The blend and balance is met by relying on the concessions experts. When the Cuban restaurateur developed the idea for an Irish pub, Songer says he never would have thought to put that in Miami, “but that’s their business.”
Knowing what the customer wants is key to a profitable and recognized concessions’ program. Whether working with a developer, master concessionaire or direct lease program, communicating and developing a positive relationship with tenants is a must to maintaining consistency and quality in the program.
Walking the airport daily and hosting regular meetings keeps executives and decision-makers in tune with what the market demands. “We need to keep up with what’s current, but also anticipate what will be hot in the future,” Reeb says.
MSP has found great benefit in teaming with St. Paul’s Hamline University’s MBA students to keep tabs on what’s hot and what’s not. The students do passenger survey work for the airport as part of their final projects. “They talk to passengers at different times of the day, days of the week, and interview them,” Greer says. Each quarter, a new group surveys on a different topic. A recent one was on local brands versus national.
He says that in all the RFPs, MSP also incorporates some localness. The airport wants to tell visitors through décor, customer service and concessions that they are in Minnesota and the friendly Midwest. Greer says he and his staff are very involved with their vendors, and talk about menus and product offerings on a regular basis. A Customer Service Action Council also meets monthly to discuss what “we can do to raise the bar,” he says.
While Miami has grown its program through mere space (more than 2 million square feet in Songer’s time), it also has grown in notoriety. Songer feels he and his team are doing something right, since sales have increased significantly every year. He gives much credit to the “excellent” vendors who listen when their customers ask if they do, or why they don’t, offer certain options. They know the client better than anyone, and it shows in the awards the airport has won for its concessions program.
MSP has three spas (two with hair salons), and all are successful. The availability of consumer comforts is becoming increasingly common in airport terminals around the globe. In the United States, walking paths, USB charging stations, kids’ high-tech interactive play areas and even animal services are the new expected amenities for air travel.
MSP’s 1.4-mile walking path was developed through collaboration with the American Heart Association, while yoga is a popular relaxation option in SFO’s Terminal 2.
The other big program at MSP has been at the airport’s G Concourse, where Greer has worked with OTG Management to develop new direct-to-gate conveniences. Instead of the normal gate waiting chairs, restaurant-style tables are in their place, with iPads placed at each one. Guests can order food, gifts, etc. from nearby concessionaires directly off the iPad and wait until the order arrives at their table.
The Now Boarding pet facility on airport property is another service that’s receiving much acclaim from both the airport and traveling community. It’s open 24 hours a day so that if individuals want to pick up their pets after their 10 p.m. flight lands, they can. It’s also a place for travelers to park their vehicle, and be shuttled to the airport terminal and back.
Greer says that whether a business, leisure or in-between traveler, everyone wants something different during their time at an airport. With a well thought-out mix of famous brands, local and national favorites, and customer services, a facility can be one sought out the next time a passenger is booking flights.
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