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Bringing farm-to-table to the airport

June 15, 2015

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The Los Angeles International Airport Farmers Market. Image courtesy of Delaware North Companies

Restaurants all over the world feature menus with ingredients grown by local purveyors. Now, travel  concessions operator Delaware North Companies has added its own twist to the farm to table craze — the farm to terminal concept.

Delaware North has brought the farm to terminals concepts to three airports: Austin-Bergstrom International in Texas, Hartsfield-JacksonInternational and Los Angeles International, said Kevin Kelly, the president of Delaware North Travel Hospitality.

“Farm-to-table has been around for a long time, going back to what [Chef] Alice Waters did at Chez Panisse in the Bay Area,” said Kelly. “It’s now a common expectation by the public to have fresh products used in locally produced cuisine, so we decided to translate that to the airport.”

A lot of the movement is chef driven, said Kelly. “At Austin-Bergstrom, we partnered with a local chef for Annie’s Cafe & Bar that is putting fresh food on the table,” he said. “The best way to control that is to get as close to the source as you can.”

A variety of locally sourced items are served at many restaurants at Austin-Bergstrom, including produce, breads, smoked sausages, tortillas, tortilla chips, brisket, ribs and barbecue sauce.

Terminal 5 at LAX sports its own version of the city’s original Farmers Market, which opened back in 1934. The airport outlet offers meals, snacks, wine, coffee, and sweets, all from restaurants and stalls at the original location.

Dining and shopping options include ¡Loteria! Grill, Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market and Bistro, T&Y Bakery, Coffee Corner, Magee’s Nuts, Bennett’s Ice Cream, Magic Nut and Candy, Dragunara Spice Bazaar and The Dog Bakery.

And several restaurants and shops at Hartsfield-Jackson also use locally sourced items, including produce, milk, honey, yogurt, jams/jellies, grits, peanuts and jerky.

Finding local providers for airport vendors was a natural process, said Kelly. “We didn’t originally focus on farm-to table. It was originally our desire to bring local chef concepts to the airports, and the local sourcing followed,” he said. “The chefs wanted visibility for the products they served and where they were coming from. Traceability was important.”

There are unique security challenges to operating in an airport, and the company works with local vendors to navigate them, said Kelly.

“We do it several different ways. Some providers will go to one source of delivery, where suppliers go to a central location, drop off their goods and then they are delivered to the airport.”

Some use a commissary outside of the airport and get their food from there, said Kelly. “The feeding of travelers in an airport is as much about logistics as anything,” he said.

A component of the farm-to-terminal concept is now being included in every airport RFP Delaware North submits, said Kelly. “We just opened an outlet of Bardenay, a local restaurant, at Boise Airport,” he said. “The chef makes his own vodkas and bourbons, along with bringing a local flavor that focuses on fresh products. It’s an exciting concept and has been very well received.”

I previously covered airport concessions in my stories “Airport restaurants run by celebrity chefs” and “Airport restaurants get a major upgrade.”


Check with food and beverage concessionaires to see if they are doing their own version of the farm-to-terminal concept at your local airport.

Delaware North


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