F&B is now considered a main attraction and an experience in its own right at airports, just as it is elsewhere. Airports are responding to the demand for more choice and innovation by dedicating more space to F&B, with some airport CEOs stating that “eating is the new shopping”.

It is worth noting that more airport-specific factors are also having an impact. Airport operators are turning their attention towards income from F&B, due to conventional airport retail categories such as duty free becoming increasingly under pressure. F&B operators are increasingly able to take advantage of heightened customer demand at the airport that has arisen from more and more airlines cost-cutting and charging for food (see BA’s latest venture with M&S).

These trends are leading to significant innovation in airport F&B and we see two particular areas of interest:

Innovative concepts
Historically, airports have been full of uninspiring, over-priced eateries and stag do-heavy bars. However, some airports are thinking outside the box and embracing popular street food trends. Ibiza Airport (shown above), for example, has introduced a street food style concept, with four different stalls. Concepts such as this have the potential to create a sense of place, create a more appealing proposition and allow flexibility throughout the year with rotating vendors, to suit the seasons. It is not just the food offering that is being revamped; at London Gatwick, Nicholas Culpeper operates a distillery on site, serving the resultant gin to its passengers.

The use of technology
Technology has been evolving in the airport F&B market and, although not new, it is certainly becoming more prevalent. For example, in 2015, Newark Airport installed 6,000 iPads at tables for passengers to use to order their food. They serve several functions: they generate cost-savings on waiting staff, allow ease of menu browsing and payment, and provide entertainment and up-to-date flight details. Ibiza Airport is also implementing click & collect for F&B, where you order via your smartphone and collect your meal at a designated pick-up zone.

Innovative concepts and the use of technology help to inspire the captive airport audience to dwell for longer and buy more, and make the transactional process easier. They can also help to deal with typical problems that airports face, such as defined peaks and the wide variety of passengers, and therefore requirements, passing through the airport.

Ailis Topley