Middle Ages Artist rendering shows planned Middle Ages Brewing Co. pub at Syracuse Hancock International Airport. The pub will be part of a concession operation to be run at the airport by Creative Food Group, of New York City. (Courtesy Creative Food Group)
Welcome to Hancock International Airport, where local beer is about to be in but local coffee may be out.
Creative Food Group of New York City won a 15-year contract to provide the food and beverage concession at the airport starting in March 2014. The Syracuse Regional Airport Authority selected Creative Food’s pitch over a rival bid fromBuffalo-based Delaware North, which has had the airport concession for more than 20 years.
Creative Food’s proposal includes several restaurants and food shops – from Johnny Rockets hamburgers to Jamba Juice — but one of the most intriguing elements is a new pub-restaurant that will be named for and feature the beers brewed by Syracuse’s Middle Ages Brewing Co.
All the draft beer available at the pub will be made by Middle Ages , although other beers, like Budweiser, will be offered in bottles, said Roger Schwandtner, Creative Food’s vice president for business development. The pub, which will be run by Creative Food, not the brewery, will also feature some dishes that use Middle Ages’ beer as an ingredient.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for us,” said Marc Rubenstein, who founded Middle Ages with his wife, Mary, in 1995 at 120 Wilkinson St. in Syracuse. “It’s a great exposure and they’ll be selling our beer. That’s always good.”
Meanwhile, Creative Food’s winning proposal may spell the end for the coffee kiosk operated since May by Cafe Kubal, a local coffee roaster whose original store is in Eastwood and also has locations downtown and near Syracuse University.
Creative Food’s proposal includes a deal to bring Dunkin’ Donuts to the airport, but Schwandtner said there may be an opportunity to offer local coffees at two spots called
Market Express, which he described as “gourmet grab and go” food shops.
“We’d be open to making a deal with (Creative Food),” said Cafe Kubal owner Matt Godard, whose shop was recruited to the airport by Delaware North in May. “We’ve really only just got started a few months ago, and we’d love to continue to be part of the airport.”
The Market Express shops will be located on the public side of the security gates, while the Dunkin’ Donuts, the Middle Ages pub and most of the other food and beverage operations will be on concourses beyond the security checkpoints, Schwandtner said.
“Pre-security concessions typically do not do as much business as post-security concessions,” Schwandtner said. “People get to the airport and go straight to security. Once they’re through, that’s when they start looking for food.”
Other food options to be offered by Creative Foods, aside from the Johnny Rockets and Jamba Juice, are a Say Si Bon! food market (on the pre-security side) and a Cafe Brioche Doree French pastry shop. The deal also includes a New York Times books and news shop, a CNBC Smartshop news stand and a Tech for Takeoff accessory shop.
Creative Food agreed to pay the new airport authority a percentage of its sales, for a minimum annual payment of $500,000, and invest $3.3 million to develop the concession space. Creative Food’s concession will occupy 15,000 square feet of space, up from 8,500 currently occupied by Delaware North, which had proposed bumping its space to between 11,000 and 12,000.
Creative Food operates brewery-themed pubs in other airports where it has concessions, including a Harpoon Brewery pub at Boston’s Logan International Airport and a Kentucky Ales pub at the Lexington, Ky. Airport.
Rubenstein, the owner of Middle Ages, said he was contacted by Creative Food a few weeks ago, and participated in the pitch to the airport board. He expects to be have four or five of his beers on tap at the pub, including Syracuse Pale Ale, ImPaled Ale and Swallow Wit.
“Getting our beers out there, so people can see and try them, is huge for us,” he said.
Godard said his business has been good at the airport, and he’s been looking forward to adding to his company’s services by producing bottled iced coffees and selling roasted beans by the pound.
Branching out into those side-businesses would be easier if he still had revenue from the airport.
“We’re still there until March, and I’d sure like to see them do something to help us stay there,” he said. “We’re a local company trying to grow here in Syracuse.”