Airports, Customers & Concessionaires Embrace Contactless Ordering

Airports, Customers & Concessionaires Embrace Contactless Ordering
Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Well before the coronavirus pandemic intensified demand for contactless transactions, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) embarked on a quest to enhance the travel experience at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) by creating a seamless digital experience from curb to gate. The effort extended to busy airport eateries with LAX Order Now, a digital platform that allows customers to order food and beverages from their own mobile devices.

Launched in September 2020, LAX Order Now provides customers with convenience and also helps create a safer airport environment. By eliminating the need to order and pay at a staffed counter, LAX is helping passengers observe crucial physical distancing guidelines even when they need a quick drink or bite to eat.

“As the gravity of the global pandemic became apparent in early 2020, it was essential that we provide a solution to reduce physical contact within the airport and decrease touch points,” explains Jeffrey Utterback, deputy executive director of Commercial Development at LAWA. “We accelerated our work to enhance our online and mobile ordering platform, and LAX Order Now has become a popular option for people who have an essential need to travel.”


Project: Contactless Food & Beverage Ordering

Estimated Industry Acceptance: 70 airports worldwide, with 6.25 million orders processed on the Grab Airport Marketplace

Early Adopter: Los Angeles Int’l Airport

Program: LAX Order Now

Program Partners/Developers: Los Angeles World Airports; Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Airports; Servy (Grab Airport Marketplace)

Launched: Sept. 2020

Current Participation: 25 concessionaires

Customer Usage: More than 7,000 mobile orders filled since launch

Early Adopter: Miami Int’l Airport

Program: MIA2GO

Program Partners/Developers: Miami-Dade Aviation Dept.; Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Airports; Servy (Grab Airport Marketplace)

Launched: Nov. 2020

Participation: 18 concessionaires

Customer Usage: 1,300 QR codes scanned within first 90 days of operation

Key Benefits: Enhances safety for customers by offering touch-free alternative to ordering, paying & picking up food/beverages at staffed counters; enhances safety for concessionaires by limiting physical contact with customers; helps minimize time airport employees spend waiting in concessions lines

Utterback lauds the service for allowing customers to view menus from many airport restaurants at the same time—from home, while en route to the airport or as they stroll through a terminal.

“All guests need is a web browser to visit, or they can scan one of the many QR codes posted throughout the airport to pull up any restaurant’s menu,” he explains.

As of mid-February, more than 35,000 people had scanned quick response codes spread throughout LAX terminals, and concessionaires had filled more than 7,000 mobile food orders since the program launched last fall.

Good, Better, