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Straw poll - business venture

yorkie-girl

Beginner (10+ posts)
#1
Hi

I just wondered whether people might be kind enough to give their opinions on a new business venture which a friend and myself are embarking on. I'm asking for your help because I know you'll just tell me as it is without fear of upsetting me if you don't agree!

We both have a background in leisure/travel/hospitality and with that are going to start a contract hire company providing catering on long distance UK/continental coach travel. We're aiming to provide a service similar to that on airlines but with a higher standard of cuisine and service, but we'll obviously be a bit more constrained by the facilities which we have for catering and therefore will be using a combination of hotboxes which can be used on the coaches, and replenished at a network of catering establishments so that food is fresh.

Although this is initially going to be aimed at a more niche market, we are eventually hoping to maybe branch into the National Express/Megabus type companies - this service would be offered as a cost option on the ticket rather than being levied as a standard ticket charge.

So, I suppose, my initial question would be whether you would use this service if it were available. Obviously we have already conducted some pretty extensive market research, but I believe in the more opinions the better!

Thoughts....
 

FPG

Veteran (100+ posts)
#2
How long distance are we talking? Particularly UK I'm wondering?

I've had airline style meals on LD coaches in South America in the past, but those were overnight journeys or 18+ hours. But even on 24 hour journeys we were just as likely to just stop somewhere we could eat off the coach. And SA does LD coaches properly (fully reclining seats etc).

I'm not sure how much demand there is for it to be viable? On a plane you can't get off partway through your journey to eat at a restaurant or buy food, so there is the demand for it. On a coach you're free to stop and get off anywhere you like pretty much.

Do you have the contacts on the continent to make it work competitively to the established competition? Do you know the legal and business structures you'd be encountering? The cultural differences? Tax implications? Would you start in one country and then spread to more? Starting a multinational business from day one with just two of you sounds pretty ambitious...

Also, I'm pretty sure when I travelled on national express this summer there were 'no eating' signs up on the coach (I could be wrong - it wasn't my only coach journey this year - but have you checked?)? In which case how viable would it be for you to ever expect to move into that sort of customer base? Who's going to serve these meals? Who has to pick up the cost involved in serving them to passengers?

Also, having had airline style meals on coaches... Given the option in future I'd go for bringing my own food or eating at the rest stops. Although of course that's just me.
 

sandra 100

Veteran (100+ posts)
#3
we go on lots of national holidays and usually take our own food as it is so expensive in service stations and also not very good quality
not sure if these are the tours you mean but good luck with your venture
 

KatieW

Guide Guider, Nottingham
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#4
About 10 years ago I travelled from Nottingham to Venice by coach, a trip of about 26 hours. We had breakfast - a bacon or lorne sausage cob/roll. There were cheese toasties with a variety of fillings and stuff like chicken supreme, but those coaches did have a microwave.

I've also spent more time than I care to add up on coaches around the UK, usually privately chartered to ice hockey games. Most of the people would bring their own food, sandwiches etc or stop at places like McDonalds/BK/KFC etc but most of the time hot food wasn't allowed on coaches - primarily because of the smell.
 

Sunny2nd

Guide and Ranger Leader
GuiderPlus
#5
I think I would rather stop for a leg stretch if the journey was long enough to require more than a snack. I'm not a great fan of eating off my knee in company (ok for tea in front of the telly or at camp) as I'm not very tall and find it difficult to balance a tray etc on my lap. Airlines have the fold down trays specifically designed with food in mind which work well but I don't recall that coaches really have the same type - more a little fold down affair.
 

emmaluvseeyore

Brownie Leader and Ranger Assistant
#6
I think you may have an issue with this because a lot of private coach companies won't allow people to eat food on board because of the mess and smell involved. Personally, I would either bring my own food or buy something at one of the rest stops on the journey as I am at least in control of what food I get then. Also, as someone who suffers quite badly from motion sickness on coaches, this would be made a lot worse if there are people eating smelly food on board. I would also struggle to eat a hot meal on a coach because there isn't much space in the seating area. I am overweight, so it can sometimes be tricky to put the trays down (I can't always put the trays down on planes).
 

fenris

fenris
GuiderPlus
#7
As someone who is not a good traveller, I'm inclined to take my own food when travelling on bus (or train for that matter), as I can take things which I know I can eat without the need of taking a travel tablet. (On longer plane journeys I have to take the tablet and live with the side-effects). Because of that, strong-smelling foods being eaten by other people can make me feel ill.

Even if you are using hotboxes, I'm curious about how hot the food would be a couple of hours or more into a journey (especially given that in food safety terms, food has to be pretty hot). Airlines heat up the meals immediately before serving, it sounds like you wouldn't have that option.

Given the absence of tables/fold-down trays on buses, balancing a container in order to use cutlery would be awkward for most people - those who travel on buses tend to snack on things like sandwiches which can be held in the hand rather than try to balance a plate, and which don't need cutlery. Although less of an issue on motorway routes, where I live a fair number of the main routes incorporate A-class roads which have a lot of corners and uphill/downhill stretches, which would again be awkward.

