Master’s Project in Catering/Healthcare

Heidelberg - 13.5.2016

Christiane Schick, a University of Trier graduate, recently completed her master’s thesis in cooperation with io‑consultants’ Catering/Healthcare business unit. Schick’s dissertation outlines the pros and cons of frozen food for in-flight catering and presents the results in a planning manual for practical application. “Customer demand for alternatives to the classic cook & chill method is increasing, as is their need for support in selecting the optimal strategy relating to the various systems,” comments Torsten Brendel, partner at io‑consultants and Managing Director of the branch office in Dubai.

Schick developed a variety of scenarios and applied them to three factories of different sizes. Her objective was to develop decision criteria that would help customers choose a suitable system and point out all the factors that need consideration. To this purpose she investigated the production processes in facilities that cater for 60,000, 90,000 and 120,000 meals per day. Although the scenarios are fictitious, they are based on real data and average figures from ongoing projects. In the ‘cook & freeze’ system, meals are stored at around -20°C and can be produced about a year in advance, which can reduce both labour costs and hygiene risks. ‘Cook & chill’ meals can only be kept for up to three days at the most, as they are stored at temperatures between 5 and 8°C. Alongside food quality, the costs are an important factor in the decision-making process. Cook & freeze generally requires more equipment and, of course, lower temperatures must be guaranteed. “However,” Schick goes on to explain, “the greater the quantities I need to produce, the more efficient frozen meal production is. The cost per meal is then actually lower with cook & freeze. But frozen food still struggles with a poor image, even though it has long since been proven that this production method has no negative impact on the quality.” She refers to several studies based on sensor panels and blind tastings that confirm this. Nevertheless, there is no “one fits all” solution with regard to the production method – every project has individual factors that must be taken into consideration.

As a first thesis project in this field of research, the content is of a fundamental nature and will likely lead to questions that merit further examination. In the course of her master’s thesis Christiane Schick also developed a calculation tool for determining costs and facilitating the initial planning phases of future projects. “The combination of theory and practise is what makes my work so interesting,” she adds. “I brought my food technology and industrial engineering knowledge into io‑consultants and have gained valuable practical experience of the interactions between technology and commerce in return. Moreover, I was given all the time and help I needed when working on my master’s thesis. At the same time, I also took on additional smaller tasks that provided me with important insights into day-to-day business and, in hindsight, really helped me find my feet at io‑consultants.”

Christiane Schick studied food technology at the University of Trier and joined io‑consultants as an analyst soon after completing her MSc in engineering. Her master’s thesis is entitled “Planungshandbuch für eine Cook & Freeze Produktionsfabrik – Betrachtung der Qualität, aktueller Einfrierverfahren und einer Kostenanalyse im Vergleich zu Cook & Chill” (‘Planning manual for a cook & freeze production facility – an examination of quality and current freezing methods, and a cost analysis compared with cook & chill’).

With its Catering/Healthcare business unit and subsidiary in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), io‑consultants is the global market leader for planning in-flight catering facilities, and prides itself on renowned customers such as Emirates Flight Catering, Etihad Airways and Oman Air. This line of business is supplemented with planning services for canteen kitchens, hospital and university catering facilities, and staff restaurants.


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