KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia has launched a new concept that promises to become either fodder for stand-up comedians or a revolution in our way of perceiving the much-maligned category of “plane food”: a fast-food restaurant chain serving in-flight meals... on land.
The new project by the world’s fourth-largest low-cost airline in terms of transported passengers – which partnered up with its on-board food-and-coffee brands, Santan and T&CO, respectively – kicked off on Dec. 2 with the opening of the flagship restaurant and cafe in Kuala Lumpur.
An epa-EFE photojournalist visited the premises of this pioneering establishment on Wednesday and captured footage of the joint, which is reminiscent of other conventional fast-food franchises such as McDonald’s or Burger King.
“We have seen a significant appetite for our in-flight menu offerings beyond our flights across the region and this is our answer to that demand,” said the restaurant’s general manager, Catherine Goh, in a statement. “We are very proud to extend what started out as an in-flight menu into new markets and reiterate our support for local and ASEAN producers and suppliers, apart from creating new job opportunities with affordable franchising.”
Goh added that the aim was to open five owned Santan restaurants by the end of 2020 and have 100 franchisee-operated restaurants and cafes within the next three-to-five years as the concept expands throughout global markets.
Customers at the flagship, located in the Malaysian capital’s sprawling Mid Valley Megamall, can order either through the digital touchscreen-equipped “smart menus” – which incorporate advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tech – or Santan’s website, as well as T&CO’s mobile app.
The restaurant’s gastronomic offer includes a selection of dishes emblematic of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region such as the classic chicken Inasal with garlic rice from the Philippines, the fragrant rice dish known as Nasi Lemak (Malaysia) and pineapple fish noodles (Cambodia).
In addition, all the coffee and tea served is regionally-sourced and the snacks and desserts are inspired by local flavors such as the ondeh-ondeh cake, based on the traditional palm sugar-filled, grated coconut-coated green rice balls (known in Indonesia as klepon) that are ubiquitous across the meridional countries of the SEA area.
The AirAsia Group is far from limiting itself to the air travel and fast food industries: a few weeks ago, the corporation launched RedRecords, a new record label jointly managed with Universal Music Group – a giant in the music entertainment sector – with the goal of promoting emerging Asian artists.