Airport concessions may, at first glance, seem like a risky endeavor. Traffic has been steadily declining for a year - down nearly 12 percent in February 2009 when the FAA released its last traffic statistics - and the barrier to entry remains high.
But consider the upside. The largest U.S airports host an average of 60 million passengers each year. Not one U.S. air carrier offers their coach passengers breakfast, lunch, or dinner service on domestic flights. Locations offering healthy, fresh, portable options are limited, yet travelers often have hours to wait for delayed flights, missed connections, or - in the best case scenario - a shorter than average security wait time.
As multi-unit operators or franchise systems pursue options beyond traditional locations, how can they prepare themselves? Here's what I consider a good "check-in process."
Airport construction is a very lengthy process and choices are often made years ahead of time. While the process is always open to the public, those operators that have an interest in non-traditional locations will benefit from a well-thought out plan. Armed with a good plan, franchisees and operators assure they are in the "right place" at the "right time." Consider the following to include in a development plan:
Pizza, fast food, coffee, and breakfast offerings are staples of airport concessions, but trends, such as budget and health consciousness will impact an airport's restaurant offerings.
For example HMSHost, a Bethesda, Md.-based concessionaire, recently reported that because of wallet tightening "tapas and small plates are exceedingly popular at the company's casual-dining concepts." (Nation's Restaurant News, May 4, 2009)
In the end, franchisees that have a strong brand will benefit from an airport location. Bringing street concepts creates greater customer satisfaction and loyalty and can offer a boost to overall revenue as traditional locations wait out the recession. That's a successful flight!
Chris Cheek is vice president of franchise development for Vermont-based Bruegger's Enterprises, franchisor and operator of 290 bakery-cafés in 24 states. A sales and marketing professional in the franchise industry for nearly 20 years, Cheek has successfully led Bruegger's entry into non-traditional locations, including opening four airport locations over the last 18 months. In 2008, he signed a record 46 new development agreements in one year for Bruegger's for both traditional and non-traditional locations.
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