Everyday, in our increasingly interconnected world, some eight million people get on a plane. According to recent estimates by the International Air Transport Association (Iata - December 2012), there will be further growth of 5.3% in world airport traffic in the next few years, with the number of passengers reaching 3.6 billion in 2016, an increase of around 800 million compared to 2012.
So it’s no surprise that airports are playing an increasingly important role in people’s lives and in contemporary culture.One of the first to study the transformation of airports, Professor John D. Kasarda, was already, in 2000, describing their metamorphosis from simple places of transit to places of destination: the “Aerotropolis”. The airport has become the metropolis of the future, with round the clock services covering the most advanced forms of trade, entertainment, communication and professional activities.Fast growth in mobility has led to equally rapid development in the travel food & beverage market, which has become a global business worth over 40 billion euros a year. The phenomenon is not limited to airports however, for major railway stations too, with the development of high-speed networks often integrated with airports, are increasingly widening their appeal beyond their traditional function.In this context, passengers are more and more focused on food-experience, which is now considered an integral part of travel experience. In advance of their high street counterparts, airports and big railway stations have thus become a privileged terrain for experimentation of new trends in commercial catering. Travel terminals across the five continents are places where different cultures meet and mix, and history shows how such encounters have given rise to many culinary specialities. So new restaurants now opening in big airports include some of the world’s very best. The most important international media - from The New York Times to The Washington Post, from CNN to Fox News, from Expansion to Herald Sun, to name but a few - have realized this and started producing rankings of the best restaurants in airports across the five continents.
Such dynamics have undoubtedly helped stimulate the market. To meet growing demand for high quality on the part of increasingly gourmet globetrotters, Autogrill, an international leader in travel f&b active in mobility infrastructure in 30 countries, has created a global network for collaborating with culinary research organizations and world renowned chefs. In the United States it has formed a partnership with the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), one of the world’s most famous culinary universities, while in Italy it is working with the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, which was created by the founders of Slow Food and played a major role in the setting up of Bistrot Milano Centrale (specializing in artisan preparation of local foodstuffs) in Milan’s Stazione Centrale. Another of Autogrill’s strategic projects, in US airports, is to open restaurants with the labels and menus of celebrity chefs. This sort of collaboration has led to the opening of restaurants that are high-end in terms of both cuisine and exclusive ambience and design. Such celebrity chefs include Lorena Garcia at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and Miami airports, Rick Bayless at Chicago O’Hare airport, and Todd English at JFK New York, Boston Logan International and Las Vegas McCarran airports.
Through HMSHost, Autogrill is active in the top 30 airports in North America by passenger traffic and in over 100 airports worldwide.
It also offers a high quality food & wine experience to passengers in numerous airports in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. At Marseilles Airport, for example, travellers can try the finest Mediterranean cuisine in the Chef en Provence lounge bar, featuring recipes by star chefs, and even take part in culinary events and courses, before boarding. At Zurich Airport, Switzerland’s biggest, it’s possible to make a tour of high quality international food and wine at Upperdeck, a multi-ethnic restaurant whose offering ranges from Italian starters to Japanese tuna tartare and from American cheesecake to home-grown Swiss chocolate. At Amsterdam Schiphol in the Netherlands and Chicago O’Hare in the US, the more sophisticated globetrotters can while away their time at Bubbles, a refined restaurant combining sparkling drinks and fish-based food. While at Roma Fiumicino enthusiasts of the American way of life are offered an experience in full American farm-house style by The Burger Federation, an innovative gourmet burger concept in which menus can be personalized with high-quality and sustainable ingredients.Moving millions of people everyday, airports all over the world are becoming more important, also in terms of the contribution they make to the development of the international catering market and, more in general, the evolution of consumer experience.In a not too distant future, having dinner in the best restaurant near you may mean going an airport, or rather an aerotropolis!