The Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney writes that airport food has gone upscale to appeal to affluent travelers having to spend more time in the sterile zone. The logistics of high-quality airport cuisine are daunting, but a least one airport restaurateur recognizes the externality of delay as a market opportunity.
The Department of Transportation ties to minimize delays by regulation, but whether its efforts are effective is unclear. For Roger Berkowitz, chief executive of Boston’s Legal Sea Foods, unexpected delays are a business opportunity. McCarthy writes:
Roger Berkowitz, chief executive of Boston’s Legal Sea Foods, was a pioneer in the airport restaurant business, opening at Logan International Airport two decades ago. When the Massachusetts Port Authority, operator of the airport, tried to recruit him, he initially refused because the only food at the airport was high-priced and mediocre at best.
“I didn’t want to be tainted with that kind of image,” he said.
But Massport sweetened the offer, and Mr. Berkowitz gave it a try. He figured he needed to offer inexpensive items but learned that, in fact, travelers are willing to spend. Expensive wines replaced cheaper offerings. And he miniaturized kitchen operations to work within the small confines of airport terminals, offering a limited menu of favorites like lobster rolls, crab cakes and tuna burgers that can be prepared quickly. Fish gets griddled instead of grilled.
Another lesson he’s learned about airport restaurants: “You want to be near airlines with more delays and cancellations,” Mr. Berkowitz said.
For air travelers, the lesson is similar. If you want a good meal, head to the terminal housing the airline with the most delays. Of course, you may not need to travel far because you may be there already.
Better airport restaurants may well be crowded precisely because of their co-location in terminals with airlines prone to delay. What to do? they can take reservations from travelers using their cell phones in flight.