JetBlue‘s Mint premium transcon product has plenty of fans these days (self included) so when I was invited to sample the latest round of menu options I jumped at the chance. The new lunch/dinner options continue to please – not much of a surprise given the partnership with Saxon + Parole for producing the food – but there was much more to the conversation that afternoon than just the new premium menus.
For starters, there is the attitude of Saxon + Parole executive chef Brad Farmerie. He is not a shy man and that passion is even more pronounced when it comes to food. Describing his general approach to the industry Farmerie was quite blunt:
Saxon + Parole is about getting great ingredients and not fucking them up.
The flavors produced on the ground and those served in the air reflect that attitude. Farmerie also noted that, while this tasting represents another quarter of new menus for Mint he’d like to get more aggressive with the rotation. More than 50 potential new options are in the works right now and he expects that 75% of them will get to the final phase of development where they can be selected by the airline for inclusion on board. Even with 5 options in flight at any given time that number represents the ability to shift menus more often, keeping the frequent and high-yielding customers happy.
The latest Mint menu includes things like a rosé on the wine list, something the carrier believes to be a first for domestic carriers. All the wines are from smaller producers which presents an interesting challenge. For customers who enjoy the experience and who want to buy a bottle (or case) after landing it can be challenging to find the wines in stock at the local shop. Jamie Perry, JetBlue’s VP brand & product development, spoke to that challenge during the event suggesting that the limited size of the JetBlue Mint operation actually helps in this case:
One of the challenges the industry has with wine selections is distribution. One of the nice things we were able to do with Mint given its niche nature and given the fact that it is only touching New York and California, is we can actually go out and look at some of the vineyards which do not have the quantity which some of those other guys need. We feel that gives us the opportunity to showcase wines and give people an introduction to wines they might not otherwise find.
It was also suggested that rather than dropping the cash for another Mint ticket that checking out the wine lists of your favorite restaurants in New York and California, hitting up a specialty shop or going direct to the vineyards could work. Jon Bonne, JetBlue’s Sommelier, suggests that the wines are “findable but not too findable,” furthering the appeal and in-the-know aspect of the Mint product.
New on the food front comes the challenge of expanding the Mint offering seasonally into the Caribbean markets. Keeping the local flavor vibe with the new Barbados and Aruba destinations means sourcing a different set of meals and ensuring that the kitchens operating in the islands can produce the premium meal options JetBlue plans to cater. The new menus are not set yet but expect that they will not be the same as the current Saxon + Parole options on board today.
There’s also a push to expand the fresh food service JetBlue offers on longer flights. For the LatAm markets there is competitive pressure to offer real food options on board while the transcon flights out of Boston seem a natural fit just based on the longer stage length there. Perry acknowledges both of those markets are on the forefront of the company’s plans and suggests that fresh food will be available later in 2015, “I think that fresh food into Boston will come at the same time as fresh food into the Caribbean later this year.”
Part of the delay in expanding the offering comes from needing to build up the catering kitchen facilities to support the needs (similar to the Mint challenge noted above) while another aspect is the point-of-sale systems. Perry was clear that getting the new iPad Mini deployment completed for the crew was a precursor to getting the fresh food sales market expanded. That project is currently underway and should be completed in time to meet Perry’s stated goal of getting fresh food into the cabin on more domestic flights later this year.
- Eat Up: Taste testing the JetBlue fresh food menu
- In-flight: The JetBlue Mint experience
- JetBlue to expand fresh food offering
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