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It used to be that airports were desolate places for hungry travelers.
Good news: Airports have transformed themselves to attract more passengers and increase revenue. Gone are the days of the stale, pre-made sandwich.
If you have traveled recently, you probably have noticed the hip and happening food scene at airports, now giving flyers a good reason to arrive early and eat. Travel and tourism consulting company Wellness Tourism Worldwide first reported on the intersection of food and wellness several years ago with "Breaking Bread with Wellness" and another important trend, "Wellness Takes Flight."
Better passenger experiences translate into more ways to spend money while waiting for a flight. Americans spent $1.9 billion from terminal concessions (food, beverage, retail and services) in 2015, and 35 percent of that represented food while 40 percent represented retail, according to Airports Council International-North America.
Erik Wolf, President of the World Food Travel Association points out, "Eating well on the road enhances the travel experience in many ways. Food is a basic need and everybody has to eat, therefore food has universal appeal."
Considering that airports are the first and last impression of a destination, creating a memorable and positive experience is important to destination marketing. An airport is a gateway, reflecting a sense of place when done right.
Frank Sickelsmith, formerly an executive with HMSHost which operates more than 100 airport concessions, remarked, "Airports want iconic brands from the local market."
The farm-to-terminal movement has equally come to airports across the country, bringing fresh, local produce, meat and other goods to restaurants led by well-known chefs and shops with local culinary specialties.
For example, Chef Dani García holds two Michelin star for his restaurant in Spain and his Dani García DeliBar located at Málaga-Costa del Sol (AGP) serves traditional Spanish tapas along and his signature bull burger made with slow-braised oxtail. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) partnered with the most Michelin-starred chef in the world, Chef Alain Ducasse to introduce his French bistro, Saison.
There are more DIY choices than ever, including vegan, gluten-free, locally sourced and organic food choices.
The iconic Farmers Market at Los Angeles International Airport inside Terminal 5 at LAX features grab-n-go meals and snacks as well as wine, coffee, and sweets from restaurants and stalls located at the original Market at Third & Fairfax. HMSHost's Farmers Market in Chicago O'Hare International Airport is unique in offering beelove honey products that are produced onsite by formerly incarcerated individuals employed by the North Lawndale Network subsidiary called Sweet Beginnings.
It doesn't get much more local and socially responsible than that.
Alongside Mezzogiorno Restaurant at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), a complimentary new market has opened. The Italian restaurant focuses on seasonal small plates, Roman-style sandwiches and gourmet pizzas while the attached market provides passengers an opportunity to shop for premier Italian specialty items such as chocolate, fruit candies and cookies as preflight treats. There are also Italian olive oils, sea salt, truffles and specialty gift items such as Italian soaps, shave creams and body scrubs.
Air travel has a reputation for bringing out the worst in people, but food can tame the savage soul. Services and products that transform flying into a pleasant journey are key to cashing in on captive audiences.
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