Wait, when did airport food courts suddenly become cool? How about on Thursday, when the Ottawa International Airport Authority publicly revealed its exciting new concession program at a fun little gathering.
The airport’s president and CEO, Mark Laroche, made the announcement during a reception held for stakeholders, board members and project partners.
The event had some nice touches, from renderings of the planned new spaces to the airplane trolley that was wheeled around the room by a server with DISH Catering. She wore a stewardess-style scarf tied around her neck and handed out shawarmas — a far cry from peanuts or pretzels.
Laroche named SSP Canada and Paradies Lagardère as the airport's master concessionaires for food, beverage and retail. He announced such popular local brands as Big Rig Brewery, Bridgehead Coffee, La Bottega Nicastro and Zak’s Diner, along with Subway, Dylan's Candy Bar, No Boundaries and The Locks. They are joining SSP Canada proprietary brands Canal Market Hall and Urban Crave, and the iconic Tim Hortons.
Some of the products that will be offered in the Paradies Lagardère stores are Bee Savvy, Hummingbird Chocolate, Low Poly Crafts, Purple Urchin, Split Tree Cocktail, Strut Jewelry and Top Shelf Preserves.
The president spoke about how the time has come, of how the airport’s food, beverage and retail concessions have outlived the average lifespan of about 10 years. The terminal is 15 years old.
The number of people passing through Canada's capital city airport continues to rise; it passed five million passengers for its first time over the course of 2018.
Passenger satisfaction scores, which have been consistently high in the past, were “beginning to slip a bit,” Laroche added. “We knew it was time to take action."
He said the airport, commonly known by its airport code YOW, is listening to its passengers and employees, and incorporating more modern options and diversity of product.
The new concession plan is part of a five-year, $25-million airport transformation that includes the relocation of the passenger screening to the third floor and the adding of a LRT terminal station. As well, Groupe Germain Hotels is building a travel-friendly, terminal-connected Alt hotel that will include 180 rooms, a restaurant and meeting spaces. It's looking to break ground on its hotel this fall, anticipating that it will take about 16 months to complete.
From the Canadian family-run business was Hugo Germain, the company's director of development, joined by Alex Kassatly, general manager of the downtown Le Germain Hotel Ottawa.
The event attracted everyone from Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt to Liberal Ottawa South MP David McGuinty to hockey hero Chris Phillips with his Big Rig gang. The retired Ottawa Senators defenceman is co-founder of Big Rig — named after his on-ice moniker. The business has just been sold to Quebec-based restaurant chain Foodtastic, with Big Rig co-founder and brewmaster Lon Ladell continuing to oversee the brewing operations.
Other key players included long-time restaurateur John Borsten from Zak’s Diner and La Bottega Nicastro owners Pat Nicastro and Rocco Jr. Nicastro.
Mayor Jim Watson told everyone how pleased he was by "the local flavour” of the announcement.
The $27-million concession construction program, of which YOW will be contributing $12 million, and the master concessionaires another $15 million, will be phased over two years. In all, YOW+ represents more than $100 million in investment in the community by the Ottawa International Airport Authority and its project partners.
The airport generates $2.2 billion in economic activity, annually, and keeps about 5,000 people employed.