Travelers are on board during the early years of an airport concession program. But as time passes, passenger surveys show that fliers are ready for something new, Tulsa International Airport Spokeswoman Alexis Higgins said.
During the next few months, Tulsa travelers will be getting that long awaited revamp. The airport’s new concession contracts began May 1, meaning that over the next 10 months choices at the airport will be becoming a lot different.
“When we have new concepts like when we first back in 2004 launched the (previous) concession program, like peak numbers of satisfaction, people were happy they liked the new offerings everything was great,” Higgins said. “But then a couple of years down the road people become familiar with it. So satisfaction starts to decline a little bit, still high but just starts to decline. People’s needs change.”
Among the new offerings coming via the food and beverage contract with Creative Food Group are Fat Guy’s Burger Bar, Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels, Eau de Vie Wine Bar, Pie Five Pizza and Chili’s.
“It’s always the challenge. You need to have a good mix of national brands, but also local flavors as well,” said Carl Remus, deputy airports director of finance and administration.
Restaurants and stores that operate in the airport pay a minimum annual guarantee, and the airport shares in revenues. Remus said that with the new concession program, revenue projections estimate a 30 percent increase over what the airport had seen previously.
Food and beverage offerings will open in three phases with all of the post-security options scheduled to be completed by Feb. 1. A beer garden planned for the area before the TSA checkpoint is the only food offering yet to be on a firm timeline because it depends on the planned construction at the nearby rental car counters.
Hudson Group has taken over the airport’s retail contract. New stores — as well as kiosks just past security featuring local brands Kids Works, Discover Tulsa and Tulsa Sports Zone — are scheduled to open by Aug. 1.
For now, travelers passing through the airport will be seeing a work in progress, Higgins said. Restaurants are operating in temporary locations or are temporary themselves, placeholders until spaces go through the necessary construction to accommodate the permanent offerings.
Examples are several currently operating Market Express locations that will be replaced with offerings like Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing, expected to open by Aug. 1 on Concourse A; and national brand Pie Five Pizza, expected to open by Nov. 1 in the food court just past the TSA checkpoint.
“The goal is just to continue to provide some options for people during the transition,” Higgins said. “This isn’t our ideal setup — it’s not our customers ideal setup — but just as long as you can have something for them to grab, that’s important to us.”
Local brand Fat Guy’s Burger Bar — complete with a new breakfast menu exclusive to the airport — began operating May 1 in its temporary location between security and Concourse A, where TGI Fridays used to be. By Nov. 1 it’s scheduled to move into its permanent spot on Concourse B, replacing the temporary offering Tulsa Tap Room. Reception, both from customers and the concessionaire, has been great so far, airport officials said.
Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing, another local brand, is set to open on Concourse A by Aug. 1. The brewery’s managing partner Tony Peck said they never considered a spot in the airport until they were approached by Creative Food Group.
Although it hadn’t initially occurred to them, they felt the location would be a great way to introduce their craft beers to a wider audience who may then follow up with a trip to the brewery or search out their products in liquor stores.
“It’s a sales avenue also, but more than anything it’s really a marketing opportunity to drive those sales and bring people to our brewery downtown,” Peck said.
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