And the ACI-NA Award Winners Are...

Aug. 23, 2018
ACI-NA once again honors the leading airports and companies for their airport concessions efforts to enhance the passenger experience.

The winners of this year’s ACI-NA’s Excellence in Airport Concessions Awards were announced on June at the 2018 Business of Airports conference in Portland Oregon. The 2018 Richard A. Griesbach Award of Excellence winner was was awarded to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for its work on Terminal D.

I again had the pleasure to serve as a judge alongside a past Griesbach winner and an industry insider. With nine entrants, the Griesbach competition was stiff, but DFW impressed the judges with the care it took to implement the concessions plan in the airport’s modern international terminal.

The DFW team created the perfect balance when it came to offering national, regional and local brands — ranging from Michael Kors to 7-Eleven — with its concessions program. The airport created an app that not only gives travelers directions, restaurant menus and terminal/flight information, it also uses Grab to allow them to order food to go before or after a flight.

In another competitive category, Concessions Person of the Year went to Laurie Noyes, vice president of concessions at Tampa International Airport. She also was named to Airport Business magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 list in 2016.

Noyes was credited for completely overhauling the airport’s concessions program, managing four food and beverage operators and five retail, duty-free and service operators to completely reimagine its offerings. The airport’s new program has opened 59 of the 69 locations and is expected to grow revenue by 35 percent.

The judges chose winners in 12 categories, and here are the highlights. The Best Food & Beverage Program category was broken down into large, medium and small hubs. The winning presentations showed the judges a mix of great photos, maps and details about the changes in their program, but tops in the category was George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It got kudos for the big transformation of Terminal A. Second place went to DFW, praised for refreshing a terminal — Terminal D — that was already looking pretty good. Third place went to JFK’s Terminal 4, which we felt did a nice job in balancing eateries ranging from Dunkin Donuts to The Palm Restaurant.

In the medium hub category, Dallas Love Field came in first place for pairing “Distinctly Dallas” eateries like Whataburger with national brands like Chick-Fil-A. Houston Hobby Airport, which came in second, was lauded for a major upgrade of its food and beverage offerings, including offering gluten-free and healthy food options. Louisville International won in the small hub category for its mix of pre- and post-security food options, including Book & Bourbon Southern Kitchen, which showcases one of the region’s favorite adult beverages.

The best new food and beverage quick-serve concept went to Thai Express at Calgary International Airport. The judges were impressed with how travelers can get an authentic Thai meal made fresh to order at the airport’s transborder and international terminals. Second place went to Cafe Con Leche at Tampa International Airport, a Cuban coffee spot that’s been in business in the city since 1905. Third place went to local favorite Blue Star Donuts at Portland International Airport, praised for bringing locally sourced and unique treats to its pre-security location.

Seventeen airports put in submissions for best new food and beverage full-service concept. Top honors in this category went to Book and Bourbon Southern Kitchen at Louisville International Airport, a concept created by HMSHost specifically for the airport that showcases brands like Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, Bulleit and Woodford Reserve. Lift Bar & Grill at Vancouver International Airport won second place for its focus on fresh seafood paired with a mix of Canadian and international wines. Third place went to Hickory, an authentic barbecue restaurant at DFW that operates a full-sized wood smoker.

As airports continue the trend of bringing in local concepts, the judges had 21 submissions to review in choosing the best. It was difficult, because there were so many strong competitors. But the clear winner was Angel Food Bakery at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The airport outlet of this local favorite features donuts, cupcakes coffee and other bakery treats — plus there’s a large glass window where you can watch them all being made.

Second place went to I Vini, an Italian market and wine bar at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. And third place went to Vin Room, a wine bar at Calgary International Airport.

The best retail program winners were chosen in the large and medium/small hub categories. DFW again took top honors, this time for Terminal A, thanks to what the judges called a good mix of local and national brands. The judges felt that the second place winner, George Bush, had nowhere to go but up. The third place winner was Vancouver International Airport. Louisville International Airport won in the medium/small hub category for its great presentation and strong mix of retail outlets in a small space.

In the best innovative consumer experience or concept practice, 12 airports submitted options to keep travelers busy while waiting for their flight. The clear winner was the Hollywood Theater microcinema at Portland International Airport. The airport took an old business center and turned it into a 17-seat theater where travelers can watch short movies from regional filmmakers.

Indianapolis International Airport won second place for its WeWatt bicycles that travelers can use to charge their electronic devices. Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport took third place for Roam Fitness, a gym that offers workout clothes and showers for travelers.

In the end, the judges were pleased to see so many airports step up with submissions, but we were disappointed with mistakes and omissions that kept some from being award winning. Things that stood out included:

● There weren’t enough applications from Canadian and smaller U.S. airports, so please start preparing your submissions for 2019;
● Including video, published media stories/blog posts and social media comments really make a presentation pop with the judges;
● Abstain from using the same uninspiring, not-enough-information form for multiple submissions. Take the time to do separate applications to tell us your stories;
● Show us the money! The form asks for it, and that’s a big part of what you’re being judged on;
● Several entries were entered into the wrong category;
● If you’re showing off your restaurants and retail, show us a menu or a list of items sold and where it’s located in the airport; and
● Please spend the money to take professional photos of your concessions

About the Author

Benét Wilson | Senior Editor