Woody Allen captured the essence of United Airlines food perfectly in 1977’s Annie Hall, “Boy the food at this place is really terrible. And such small portions!”
Before the pandemic United reduced the number of flight attendants working in business class, and started pre-plating their food. Their entrees are served in bowls (not really plates) and I understand they’re looking at reducing the size of the bowls, since the current appetizer won’t fit alongside it on a single tray.
But here’s, finally, an explanation for why the food is actually bad,
I had dinner with my friend who is the GM of the inflight kitchen last night and he filled me in a little more on what exactly UA is doing at least domestically (he does not oversee a in-flight kitchen that caters UA internationally), essentially they contracted with LSG [Sky Chefs] to prepare frozen meals and ship them and any side dishes/deserts to the local in-flight kitchen.
All the local kitchen does is wash any dishes, load the trays, oven trays, load trolley carts, etc. and it is far cheaper for UA than if an airline caters the meal locally.
…Essentially he said that UA has tried to improve the frozen meals (just like AA did) but it will only make things somewhat better, unless UA goes back to fresh, the quality will only be soo good.
Not only is the food terrible, but there isn’t enough of it.