airports and roads, Italy goes. We are the gateway to Made in Italy - Corriere.it
Summer 2023, which many already predict will be the rebirth of Italian tourism, is upon us. There is talk of almost 127 million arrivals, a figure not far from 2019, when 131 million presences were reached. Numbers that make Massimiliano Santoro, CEO Italy of Autogrill optimistic, the global group of mobile catering born in 1977 from the merger of the three business branches of Alemagna, Motta and Pavesi, now controlled by the Swiss duty-free retailer Dufry, which 87% after last week's Ops. «The context in 2023 remains complex, inflation is not giving up and consumer confidence is low – reflects Santoro, who has been with Autogrill for twenty years -. But forecasts point to a growing GDP and Italy has recovered better than other countries, for example in terms of airport traffic".
Motorway traffic has also recovered strongly, and the country, historically the most important in the European area for Autogrill, is returning to the values of 2019, with turnover of around one billion euros. Even globally, the data for the first quarter of 2023 is growing: one billion, or more than 40% compared to the same period in 2022. The effort in recent months has been to contain inflation. “We too have applied price increases, but to a lesser extent than those of the Foi index – explains the CEO -. A positive job has been done, which has enhanced relations with our historical partners. We have not touched the quality, we have not done downsizing or weight reduction of products, a choice that the consumer has rewarded. We are open at night, we provide the use of the toilets to travellers: these are all important costs that we bear because ours is also a service activity, as well as a commercial one. The cost of energy is therefore an important item and we will see its impacts in 2023, but mitigated by some efficiency measures that we have already introduced and which will become structural".
The development plans
Autogrill is now present in 30 countries and 139 airports, and manages around 3,300 points of sale. In the peninsula it has 390 points of sale, with about eight thousand employees. At the end of 2022, the Alemagna store in Milan Linate was opened in Italy, designed according to advanced green standards, in 2023 still openings at Palermo airport and Rome Fiumicino. "We are consolidating the airport market and increasing our presence in airports throughout the peninsula - says Santoro -. We then continue with the renovations on the motorway and in the stations, implementing our new formats. We have also invested in «non-travel» channels, such as the outlets: we are renovating the sales point in Serravalle, where we are historically present».
The brand and the made in Italy
Innovation, starting from that of the restaurants proposed, such as Amore, a concept of fast casual Italian cuisine and the first format with table service on the motorway with an Autogrill brand, or Pastaria, a compact concept corner dedicated to express pasta, developed by the starred chef Andrea Ribaldone, it is another important item in the development plan of the group. «Our task is to always be at the forefront because we have to be chosen twice: by the infrastructure manager and by the customer - says Santoro -. The Factory Food Designers, in our headquarters in Rozzano, is the headquarters of the experiments, where we integrate skills and collaborations, such as those with chefs, pastry chefs, doctors, food bloggers, local producers, with technological solutions that allow us to achieve sustainability goals and food safety". The aim is to achieve an offer that captures mass market trends on the one hand and new niche trends at the same time. «Because we have to respond to many requests - specifies Santoro - and keep the bar high on made in Italy: in most cases we are the first consumer of those who arrive in our country. We feel proud to be the "engine" of this experience. Focusing on the Italian brand and on the valorisation of the territory remains central for us, not only at the product level, but also in the store concept, as well as in partnerships». This is how the food offer signed "made in Italy" has come to approach 80% in the points of sale of the peninsula.
Training and people
Autogrill's attention to people also remains central, at a time when the restaurant industry is facing a shortage of employees that is not easy to solve. «We have recently launched recruiting programs such as Road to the Future, to offer young people the opportunity to enter the company and to encourage the inclusion of specialized figures - concludes Santoro -. It is dedicated to graduate students under the age of 25 and also allows you to obtain a degree. We have always been interested in the growth of our people, also promoting internal and external mobility, because we are recognized as a benchmark in the sector. In 2022 we also managed to give an important supplementary prize».