A Catering Concern

April 8, 2001


Former EJ execs offer a new service for business aircraft

By John F. Infanger

April 2001

WAUKEGAN, IL — Scott Liston and Paul Schweitzer learned the ropes of business aviation at Executive Jet (EJ). Now, with the help of investors, they are on their own, catering to the culinary needs of corporate travelers. As managers with EJ, the pair specialized in developing close relations with vendors responsible for servicing business aircraft in the largest fractional ownership program. They are counting on those same vendors to be customers of their new venture, AIR-chef Concierce Services, as they attempt to bring to the industry a new standard in catering. In 2000, they took the first step by acquiring Washington, D.C.-based Topflight, a catering concern founded by Cathy Kane, who remains with the company as director of client services. It is, says Liston, a profitable yet traditional aviation catering business, but it will serve as the platform for a franchise that in time will be introduced to as many as 15 major markets in the U.S. Liston, who met with AIRPORT BUSINESS recently during a client visit in the Chicago area, says the company is currently looking at buyout and partnership opportunities in five of those markets. Franchising also is an option for the next tier of markets, he says. "All too often, the people ordering the food don’t know how to order it," says Liston. For example, the all-too-common cheese and cracker tray is cumbersome in an aircraft cabin. Or, in a small cabin with a heavy passenger load, food that is "easy to manipulate" must be a consideration. "It’s as much a system as a product," he says. "At Executive Jet, an ongoing concern was food quality and we found that that segment of the industry was 100 percent fragmented. There’s a great disconnect when moving food from a great restaurant to the aviation environment. We want to overcome that and make AIRchef a facilitator of great food."