Ottawa airport unveils plan for tastier terminal with local brands

Big Rig Brewery, Bridgehead Coffee, La Bottega Nicastro, Zak’s Diner ready to board new concession program
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From left, retired Ottawa Senators player Chris Phillips, co-founder of local craft brewery and restaurant Big Rig, with Ottawa International Airport Authority president and CEO Mark Laroche at an event held at the airport Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce Big Rig and others as part of the new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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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.

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Kristin Perrin, with DISH Catering, got into the theme of the event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce the airport's new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.

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Kate Rutledge from Zak's Diner served a variety of flavours of milkshakes, with added rum, at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce the airport's new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.

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From left, Ottawa International Airport Authority board members Jacques Sauvé, Dick Brown, Bonnie Boretsky, Craig Bater and Janice Traversy, at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce its new airport concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

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.

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From left, Hugo Germain, director of development for Groupe Germain Hotels, with Melvin Jomphe, chief of staff to the mayor of the City of Gatineau, Joel Tkach, vice president of business development and marketing for the Ottawa International Airport Authority, and Alex Kassatly, general manager of Le Germain Hotel Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.

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From left, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson with Ottawa International Airport Authority president and CEO Mark Laroche and Liberal Ottawa South MP David McGuinty at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce the airport's new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Mike Katravas, director of operations at Foodtastic, with Big Rig Brewery co-owner and brewmaster Lon Ladell, co-founder Chris Phillips, and Billy Arvanitis and Chris Konstantopoulos, also with Big Rig, at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce its new airport concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Krista Kealey, vice president of communications and public affairs for the Ottawa International Airport Authority, with Lissa Frankovich, general manager in Ottawa of Aero Mag 2000, which handles the aircraft de-icing services at the Ottawa airport. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Blackiron Agency founder Gerry McGillvray with Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce its new airport concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Pat Nicastro and Rocco JrNicastro, owners of La Bottega Nicastro, at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce La Bottega and others local businesses as part of the airport's new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, David Gourlay, senior manager of major gifts at Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) Foundation, with his wife, Danielle McGee, director of communications for the mayor's office, and Sofia Borsten with her husband, John Borsten, owner of Zak's Diner, at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce Zak's Diner and others as part of the airport's new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips

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.

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Former Ottawa International Airport Authority board chairs Gilles Lalonde and Susan St. Amand at an event held at the Ottawa airport on Thursday, June 27, 2019, to announce the new airport concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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La Bottega Nicastro Fine Food Shop is one of the local brands announced as part of the Ottawa airport's new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Big Rig Kitchen & Brewery  is one of the local brands announced as part of the Ottawa airport's new concession program. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca