Culinary daring and dynamism in Dallas
We look back on the highlights of a memorable, inspiring and insightful Airport Food & Beverage Conference in Dallas, as FAB came to the USA for the first time last month.
By Jason Holland.
The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie welcomed the "United Nations of food & beverage" to Dallas
Some of the travel F&B sector’s leading names delivered inspiration and insights to the largest audience yet to attend the annual Airport Food & Beverage Conference, this year held on 26-27 June in Dallas.
The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman welcomed the “United Nations of food & beverage” as he opened the event.
With FAB an annual opportunity to reflect on where we are as an industry, Moodie noted how much progress had been made since the first event in Manchester in January 2011.
“Sustainability didn’t even warrant a place at the conference table back then; plastic usage wasn’t an issue; and digital didn’t get a look in! Well-being? Well, it didn’t count. Chef-driven restaurants were in their infancy and while the concepts of food provenance and Sense of Place were well-established, they have picked up extraordinary momentum since.
“Our sector has been experiencing a qualitative revolution in those eight years – at culinary level, at technology level, at marketing level and at design level,” he continued.
“FAB has become an important annual opportunity to reflect on where we are as an industry – where we’re good, even great; where we’re not so good, even poor; what consumers are saying; how they’re behaving; what should be put behind us and what likely lies ahead.”
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport CEO Sean Donohue welcomed delegates by reflecting on his airport’s wider consumer strategy and the vital positioning of food & beverage within that.
Despite being the fourth-busiest airport in the world by aircraft operations, Dallas Fort Worth International has traditionally been US-centric, Donohue said. “We had been lacking a stronger international presence, but have doubled down on our focus on this,” he explained. “In the last five years we are the fastest-growing airport in the country in terms of international growth.
“Dallas is also the fastest-growing region economically in the USA, and we are stewards of this community.”
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport CEO Sean Donohue says customer experience is a priority, with F&B a key focus
Donohue noted the strong forecasted growth in global passenger traffic and the economic value that tourism and travel provides. “It is a very powerful economic engine. We provide US$40 billion a year in economic value to the local region.”
This growth provides a fantastic opportunity, but Donohue said the airport needed to be proactive to fully take advantage of it. “We are therefore focused on customer experience as one of our priorities. One of the areas we want to attack is line waits. Even with self-service check-in and then security, it is almost accepted you can wait 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes. Then if you want a bite to eat or a coffee, it can be a 10-15 minute wait at the very busiest times. Then there is the boarding experience, which takes another 10-15 minutes.
“So from a customer experience standpoint, that is 45-60 minutes of standing in line. We are working with all partners to improve the customer experience by reducing this. Travellers will then be more relaxed, and will spend more money at the airport.”
“We don’t want to build a traditional terminal. If we do, shame on us.” – Sean Donohue
These factors will influence the planned sixth terminal at Dallas Fort Worth International, which is due to open in 2025. “We don’t want to build a traditional terminal. If we do, shame on us,” Donohue said.
He pledged not to allow huge dedicated ‘lobby’ space in the new terminal, questioning whether customers really wanted to spend time there. Instead, the airport will use technology to facilitate passengers through the first stage of the airport journey before they encounter services such as F&B. The focus must be on creating a real experience, with a showcase of the local region of North Texas crucial to achieving that, Donohue said. Crucially, F&B is at the heart of that ambition.