1948 to today
We can trace our operational existence back to 1948, the year that railways in Britain were nationalised, and became British Rail. All on-board catering, station catering and railway hotels were put under a subsidiary organisation called the British Transport Hotels and Catering Services.
At this stage there were 10,000,000 meals being served on trains, 40 railway hotels remaining and 595 station refreshment rooms up and down the country with an estimated 20,000 strong workforce and a headquarters at St Pancras Chambers (now the St Pancras Grand Hotel).
British Transport Hotels and Catering Services was renamed British Rail Catering and some headquarter functions were moved to Carrera House at the Embankment.
British Rail Catering changed its name again to the snappier ‘Travellers-Fare’ with new directors. It still included British Transport Hotels, which was run as a subsidiary.
Travellers-Fare celebrated its centenary year with a special train tour of Britain.
British Transport Hotels was sold, and many staff transfer to a variety of new hotel owners. Travellers-Fare (station and train catering) still remained under British Rail’s ownership.
Travellers-Fare was split up. The train catering operation was put under the direct control of Intercity, the mainline department of British Rail and called Intercity Onboard Services, while the station catering part remained as Travellers-Fare and was prepared for privatisation with many station buffets being sold.
Travellers-Fare was sold and merged with its travel and retail businesses to form SSP. Intercity Onboard Services remained under British Rail ownership.
British Rail is privatised and Intercity Onboard Services is prepared for a hand over.
Separately Swiss Air win a train catering contract with Eurostar and create a company called Rail Gourmet Waterloo International.
The OBS Company was formed by the Intercity Onboard Services management team and the transfer of ownership is made, with the funding for the purchase coming from venture capitalists. The company acquires many of the service centres and logistics supply contracts, although many of the then private railway companies do their own on-board service.
OBS changed its name to European Rail Catering Limited.
Swiss Air acquired European Rail Catering and merged it with Rail Gourmet Waterloo International, to create Rail Gourmet UK Limited. Rail Gourmet worked closely with Gate Gourmet, a subsidiary of Swiss Air, but the decision is taken to keep them separate.
Rail Gourmet grows to include operations under joint ventures with its partners, such as Togservice (Norway), Avecra (Finland), Railrest (JV Belgium), Momentum (JV UK) and Rail Gourmet Spain.
Swiss Air sold all its subsidiaries, including Rail Gourmet and Gate Gourmet. Rail Gourmet was sold to Compass (owners of Select Service Partner – the other half of the old Travellers-Fare).
Select Service Partner and Rail Gourmet are demerged by Compass and bought by EQT venture capitalist, owned by the Wallenberg family of Sweden. Over the past 70 years the company has moved ownership, and we’ve even had a few name changes – but we’ve always retained our passion for good food and great service.
Today RG is a proud part of SSP Group plc.
In 2014the SSP Group of companies, through an initial public offering (“IPO”)”), listing on the London Stock Exchange, becoming a publically owned company. In 2017, RG acquired The Heston Centre, a Central Production Unit for RG and for SSP in UK & Ireland. We assist in the production of food and beverages of well-known SSP brands, such as Ritazza, Camden Food co. and Upper Crust.
Most recently, our Heston Central Distribution Centre launched, serving client locations up and down the country.