How Emirates makes 225,000 region-specific meals a day for its passengers

  • EmiratesFlight Catering in Dubai makes all the snacks, main dishes and desserts served aboard the airline’s 200,000 flights each year.
  • The facility runs 24-7 and dishes out 110 million meals a year.
  • Emirates’ 1,800 chefs from around the world create region-specific menus for each flight.
  • In 2018, Emirates passengers ate 72 million bread rolls, over 134,000 pounds of strawberries, 414,000 pounds of salmon, and more than 3 million pounds of potatoes.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Here in Dubai, Emirates Flight Catering makes 110 million in-flight meals a year. As the world’s largest catering facility, they run 24-7, cooking up every snack, dessert, and main dish eaten by the airline’s 55 million passengers a year.

And these travellers eat a lot. In 2018, Emirates passengers downed 72 million bread rolls, over 134,000 pounds of strawberries, 414,000 pounds of salmon, and more than 3 million pounds of potatoes.

So how does the world’s largest flying restaurant feed hungry passengers aboard nearly 200,000 flights a year?

Well, before any cooking can even start, everything has to be unloaded off incoming flights. Plates, trays, trolleys, you name it. They’re all dropped in the ground floor of the facility to be cleaned. Dishes are separated into categories and sent through industrial-sized warewashing machines. On average, the facility handles about 3 million pieces of tableware a day.

Those trolleys that bring you drinks during your flight are also cleaned here. Then they’re loaded up onto the building’s mile-and-a-half-long monorail to be taken upstairs. This system is how massive amounts of inventory are moved safely through the building. The monorail has pickup and drop-off points at multiple locations on every floor.

Upstairs is where the cooking takes off. First, in the cold kitchen, all of the sandwiches and appetizers are prepped and plated. Because the different cabins have specific menus, appetizers and sandwiches for first and business class are prepared on one side of the kitchen, while those for economy are prepared on the other. Sandwiches are sliced and stacked and then fed through the flow-wrapping machine to keep the bread fresh until it’s unwrapped aboard the plane.

Now, on to the main kitchen, where they’re whipping up the hot food. The kitchen’s broken down by four food regions: Asian, Sub-Continent, European, and Middle Eastern. Emirates’ 1,800 chefs from around the world develop 1,300 different menus a month. They cover the culinary gamut of every destination Emirates flies to.

Whenever you’re aboard an Emirates flight, the meal you’re served will be inspired by the region of your arrival destination. And with over 150 destinations in 85 different countries, well, that’s a lot of region-specific meals.

So if you’re headed to France, you’ll get a croissant in the morning. Flying to India? You’ll most likely get a crisp kachori. Stopping off in Japan? How about some soba or a bento box? Emirates says they want to welcome travellers home or give new visitors a first taste of the region’s food.

So what’s Emirates’ specialty dish welcoming passengers to their hub of Dubai? The Emirati Arabic mezze selection with sticky pudding. The hot kitchen is where region-specific dishes like the mezze take form. Chefs mix big vats of vegetables, grill lines of lamb chops, and top rows of dishes with garnishes. Each plate has to taste and look exactly the same.

It’s at this point that all of the hot dishes head to the blast chiller. They have to be cooled down to the perfect food-safe temperature.

The last kitchen is for all us sugar lovers: the dessert room. Cakes, pastries, and cookies are all individually mixed, piped, dipped, and baked here. The facility specialises in Arabic sweets, made in-house.

The coolest part? The hydro processor, a high-powered water laser that cuts perfectly precise slices of cake.

Finally, the assembly room. This is where all the pieces converge onto one tray. It’s also where every meal gets a day code printed on it. It’s in UV ink, so as a passenger, you won’t actually see it, but it helps Emirates track the life of each dish. That way, they’re sure they’re not serving flyers any spoiled food.

This is also where salads and fruit plates are packaged up. Silverware and dishes are prepared, and all incoming meals are assembled onto trays exactly as we’d see them as passengers aboard the flight.

Those trays are loaded back into the trolleys that take another spin on that monorail to the ground floor.

Back downstairs, the trolleys are packed into awaiting high-loader trucks. Those trucks will be sent out to aircrafts two hours before departure times to unload meals for hungry passengers waiting aboard.

*A previous version of this video inaccurately identified lamb chops as pork chops. Emirates serves only Halal food and has never served pork aboard their flights. We regret the error.*

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.