Rethinking airport dining
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Executive Vice President of Customer Experience and Revenue Management Ken Buchanan and Vantage Airport Group CEO, Midway Partnership Sammy Patel delivered insightful presentations to round out the first day of the conference.
As Dallas Fort Worth International Airport CEO Sean Donohue outlined earlier in the day, the airport’s concessions programme has undergone a major transformation.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Executive Vice President of Customer Experience and Revenue Management Ken Buchanan (left) and Vantage Airport Group CEO, Midway Partnership Sammy Patel end day 1 of FAB on a high
Buchanan said this shift began with a strategic vision of what the airport could be, created with Vice President Concessions Zenola Campbell.
The airport surrounded itself with data, according to Buchanan, and has been able to make fact-based decisions. “We may have to change traditional models, and we have to keep pace with changing business models out there. We also have to change with our customers – perceptions of pricing in particular must be addressed.”
The aim of the concession programme was to deliver modern Texas hospitality, while balancing necessity and indulgence in enhancing the overall offer.
“It starts with mastering the basics: being clean and friendly and adding speed and efficiency,” Buchanan said.
Short dwell times undermine concession sales, said Ken Buchanan
“Our concessionaires are not our tenants… they are our partners” – Ken Buchanan
Noting the importance of dwell time on passenger behaviour, Buchanan said the airport now has a bold vision to have “less or no line waits”. He commented: “Short dwell times for connecting passengers leave little time for concession purchases – particularly when there are line waits.” Technologies such as mobile ordering and delivery at gate will help with this, he said.
He also noted an important mind-set shift in how the airport approaches its business relationships. “Our concessionaires are not our tenants… they are our partners,” he said. The airport now plays a proactive, collaborative role in driving commercial revenues and consumer services.
Vantage Airport Group’s Patel looked at some of the issues facing airport F&B from a concessions management perspective, with Chicago Midway offering an innovative new framework.
“More F&B space is needed and concessions planning formulas are changing,” Patel said. “There is a mismatch between F&B share of space and the challenges of growth, and we need to minimise the cannibalisation of retail.”
“More F&B space is needed. There is a mismatch between F&B share of space and the challenges of growth.”
Sammy Patel: “We have to work closer together”
There is a balance to be achieved between local and national brands. “Conventional wisdom would suggest that national brands tend to drive higher sales than local brands, especially because many patrons are from out of town,” he said.
Similarly there is a balance between low cost and high end options, with passengers willing to pay more for quality.
Based on experience, Patel said bringing concession partners into F&B projects as early as possible would be beneficial, with operators gaining valuable input. “What hasn’t changed is how we have to work closer together, form closer relationships and become partners,” he said.
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