Many of the longer-distance routes incorporate a stop (often a stop is a statutory requirement for the driver anyway) and often these are at places where food options are available - so you would need to be able to offer something which was both better, and less expensive.
 

chopperchick

Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#8
I like the idea in principle - because the alternative is buying something at wherever the coach might stop (and depending on the individual trip, I may not always know when & where that would be), or bringing my own food (and that is often limited by what I can carry, and any restrictions the coach has).

So, business set-up advice would include considering all the things mentioned above. How will you do it / where / what's your responsibility etc; how do you get paid ..... do I pay you on the bus, or does ticket price include this in which case coach company has to re-imburse you.
However, one would assume that you wouldn't be randomly turning up on coach journeys, rather pre-agreeing to provide the service (and be contracted to do so) thus any issues about "no-hot food" or cleaning up would have already been addressed during negotiations.

Ironically, I'd have thought this might work better in the niche market ...... and I wouldn't normally say that. Where you know the passenger groups - perhaps they've booked a specific tour - and you can cater accordingly. Personally, I don't rely on airline meals as my source of nourishment on a flight - even long-haul; so I always take something with me - admittedly it may not be the healthiest meal ever, but I'll have a stock of cereal bars, crisps, chocolate etc. So, I'd probably be the same with a "standard" meal on a coach ....... if you were to up your game somehow, and provide more of a "business class" service, I'd probably be tempted.
 

GirlFromMars

Veteran (100+ posts)
#9
I think if I was being cheap enough to travel long distance on a coach rather than paying for flights or trains then I would be more inclined to bring my own food than buy a ready meal as I would assume to be on a budget.
 

yorkie-girl

Beginner (10+ posts)
#10
Hi

Thank you for all your replies.

I think I should have made myself clearer as to the USP of the service - my fault for posting as soon as I'd come in from a 12 hour shift.....

We have already agreed service contracts in principle with a couple of UK coach operators - they are high end tour operators which do represent something of a niche market as Chopperchick has said, so in that sense we know what our market is going to be. As far as preparing and keeping food hot is concerned, the food will be freshly prepared before the journey and then the hot boxes will run from a power supply on the coach, so the food will be hot, even a few hours into the journey. The nature of our market is such that the food will be more sophisticated than that available at service areas and fast food outlets - we have negotiated a contract with a hotel chain so that we can use them as 'hubs' for the transfer of trolleys, similar to the set up with trains being resupplied at stations.

The coaches on which we will be working are set up slightly differently it that they are more luxurious, having more leg space, all with trays on the back of the seats and some with dinette arrangements, not dissimilar to a train carriage layout. Some of them are double decker too.
 

KatieW

Guide Guider, Nottingham
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#11
The coaches on which we will be working are set up slightly differently it that they are more luxurious, having more leg space, all with trays on the back of the seats and some with dinette arrangements, not dissimilar to a train carriage layout. Some of them are double decker too.
That sounds very similar to the coach I travelled to Italy on!!

Also some UK coaches now have trays that you can pull down.
 

chopperchick

Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#12
We have already agreed service contracts in principle with a couple of UK coach operators - they are high end tour operators which do represent something of a niche market as Chopperchick has said, so in that sense we know what our market is going to be. As far as preparing and keeping food hot is concerned, the food will be freshly prepared before the journey and then the hot boxes will run from a power supply on the coach, so the food will be hot, even a few hours into the journey. The nature of our market is such that the food will be more sophisticated than that available at service areas and fast food outlets - we have negotiated a contract with a hotel chain so that we can use them as 'hubs' for the transfer of trolleys, similar to the set up with trains being resupplied at stations.

The coaches on which we will be working are set up slightly differently it that they are more luxurious, having more leg space, all with trays on the back of the seats and some with dinette arrangements, not dissimilar to a train carriage layout. Some of them are double decker too.
That's sounding a lot more interesting ......

To be blunt .... folk looking for a cheap way of travelling across Europe or going from Aberdeen to King's Cross for 50p on Megabus are not going to pay for loads of extras, so it sounds like you've sorted that aspect out :)

So, it's a service that will appeal to some folk, not others ...... that's always the way of the world. If you're in bed with high-end tour operators, then you could reasonably assume that folk paying for that "high-end" service wouldn't be averse to other high-end extras. If you've already entered contracts, then presumably you're either approved or near it for all the hygiene & safety requirements - simplistically, you know that your arrangements do actually work.
 

Kangaroot

Veteran (100+ posts)
#13
Personally I take my own food on journeys.
I couldn't think of anything worse than being on a 30 seater coach with the smell of hot food. I get travel sick enough as it is.
 

chopperchick

Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#14
Obviously we have already conducted some pretty extensive market research, but I believe in the more opinions the better!
Just as an aside ...... and it's not knocking any opinions on here, I think one tip for new businesses is to be able to distinguish between the opinions of any Tom, **** or Harriet that are given freely .... and those of potential (and in time, existing) customers.

What you can see on this thread is that there are some folk who wouldn't take up your service - and that's fine because not everyone is a potential customer. There are lots of very viable businesses (and ideas) which rely on a relatively small market share. Good luck!
 

catdrew

Brownie Guider
GuiderPlus
#16
i think it sounds a good idea. not everyone wants a packet sandwich or a mcdonalds. I'd certainly consider it. would it be served while the coach was moving or at a service area? could you cater for special diets and would it include particularly smelly foods like fish or curry which could cling to seats and clothes.