Retail Hubs

RETAIL HUBS Confined to their existing infrastructure, two airports share their renovation and expansion experiences By Jordanna Smida, Assistant Editor June 2000 Unlike the Pittsburghs of the world, when it comes to concession...


"We typically have tried to make sure that the operator understands the dynamics of the airport. They need to understand there's weather, crowds, and unique times that deliveries are allowed at the airport ... and that they have limited storage within their store," Wennerstrom explains.

"One of the scary things that's unique to airports that isn't in shopping centers is that we are truly a 24-7 location and they have to be able to hire, train, motivate, and manage their business on a 24-7 basis...," Anderson states.

Ensuring Customer Service
Along with operations reviews, O'Hare's management team conducts walk-throughs to make sure that places are open when they should be. The airport also brings in secret shoppers three to four times a year, Griggs explains.

The concessions program has also appointed three operations managers who conduct reviews twice a month at every location. "It's kind of an interfaced style of property management. We're there to make sure that they know we're out there watching the store," Griggs states.

The airport also holds monthly meetings with its tenants to address issues such as staffing and loss prevention. "We're there to know the managers personally and to get right in their faces in regards to store programs and to offer them another set of eyes to make sure they're always thinking of customer service and not worrying about some of the other things that can get in the way of service," Brown explains. The department also works with the Chicago Police Department to bring in speakers on theft prevention.

Management has also developed a warning sheet that allows the operations managers to document issues as they come up. These sheets are filed with the DOA to document behavior patterns, Griggs explains.

"When you start talking about trends then you can start talking about ways to fix things.

Because anyone can avoid a spot incident... But when you know a trend and can document it, it becomes much more of a cooperative effort," he says.

To ensure a high level of customer service at MSP, its concessions managers conduct walk-throughs as well. MSP is in the process of instituting its own secret shopper program. However, at the moment it is relying on the individual store programs.

MSP also has its own fair price program. "All of the retailers street price in the terminals," Wennerstrom says. "If there's a price comparison and they (customers) found it at another location for a lower price, we will refund the difference," he states. He also notes that not all the food and beverage operations street price currently, which he plans to address in 2004 when contracts are up.

MSP also has a monthly survey that calculates all airport-related complaints. Prior to and during the concession remodeling the airport averaged 45 to 50 complaints, Anderson says. It now averages five.

According to Wennerstrom, one of the biggest complaints is the absence of the Taco Bell that operated in the airport prior to the remodeling. Wennerstrom is confident he has remedied a solution for those craving anything south of the border.

Arriving at the Green Concourse is what Anderson refers to as a "hot" concept, Maui Taco, contracted by Anton Airfood. "That should go a long way to satisfy a passenger's desire for Mexican food and drinks. We are going to introduce that to the terminal combined in a very unique setting," Wennerstrom says. Also accompanying Maui Taco will be TGI Friday's, Godfather's Pizza, an A & W Restaurant, the locally-owned Franklin Street Bakery, and the Good Earth Restaurant.

Room to move
Another issue ORD is struggling with is inventory distribution. "O'Hare was never optimized for the delivery of food and beverage and retail," Brown notes. Though the airport is working on a solution, it remains a constant issue because of its growing volume of concession locations.

Until the ’90s, ORD had one food and beverage operator, which was located in the center of the airport. As the airport's food and beverage locations expanded throughout the terminals, new kitchen areas needed to be supplied. Brown notes that for every 100-sq. ft. of space, 25-sq. ft. of storage is needed.

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