Today’s blessing of the newly renovated food court in the main terminal at Honolulu Airport marks the completion of a nearly $20 million, three-year overhaul of about 30 concessions throughout the Oahu facility.
The makeover of all food and beverage outlets is part of a $2.3 billion Airports Modernization Plan to upgrade the state’s facilities by 2021. Approximately $1.7 billion will be spent on renovations to Honolulu Airport.
The last major upgrade to food and beverage operations was in the late 1990s, according to HMSHost Corp., the contractor responsible for all food and beverage concessions at Honolulu Airport, Kahului Airport and Lihue Airport. HMSHost employs approximately 650 workers among the three facilities. Its Honolulu Airport lease with the state Department of Transportation runs through 2020.
As part of the project, which started in late 2007, HMSHost converted most of its generic pubs and unnamed snack bars to national and local brands to attract the mix of travelers that share concourses throughout the facility.
On the menu
Some HMSHost concession brands:
» Island Brews and Pizza
"Out of all the airports, this is probably one of the top five," said Denver resident Katherine Staton, 18, who was preparing to fly home after visiting a friend on Oahu. "I don’t like flying alone but here it’s not so bad. It’s laid back and very comforting."
The food court in the main terminal previously featured mostly generic "grab and go" concessions and now has four brands — Burger King, Chow Mein Express, California Pizza Kitchen and Pinkberry — within the same footprint.
"Our challenge is trying to get that right balance of local, national, regional and international brands that appeal to a broad spectrum of our traveling public," said Alan Yamamoto, district general manager for HMSHost in Hawaii. "The traveling public coming from all points recognize those brands and tend to gravitate towards the brands they recognize. It’s amazing how powerful the brands are."
When the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks led to increased security measures — and consequently longer time spent at the airport — the concessionaire changed its strategy to offer more casual dining concepts such as Kona Brewing Co., Gordon Biersch and Sammy Hagar’s Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill at Kahului Airport. Besides the typical "grab and go" fare, travelers can now get fresh fish, steak and handmade sushi rolls. HMSHost is also spending $6 million to $7 million on renovations to Kahului Airport; its lease runs through 2019.
"It’s nice to have variety, but there’s also that extra added expense," said 33-year-old Seattle resident Erica Rivas of her $20 California Pizza Kitchen meal. However, "having chains people are familiar with on the mainland is nice."
While Hawaii’s visitor mix continues to shift to an increased number of Asian travelers, HMSHost says it will continue to re-evaluate its offerings and change according to the demographics.
"It’s always necessary for us to change our physical plant similar to any hotel brand in Waikiki where they constantly upgrade their products," Yamamoto said. "As we see the demographic mix change and airlines merge and migrate throughout the airport, so do we have to change our concept mix over the next four to six years as Korea and China become a bigger piece of the pie."