SALT LAKE CITY — Travelers and visitors to the revamped Salt Lake City International Airport will find a host of new and familiar dining options when the first phase of the project officially opens late next year.
Officials Wednesday announced the roster of food and beverage purveyors that will fill the spaces of the new concourses at the overhauled airport.
Among the array of 23 concepts will be local favorites including Blue Lemon, Bruges Belgian Bistro, Cafe Rio, Granato's, Market Street, Pago, Pulp Lifestyle Kitchen, Squatters, Uinta Brewing Company, Wasatch Pub, and White Horse Spirits and Kitchen. Various national favorites are also on the menu.
Scheduled for completion in fall 2020, phase one of the $3.6 billion airport redevelopment will include a central terminal, the west end of two concourses and a parking garage. The second phase is scheduled to be finished in late 2024.
This latest announcement was made on the plaza of the concourse building currently under construction across from the international terminal building. John Buckner, director of administration and commercial services for the Department of Airports, said the new concourse will be set up for traveler convenience with stores, restaurants and amenities no more than a few feet away at any point in the main areas of the building.
"They are in places that you would say, 'I feel comfortable in running and getting a sandwich or a soda or a coffee or a newspaper without fear of missing (the) plane or missing (the) boarding call,'" he explained. "The architecture is designed to (allow) for our need to be close to the gate."
"It will be much more convenient and it'll be much more user-friendly, in terms of not just the concessions but also the amenities — washrooms and information that (travelers) depend on," he added. The concourses are designed so that most concessions and services will be within 150 feet in any direction, he said.
In December, Buckner noted the airport would implement "street pricing" in restaurants and shops located in the new facilities, meaning passengers will pay the same prices charged at locations outside of the airport as they will on-site. While he acknowledged that it costs more to operate a business at the airport, he also said having a potential consumer base of 25 million travelers annually gives those concessionaires a large population from which to make money each year if they operate effectively.
"You don't have that kind of foot traffic probably at any location in this state, let alone in Salt Lake City," Buckner said. "The opportunity to (serve) a customer and have them know that they are not at a disadvantage pricing-wise really benefits the concessionaire and the consumer."
Gross sales at the airport during fiscal year 2018 for food and beverage totaled just over $72.6 million, said airport communications director Nancy Volmer. Rents collected for the fiscal year for food and beverage concessions totaled just under $11.2 million, she added.
While operating profitably under "street pricing" restraints will be challenging, one company executive said being able to reach a large consumer base at a state-of-the-art facility will have its own benefits.
"As an operator, you just have to have tight margins, run a great operation and keep it tight," said Nina Madonia, CEO of The Grove Inc. — an Illinois-based concession operator with over 40 stores in 11 airports and two train stations across the U.S. "We're happy to be able to keep street pricing and it's something we're proud of."
She said a few other locations where the company operates allow concessionaires to charge 10 percent or more above street pricing, but others have also instituted the street pricing model to attract more people to their operators. In the end, giving the consumers a positive experience will be more financially advantageous in the long run, she said.
"We don't want anybody to feel like they aren't getting a good value or feel like they're being 'ripped off' at an airport," Madonia said. "We don't want anyone to feel like that, it goes against our company and our culture."
As for reaching the latest milestone in the historic redevelopment project, Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, said being able to fill out the concessions program in the new facility "designed in part with concessions in mind" is a big step in the overall process.
"(Concessions) really help pay for the operation of the airport," he said. "The concessions program helps us keep the cost of airline operation here very low."
He said Salt Lake City International Airport is one of the lowest cost airports in the United States for air carriers to operate. Having first-class concessions will help maintain that ranking and give travelers high-level options for dining that will satisfy their needs and desires.
"Our passengers are hungry for a variety of food and beverage options," Wyatt said. "Today’s traveler expects airports to provide a quality selection of restaurants with affordable pricing. Whether its casual fare or fine dining they will find it at the new SLC airport."