Abu Dhabi Airports CEO, Bryan Thompson, tells us a little more about the type of F&B innovation we can expect to find in Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Midfield Terminal.
The new Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport is the culmination of decades of innovation in aviation.
Abu Dhabi Airports has invested heavily in ensuring that the new terminal offers the latest in technology and passenger amenities, spanning security processes, immigration, baggage handling, leisure facilities and entertainment.
In particular, we have placed an emphasis on investing in technology in the food and beverage offerings found in the new terminal as we want to take airport F&B to a new level and reflect the changing expectations of modern-day consumers.
Over the past decade, consumer perceptions regarding what they eat and drink at the airport have significantly altered. Whilst people were previously satisfied with an overpriced burger or processed sandwich which they had to queue for, that is no longer the case.
Passengers have come to expect tailored, meaningful food experiences that cater to a wide range of dietary requirements and culinary tastes, and are delivered through a fast, easy process.
To some extent, airports have been playing catch-up in the F&B sector with this vastly altered consumer expectation regarding what they eat and drink when inside an airport.
However, the cost of change to F&B outlets can no longer be ignored: non-aviation related income at airports continue to make significant contributions toward growing revenue, and with over 50% of passengers using F&B outlets whilst at an airport, the numbers game offers a distinct argument for change.
With the new Midfield Terminal, Abu Dhabi International Airport has had a significant opportunity to transform its food and beverage offering and create more meaningful and attractive experiences for consumers, in line with its status as a leading aviation hub.
Part of the ongoing challenge to satisfy consumers’ needs when they arrive at an airport, looking for catering options, is providing them with high-quality cuisine that satisfies their needs.
Consumers are less likely to excuse poorer quality culinary offerings and are often looking for a substantial meal ahead of boarding their flight. This is an issue for passengers transferring through an airport, alongside those departing from it.
Airport culinary offerings can no longer just be a generic offering from a well-known brand: rather, they have to present an attractive narrative to the customer.
They have to present the history of a recipe, its importance in culture, and handle the preparation and presentation of that meal in a careful, measured way. Whilst logistically, this may seem like an operational nightmare, consumers are calling out for the crafting of great culinary moments, and the financial incentive remains potent for implementation.
One of the four concept pillars which we have planned the food and beverage offerings of the Midfield Terminal around is ‘personalisation’.
At Abu Dhabi Airports, we want to ensure our brands resonate with passengers and diners alike, offering them a memorable, almost tailored, dining experience. Throughout every experience we also strive to reflect Abu Dhabi’s unique brand of Arabian hospitality.
To enable such developments, Abu Dhabi Airports has been careful in its supplier selection and works with each one to ensure that the brands found in the terminal are ones that appeal to the increasingly complex tastes of today’s travellers.
We have worked hard to move away from more traditional models of generic brands which offer standardised products, and instead offer unique experiences within the new Midfield Terminal, ones that are personalised and tailored.
In addition to offering personalised culinary options for passengers passing through the airport, we are also seeking to provide experiential dining. Food and beverage customers are no longer simply seeking a quick meal ahead of their flight; rather, they are looking to enjoy a unique dining experience.
In Abu Dhabi, this will mean welcoming celebrity chef inspired outlets to the Midfield Terminal to provide a host of innovative and memorable culinary experiences. What could be better than enjoying cuisine inspired by some of the globe’s most famous chefs before boarding your flight?
Innovations in airport dining concepts also have to take into account the ability to provide casual culinary experiences. After all, most passengers aren’t looking for a formal sit-down meal ahead of their flights; rather, they want to be able to relax and feel they are in a familiar space ahead of their travels.
Dining environments have to cater to a range of needs, be that an impromptu business meeting or playtime with kids. With the innovations at the new Midfield Terminal, passengers are sure to feel that their dining experiences are both familiar and outstanding.
A final example of recent changes in airport dining concepts is the need to provide customised culinary choices to passengers. Generic meals are ones that the customer can only interact with through consumption, and passengers today want to feel that they have had the opportunity to provide significant inputs into the design of their meals.
The F&B experiences at the new Midfield Terminal will ensure that passengers feel involved with the design of their food and can interact with the end product, ahead of its creation.
At Abu Dhabi Airports, we are seeking to provide culinary solutions that are not only meaningful, but are orientated toward the consumer’s needs. Customers want good food, and they also want to be able to locate it quickly, without having to worry about missing a flight or trekking to a distant corner of a terminal.
Being able to ensure that consumers can access good food at the right time is an important aspect of designing culinary experiences in airports.
One way in which Abu Dhabi International Airport is seeking to deliver further personalisation and interaction with its cuisine is through offering passengers the ability to tailor their meals from the comfort of their smartphones.
Consumers are changing in the way that they interact with an airport environment. Passengers are constantly online at an airport, from when they arrive at the check-in desk, to when they select ‘airplane’ mode on the runway.
In between those moments, the mobile is key for the passenger in planning their journey: from finding their check-in desk, scanning their boarding pass, checking security requirements, and finding their gate to assessing the F&B options in the airport.
This is particularly the case for younger, millennial passengers, who form an increasingly large share of the air travel market.
The latest innovations in airport food and beverage offerings strive to deliver unique culinary spaces that ensure consumers are able to view, consider and purchase meals in a new and efficient way.
Dining options at airports will continue to have to grapple with a lack-lustre legacy, but with the new Midfield Terminal, we are challenging this legacy and delivering unique, personalised and easily accessible food and beverage options that will surprise and delight every passenger.
Great experiences require re-invention, and the current airport food and beverage model is rife with limitations. From its very design through to its construction and fit out, the Midfield Terminal is a forward-looking re-imagination of what an airport terminal should be and will be – and its food and beverage offering is no exception.