Airports 2020 (III) | HMSHost

At pandemic peak 85% of units closed

Walter Seib, CEO, HMS Host International
HMS Host
Walter Seib, CEO, HMS Host International

One year of the Corona pandemic - German airports are economically at the limit. The decline in numbers: -74.6 percent passengers in 2020, gastronomy & retail shops became "ghost places". An overview in 2020 and the perspectives in 2021. foodservice spoke to three major players in the transport gastronomy sector. In part three: HMSHost International, Autogrill Group, global traffic gastronomer.

This text is an excerpt. Read the full airport story in the May issue of foodservice. Read now!

Business segments & turnover

HMSHost International, a subsidiary of Autogrill Group, is considered one of the global leaders in the transportation catering/hotel industry. International brands and proprietary concepts at more than 150 airports worldwide are part of the group's portfolio. Through its HMSHost International division, the company operates F&B stores at airports, train stations and in shopping malls in 19 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. In fiscal 2020, the group reported net gastro sales of €1,984 million.

Store Closure & Measures

At the height of the pandemic in April 2020, around 85 percent of HMSHost units were temporarily closed. Since then, work has been underway to safely reopen in line with government regulations and customer demand. At year-end 2020, the group still reported 42 percent of stores temporarily closed.

In keeping with the change in constraints, the service model and concept menu have been adjusted to allow takeout. "Imagine: Luxury burgers that require the use of cutlery are transformed into burgers that are eaten standing up. At the same time, we've been looking at the potential of Ghost Kitchens and moving forward with the development of our Y(our) O(rder) P(lease) contactless ordering and payment system," said Walter Seib, CEO, HMSHost International.

Support from landlords

From the pandemic, HMSHost has learned that there is no single best practice solution worldwide. In each country where the global player operates, it has to adapt to the rules there.

"In some cases, the pandemic has strengthened our relationships - for example with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, with whom we have confirmed an eight-year contract extension to our partnership," shares Walter Seib. Tenant relief is a first step towards recognising the common situation, but it cannot be taken for granted. Many landlords have realized that the only way to succeed is to work together, while others must continue to advocate for a more cooperative scenario, according to the CEO's experience.

One year into the Corona pandemic, now what?

The covid pandemic has thrown off the usual rules of the game in the transport hospitality and travel industries, Seib says. "There's no crystal ball we can look into. The key ingredients for business success are agility and flexibility."

The word from the major consulting firms, he said, is that recovery will come, but it will take time. " People are willing to travel, we see this in the increase in domestic travel in countries like China." Traffic is coming back to Asia, faster than expected, Seib is convinced.

Successes & post-Covid lessons

HMSHost executives saw the first signs of the pandemic in one of their operations in China in 2020 and acted quickly."Early on, we settwo priorities that we maintain today: 'Cash is King' and protecting employee safety and jobs," Seib points out. "By establishing transparent communication, installing 'Covid-safe' operating policies, providing thousands of e-learning courses for those who couldn't work, and actively seeking financial support, we strengthened our team relationships and secured the future of our Company."
Airports 2020: Passengers and gastronomy in decline

Only just under 63 million passengers (previous year: 248 million; excluding transit) frequented Germany's 21 airports in 2020 (-74.6%), figures from airport association ADV show. European traffic declined by -74.0 % in the same period. Continuing tighter entry restrictions since March/April 2020, a constantly changing patchwork of country-specific corona regulations and blanket quarantine rules are slowing the recovery of air traffic, according to criticism from aviation experts.

Situation of the gastronomy

According to foodservice 's Top 100 ranking (fs 4/2020), one of the unquestionably hardest-hit market segments in the industry in 2020 is transport catering (-45.9 % reduction in revenue), - slightly ahead of the leisure and event catering segments. With some of the aforementioned passenger numbers as low as ten to 15% compared to 2019, airports were and are eerily empty. In many places, foodservice operations remained closed altogetherafter the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic on March 22, 2020, when the federal government announced the Corona rules.