Oakland Airport adds shops, eats

THE TREND to bring more local flavor to airport concessions has arrived at Oakland International Airport, a concept pioneered locally by San Francisco International Airport.

About a dozen new restaurants and retail shops have opened in the past few months at Oakland International, including Oakland's landmark 113-year-old ice cream parlor, Fentons Creamery.

"We're trying to bring a sense of place to the local concessions program," said Pat Banducci, vice president of business development for HMSHost Corp., which operates most of the new offerings at the airport.

The new eateries and boutique-style kiosks -- which include an emphasis on local brands, but some regional and national ones, too -- are housed at Terminal 2, exclusively used by low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines. Since Southwest is a no-frills carrier, the restaurants are geared for air travelers who can quickly pick up a sandwich, salad or bite to eat and jump on a plane at a nearby gate.

Some of the local flavor can be seen at a kiosk called Oakland Marketplace, where A.G. Ferrari Foods, a San Leandro-based deli icon, offers grocery items such as organic Tuscan tomato sauce, special pestos and olive oil as well as sandwiches and salads.

Another new local touch includes a kiosk called Under the Silver Moon, which sells gifts from the Oakland Zoo and Children's Fairyland.

Regional brands like California Pizza Kitchen, See's Candies and Max's Eatz and Fresh Bakery are also open. Gordon Biersch brewery is opening in two weeks, and the new lineup also included Andale Mexican Restaurant, as well as Peet's Coffee & Tea, rival Starbucks, and Bayfront News and Books.

And Oakland's legendary Everett & Jones Barbeque will open an airport location next year. The concept of adding local flavor to airport concessions was pioneered locally several years ago by San Francisco International Airport, which focused on bringing in local concessions instead of national chains, which worked well for the airport. SFO brought in local favorites such as Perry's, the Buena Vista Cafe, Yankee Pier, Lori's Diner and Andale, which first opened in Los Gatos.

"We've seen a nice increase in (concessions) revenue," said Mike McCarron, spokesman for SFO. "Passengers appreciate the quality and variety of the local food."

Oakland Aviation Director Steve Grossman said the airport wanted to "deliver Oakland's distinctive character and diversity." He thinks the airport has a good start on it, while mixing in a few popular regional and national chains.

"We're proud to have some handmade, fresh ice cream at the airport so everyone can enjoy a 113-year-old Oakland tradition," said Sam Zarnegar, director of operations for Fentons, which licensed the small airport scoop shop to HMSHost.

The airport's new concessions are part of a $300 million terminal improvement program, which includes revamping roadways, terminals, curbsides and signage.

The project is expected to be completed by summer 2008.

Oakland International saw 14.4 million passengers go through the turnstiles in 2006 -- up 3 million from five years ago, which translates into a growing number of mouths to feed. The first phase of the concessions remake is expected to generate $9 million in revenue in its first full year of operation, Banducci said. HMSHost fully takes over all the concessions next year at the airport. Delaware North still operates some shops and restaurants.

Besides the much-anticipated Everett & Jones Barbeque, next year's HMSHost expansion will include Otaez Mexican Restaurant, Pyramid Alehouse, Restaurant Peony and Vella's Locker Room, which hawks Oakland Raiders merchandise. There also will be such national brands as Chili's, Subway, Burger King and Quiznos.

Oakland International made a separate arrangement to bring in Andale, which opened two weeks ago. Andale has been a big success at SFO.

Victor Alvarez, a manager at Andale, trotted out an extensive menu at the airport. Prices are 10 percent higher than street locations.

"People's expectations for restaurants are lower at an airport, so we went with an ambitious menu and it's paid off," Alvarez said. "Even airport employees are eating here, and they don't have to."

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