I’ve done a number of posts here on airport food options ranging from gourmet and specialty restaurants to fast food outlets and sandwiches. Kevin Kelly, president of concession operator Delaware North Travel Hospitality, says his company is tapping into travelers’ desire for more sophisticated and local fares by bringing new concepts to the airports they serve.
Travelers have gotten more sophisticated because our culture has, Kelly said. “Traveling has exposed us to regional and international foods. Go anywhere and you will see, for example, that ballparks don’t just serve hot dogs, ”he said. “Our industry has learned that a variety of food selections and offerings can add more overall value.”
Airports are offering this in everything from casual casual service and coffee to full-service restaurants, Kelly said. “We have evolved as an industry where we can now optimize revenues and improve experiences by offering more choice,” he said.
One concept is the Atlanta Stillhouse, on the Concourse T. of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. It is the only place outside of Kentucky that has more than 30 bourbons available for travelers to sample. The bar has 10 bourbon flight options to give passengers a chance to hike the bourbon trail in Atlanta.
Delaware North originally wanted to partner with bourbon maker Jim Beam when developing the restaurant, Kelly said. “The airport said we couldn’t name the location after an alcohol manufacturer. But we had a relationship with Jim Beam, “he said. “So we decided to make a menu around Jim Beam bourbon and we had its designer come in and give the restaurant the feel.”
The restaurant does Jim Beam tastings, Kelly said. “Travelers say it’s a pleasant surprise to see a bourbon tasting,” he said. “It takes the monotony out of the airport experience and it has been very well received.”
Another example of sophisticated food can be found at DeSano Pizza, located at South Carolina’s Charleston International Airport in Terminal 4. It features European-style tables that bring diners together for a communal setting, and the restaurant offers pizza dough. to the table for the children to play with.
Airports are also bringing their best local restaurant concepts to the terminal, Kelly said. “The airport is a portal to the community. It’s the first thing you see when you arrive in a city, and when you leave, it’s an opportunity to try concepts that you might want to visit when you return, ”he said. “Communities are really taking advantage of the fact that an airport offers accessibility and they see it as a great way to introduce people to the area.”
For example, when Delaware North develops a hamburger concept, it will check social media, Kelly said. “We will dine in 10 different places to find the best ones,” he said.
One such concept is Grindhouse Killer Burgers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Concourse D. The restaurant offers fresh ground beef sourced from local businesses.
But working with local concepts can be challenging, because street restaurants function differently in the airport environment, Kelly said. “Airports have smaller kitchen footprints, and there is a greater emphasis on employees having prompt service, which is important,” he said. “We work with the owners to turn their brands into a non-traditional space. Some like the challenge and others just have to put their hands up ”.
Other popular local concepts include Casavana Restaurant, offering authentic Cuban cuisine at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and Bardenay, an outpost of a popular restaurant serving upscale Northwest cuisine and regional and local craft beers at Boise Airport. from Idaho.
This trend is really strong, Kelly said. “We see airports moving from McDonalds to Smashburger. The level of service is different and even the presentation is different, ”he said. “These burgers are not wrapped or bagged. They are serving it on a plate with craft paper.
Whether it’s a hamburger or pizza concept, or a farmer’s market sandwich or fresh salad, airports offer more fast-casual restaurants with plenty of options, Kelly said. “We will see much more of this in the future. We will see restaurants that more reflect the local market, ”he said.