Travelers passing the time between flights at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal D on Aug. 21 will get their first tastes of the upgraded cuisine offerings that OTG Management expects to deliver in droves during the coming months. French country bistro Bisoux and Prime Tavern, a steak and seafood eatery, are the first new restaurants planned for Terminal D, with later entries slated to include an Asian noodle shop and an artisan pizzeria called Crust.
As airports have worked in recent years to increase sales from concessions by turning retail areas into destinations, the dining component has taken on increasing importance. Food and beverage sales rose 4.2% at U.S. airports in 2008, even as passenger counts decreased, according to the Airports Council International, largely because upgraded offerings on the ground are attracting more customers who know their options will be more limited than ever once they board the plane.
With more than 100 restaurants and 2,000-plus workers, OTG has been in the thick of things, attracting well-known chefs and innovative concepts, including these at JFK:
- Deep Blue, an Asian sushi concept with a water feel from Michael Schulson
- La Vie, an intimate French bistro menu from Balthazar chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson
- Revolucion, featuring chef Roberto Santibanez’s modern take on authentic Mexican food
- AeroNuova, rustic Italian fare from chef and cookbook author Mark Ladner
Airport restaurants run much like traditional eateries, with a few additional challenges, says OTG spokesman Dave Allan. In addition to providing the same levels of customer service and quality food, airside eateries must also deal with complications that can include lengthy waits between the time a new hire is made and the time security clears the staffer to start work; supply chain complications that arise when fresh food vendors must make daily deliveries behind the airport’s wall of security; and a myriad of federal and state regulations that, among other things, require kitchen knives to be tethered at all times and outlaw metal knives on restaurant tables in New York’s airports.
“But because this is all we do it seems normal to us. It is just a matter of organization and planning with a lot of coordination between OTG and the airport authorities,” Allan said.
More from Allan:
On the challenges of running airport restaurants
We don’t have airport restaurants, we have restaurants at airports. Really, we operate our restaurants like they are in the restaurant districts in the very best part of the cities we are in, with only the best chefs from those towns. We have custom menus with daily specials and fresh vegetables from local farmers markets, so our challenges are more similar than different.
On what travelers expect
We think that travelers have always wanted better choices, that’s why we give it to them. OTG is setting the standard and raising the bar with restaurants at airports and we will continue to try to outdo ourselves [with the new LaGuardia restaurants].
On traffic patterns
All of our restaurants are popular including our Cibo Express Markets [the markets sell packaged meals and snacks to grab pre-flight]. It really depends on the traveler and how much time they have to enjoy.
[We’re busiest during the times] you would expect, in the morning and late afternoon, but our restaurants and markets seem to always be packed because of the people who work at the airports and only have time to eat when flights are less heavy.
Don’t forget the beverages …
While cutting-edge cuisine may be a new thing for airports, cocktails have been a part of the experience since the first air travelers sought to calm pre-flight nerves. In recognition of that, Chicago’s aldermen have approved a new law that will allow for up to 12 pushcarts selling alcohol at the city’s O’Hare and Midway airports round-the-clock.
Come across any innovative airport eateries in your recent travels? Tell us about them.
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