As a general matter, airport restaurants are bad. Or, at least, they’re much worse than comparable offerings outside the airport.
Restaurants have to bring everything in through security (and they can’t do it during peak times when the concourse is packed). The airport may not permit gas ovens, so everything has to get re-created using electric. Chefs 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.
But restaurants and other amenities far surpass what used to be available in airports. Airport food and services used to be known as expensive and low quality. That’s changed.
There are certainly more outside restaurants recreating their offerings inside the airport than there used to be.
Some chef creations in the airport are even good.
I saw the question of why things have changed posed by a professor in my Facebook feed this morning. And I have to admit I’m not certain I can offer a single cause. But five factors come to mind:
- Passengers started spending more time at airports as a result of the inconsistencies in wait times resulting from the TSA.
- During the last decade when airlines were struggling financially due to recessions and rising fuel costs they moved away from ‘banked hubs’ and thus increased connection times in order to save substantially on labor costs. (Banked hubs are returning, for instance American Airlines has re-banked some hubs this year.) So again, more time in airports.
- Changing consumer tastes matter too, such a desire to eat healthier and willingness to spend for that. Average ancillary spend during travel is up.
- Airport leases are generally written as revenue sharing… bigger sales volume generates more revenue for the airport authority. So when consumer preferences will support pricier airport amenities, airports are incentivized to accommodate.
- Airports compete more than in the past to be pleasant connecting hubs to retain service. If consumer prefer flying through an airport, that means more traffic, and the city is better able to retain service.
Do you enjoy shopping and dining in the terminal more than you used to? Do you find revamped concessions to be value add, or do you just want a quick and efficient airport experience that gets you in and out quickly?