The days of microwaved meals and peanuts in a bag are over for flight-weary travelers thanks in large part to licensing deals that bring comfort brands to heavily trafficked airports.
“Airline passengers are more sophisticated than ever and they’re looking for dining experiences to match higher expectations,” says Seth Merin, vice president of operations, Air Ventures, LLC.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Merin discusses the business of bringing high-value hospitality to airports.
Q: In a nutshell, what does Air Ventures, LLC do?
We’re a restaurant company that services airports with full-service restaurants and quick-service options. We were founded by two gentlemen in 2004 who saw a need for better hospitality options in airports.
The way we work is by building relationships with restaurants, and reaching a licensing agreement with them to allow us to bring their brand, recipes and high quality to sit-down dining venues at airports.
People love it! And it’s great marketing for the restaurants, whose logos and brands will be seen by millions of people every year.
Q: What brands and airports have you brought together?
We’re currently in eight airports nationwide. We’re in; Reagan, Dulles, BWI, Pittsburg, Cleveland, Logan, JFK and Nashville. And some of the brands we’ve brought in include Wolfgang Puck, Peete’s Coffee, Great Lakes Brewing, Not Your Average Joe’s, Otto Pizza of Boston. And our most recent partnership is with Lucca of the North End, Boston.
Q: How do you maintain menu consistency?
We do this by being organized operationally and having constant dialogue with our restaurants. We speak regularly with them so that we guarantee the same quality of their recipes and menu. We have 300 employees in eight airports who are dedicated to bringing a level of service they’d expect if they were at the restaurant’s main location. The point is to make sure there is no difference in quality in the airport version of a popular brand.
Q: What’s the biggest key in pleasing the customer?
One of the biggest factors is time constraints and stress of an airport. All of our servers are trained to ask the customer how much time they have before their flight, and then direct them to menu items that can be made to suit their needs. We strive to feel welcome, cared for, and to provide them with the everything they’ve come to expect from their favorite brands, from all fresh bread, meat and produce to comfort food items ranging from burgers and chicken Caesar salads to pizza.
Mediocrity isn’t acceptable in a restaurant, and our goal is to put the service and food on a par with what a customer would expect on a Saturday night.
Q: What’s your restaurant background?
Hospitality is in my blood. I started working at my first restaurant when I was 14 and growing up in Connecticut. I went to Johnson & Wales and went on to work as the director of operations at a full-service restaurant company on the East Coast. I’ve been with Air Ventures for four years and it’s great. I always knew that I wanted to be in restaurants.
Q: What advice do you have for budding restauranteurs?
You’ve gotta be a people person. You’ve gotta take care of your own people, and the guests who dine with you. That’s the key to success. And no detail is too small. For instance, a couple of weeks ago someone in a restaurant had their cell phone die.
Our server noticed it and took it right away to charge it and she made sure the customer left without forgetting it. Another server noticed that a customer wasn’t feeling well, and helped that person talk with the airline to get a later flight. Making people happy is what we do, and I’m a restaurant guy through and through! — Air Ventures LLC uses Boxerbrand’s Penny line in their table presentation. Thank you!