, with heat-proof kennels and running water. During peak traffic periods, a vet supplied by the Italian Association of Veterinary Surgeons is on duty to provide advice or initial treatment. At the Secchia Ovest service area (Modena), a large open area has been created for exercising animals.

Stage 6: managing the business’s impact on the community

The Group is aware of the fundamental role it plays for its consumers and seeks to convey the importance of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Accordingly, Autogrill promotes quality local products (bearing certification labels such as D.O.P., I.G.P., etc.) in its commercial offering.

Solutions: road safety and alcohol sales
The Group has also taken steps to raise motorist awareness about road safety issues. One such measure is restricting the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages in over 180 points of sale along Italy’s motorways, where spirits with an alcohol content of more than 21° have been withdrawn. The only exception is for typical local products in 10 locations on the Italian border. Such products are not usually consumed by young people and are a way of promoting the country’s image to tourists.

HMSHost too is actively engaged in warning travellers against alcohol abuse. In North America and Canada, it launched the “WE ID” campaign to check the age of people who want to drink alcohol in airport points of sale.

More and more concepts with sustainability messages

The Group is repositioning its concepts by diversifying and widening its offering of products, as well as by restyling its interiors in line with principles such as respect for people, attainment of profit and safeguarding of the environment. One example is the restyling of the format of Spizzico and Ciao (Italy) and Ciao Gourmet Market (USA).

Spizzico is one of the best known Italian-style quick-service pizza brands, with nearly 20 years of experience and around 200 points of sale in Italy, France and Switzerland, on motorways, in airports and railway stations, on high streets and in shopping centres and trade fairs.

Following renewal of the concept and offering in 2008, the menu features over 20 types of pizza, numerous savoury snacks, oven-baked specialities, desserts, bread bowl salads, fresh fruit salads, fresh fruit juices and ice creams.

The new Spizzico goes beyond the traditional fast food concept and returns to the culture of genuineness associated with the Italian tradition but in a spontaneous and informal context. In addition, it has a redesigned logo, the ambience is simple but welcoming and cheerful, the display windows are rearranged at various times of the day to guarantee a fresh offering throughout the day, the service kit for consumers doesn’t carry a logo and the materials used in it are “green” and, lastly, waste is sorted inside the location. Launched in Verona, in the VeronaUno shopping centre, the new format was then introduced in the Soratte outlet (Rome) and Fiumicino Airport.

In 2009, a new image was developed for Ciao restaurants: warmer, more familiar and appealing to a younger and more urban target, though without sacrificing the restaurant’s recognizability. A Mediterranean feel, simplicity, empathy and familiarity were the key values shaping the development of the new brand experience, characterized by materials, finishes and lighting systems expressing the brand idea: “Sunshine everyday”. The new “being at home” retail concept uses colours and materials that evoke nature: olive green, coffee brown, wood, stone, glass. The same concepts were clearly at work in the design of the logo, which is softer, like a ray of sunshine greeting the customer. There was a special focus on disabled people in this restyling process. The new Ciao was specifically designed to facilitate access, with serving counters easy to reach from wheelchairs and multi-tray trolleys for families.

Innovative changes were also made to the assortment, from special breads to one-dish meals that meet demand for complete but light solutions, and Asian recipes in the “Asia” corner. In short, something for every consumer’s palate. The prototype in the Carugate location is producing excellent results: in a recent Ipsos survey 71% of respondents who had used the point of sale before and after the restyling significantly preferred the new visual identity, the new atmosphere and the new layout.

The American “Ciao Gourmet Market” concept goes beyond traditional sale of food and wine products in that HMSHost decided in 2009 to support the “Endangered Species Give Back Program” project to help animal species at risk or threatened with extinction. The Ciao concept claim – “Commitment • Inspiration • Awareness • Open Practices” – underscores this new approach, which promotes greater consumer engagement on socio-environmental issued and has renewed the commercial offering to meet the food needs of different lifestyles. Different ranges of products can now be found: for vegans, gluten-free, without fats (to lower cholesterol), products 100% certified by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and also fair-trade products certified by Trans Fair USA. All these products come from biological agriculture and the packaging, where possible, is made with recycled material.

And lastly, there are concepts developed in previous years that were already reflecting Autogrill’s socio-environmental sensibility. In America, the “Eaturna” concept continued to speak to consumers about the importance of a healthy diet with a low content of additives, preservatives, colouring agents, fats and calories. In Switzerland, the “Greens” concept was designed, in collaboration with the BioSuisse association, for people who want food with a low fats and salt content.

Quality management

Food safety, the World Health Organization has said, is a shared responsibility: the quality and hygiene of food products is not the exclusive concern of the food industry but depends on a joint effort by all those who are part of the complex chain of production, processing, distributing and selling foodstuffs and not least by consumers themselves.

Autogrill’s rigorous control system assures consumers that specific quality and safety standards are observed at all process stages. Autogrill works together with suppliers, transport companies and brand partners to ensure quality standards are observed.

The system comes into operation when selecting suppliers, particularly those belonging to the food and catering sectors, usually those most at risk. These suppliers undergo audits to check their level of reliability. Having got through this stage, “product specification” is established, containing details of the required ingredients and characteristics, including production methods and transfer to Autogrill warehouses for stocking. In addition, there are alert systems in effect throughout the entire lifecycle of both food and non-food products to ensure that any critical products are immediately withdrawn. In fact, the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) procedures include macrobiological sample tests carried out at a frequency established by risk management logic.

The American HMSHost provides high quality standards by performing hygiene tests along the entire production chain, from supplier to warehouse and up to the sales point and the end consumer. It also follows guidelines for food management (containing specific standards for ordering, receiving, stocking and producing quality foods), on the basis of which its work areas undergo audits to guarantee food quality as foreseen by the HACCP.

In Europe, the Group is stepping up its commitment to excellent quality of food products and services, in particular by obtaining ISO 9001:2000 quality certification. Autogrill France (Marseilles Airport), Autogrill Italy and Aldeasa have already obtained this certification. In Italy, Spain and Greece some sales points have ISO 22000:2005 certification, which is applied voluntarily by food sector operators and defines food health & safety management system requirements for all organizations in the food chain, from producer to consumer.

Focus: monitoring and testing in Italian points of sale
Autogrill Italy carries out two kinds of audits, involving both external professionals and internal personnel, to verify that hygiene standards in points of sale are correctly enforced and that the integrated management system’s self-assessment plan is correctly applied.

In 2009, the Quality Specialist team, who check for compliance with the procedures governing point of sale processes, were integrated with the Area Trainers in Italy to form a new job category: Quality Standard Compliance and Training Specialist (QSCTS). The new team (around 20 people) have the dual task of supporting the sales network in staff training and the application and diffusion of product and process quality standards. Along with this re-organization, there was a review of the QSCTS internal audit process, leading to the integration of compliance control regarding food safety regulations (to HACCP standards) with compliance control regarding company procedures on the basis of dimensions, management, preparation and provision of service (to ISO standards). The process is even more important now because the results of these increasingly integrated audits are fed into the network management’s MBO (Management by Objectives) system.

Mystery Client: a tool for monitoring and improving service quality

One element common to the entire Autogrill Group is the Mystery Client system. Adopted at European level in 1999 to assess supplied/perceived quality in points of sale, it is now the most important instrument for checking quality of service and customer-orientation.

The mystery client is a designated person sent to sales points in the guise of an ordinary customer on a monthly, two-monthly or quarterly basis. This “client” uses the services and products offered in order to monitor four areas:

  • location: cleanliness, order and functionality;
  • staff behaviour:courtesy and efficacy;
  • food quality: freshness, quantity and temperature;
  • commercial aspects: correct change, cashier lines.

Mystery Client complete a detailed questionnaire evaluating the visited sales point.

The results are promptly communicated to the administrative office and the sales point managers to plan improvements to all service aspects. The results of Mystery Client audits are also recorded in the MBO system of both location managers and network/headquarter managers.

In Italy, in the interests of constant monitoring and commitment to service improvement at the point of sale, the Mystery Client checklist was broadened to cover two aspects which Autogrill considers of particular relevance:

  • toilettes: a specific indicator was created because toilettes are among the fundamental parameters of service area satisfaction for travellers;
  • environment: this indicator is dedicated to internal and external aspects of sales points.