Using a phased approach, Columbus Int'l is utilizing in-house and external sources to transform its airport
BY John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
COLUMBUS, OH — Retail, of course, has captivated the imaginations of airport managers in the U.S. and internationally as they look for new sources of revenue generation. The model many point to is Pittsburgh International, which had the advantage of designing from the ground up with the construction of an entirely new terminal.
To many in industry, that was an easier model than reconstructing terminal facilities that were never designed to become part shopping mall, part airline/passenger connector.
At Port Columbus International Airport/Bolton Field, the challenging process of merging old with new began in 1993. As enplanements continued to follow the national trend of consistent growth, the Airport Authority here took on a serious initiative to upgrade its facilities. Today, it has three interconnected terminal facilities (A, B, and C) that are served by a common entryway and parking garage, which are also undergoing a total renovation.
Included in this process was a new look at retail. The Authority decided it wanted to maintain a significant level of control over concessions, while contracting out its food and beverage facilities to a known industry firm.
As a result, it first hired Susan Warner Dooley to serve as general counsel to oversee properties and administration. Dooley brought with her a background as a lawyer in the bond financing arena.
A successful relationship with Paradies for the news and gift concessions was maintained and updated, with a PGA Tour Shop added to the master leasehold. The Authority then identified five industry food and beverage concessionaires to which it sent Requests for Qualifications and Requests for Proposals. Out of these, Anton Airfood, Inc., based at Washington Reagan/National Airport, was selected as master concessionaire under a 12-year lease.
"We were extremely impressed with what Anton had done at Providence (RI)," explains Dooley, who had also toured concessions at Atlanta and Cincinnati, among others. "Anton overall showed the best financial return, if you looked at projected sales based on the variety of concepts — diversity, more upscale offerings. Their percentage rents on a few of the concepts were actually lower on a few of the concepts than some of the other proposals. But we didn't think we were going to get their (other proposals') sales.
"We selected based on the quality of the offering as well as revenues to the airport. Our primary emphasis was on quality, variety."
William and Patricia Miller Anton, a husband and wife team who are the owners of Anton Airfood, had a history in the restaurant business in Washington prior to entering the airport arena. Columbus is Anton's sixth airport food and beverage contract, and the Antons say they were impressed by the Authority's legwork in the initial stages of the terminal redesign.
Explains Bill Anton, "After we had our initial meeting with the airport, we walked away and said, well at least they'd done their homework. During the Q&A selection process, it was a pleasure to have people who had actually read the proposal. You'd be surprised how many don't. They were asking about our marketing, our merchandising.
"It was probably the best run and most incisive process that we'd experienced."
During the pre-construction phases, the Authority also hired Aviation Consulting of Soquel, CA, to review the airport's planned concession redesign and to help establish performance standards. "We had most of our locations picked out, but the consultant helped reaffirm the correct locations," explains Dooley.
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