Reddit user spambox odered a bacon and egg sandwich at Edinburgh airport, apparently from the EAT cafe.
And got the smallest egg and tiniest piece of pork, ever. It cost £3.20 (about $5).
There are huge constraints on airport restaurants, and incentives to underinvest in food. Even by airport dining standards, though, this is pathetic.
Here’s why airport restaurants tend to be so bad:
- Restaurants have to bring everything in through security
- There are limits on when things can be brought in, they can’t generally bring supplies down the concourse at peak travel times. So you don’t get the freshest just-in-time delivery.
- And space limitations are huge. Not only can’t you bring things in whenever you want, you often don’t have a lot of space for storage at least compared to a standard retail location. And you may not have room for specialized equipment.
- The airport may not permit gas ovens, so everything has to get re-created using electric.
- Security constrains your chefs, their knives frequently have to be tethered to a wall to prevent being taken (and inventoried every day).
When you run a restaurant inside an airport you have a large number of people who need to be served quickly — you need to prepare for quick service even trumping quality because of the pressures of flight departures. Your customers have varying tastes, they didn’t travel to your location to eat your food they are at your location in order to travel.
You need to make up high rents with limited ingredients because of cost and space. So you focus on a few menu items, and make them accessible to the largest number of people. And then your restaurant, often known for lunch and dinner, needs to try to do breakfast, too.
And as a restaurant owner you have to do all of this within price points that may be contractually set with the airport, e.g. that prices have to be the same as outside the airport or at a modest premium of (say) 10%-15%.
Many restaurants partner with concessionaires with plenty of experience working with airports, big names like HMSHost — which helps them operate more efficiently, but reduces the local character of what they offer.
That’s not to say there’s no good food at an airport. But it explains why good food is so hard to do and why most restaurants in airports are far worse than comparable options off airport.
Despite all of this, the Edinburgh sandwich was still uniquely pathetic.
What was your worst airport meal?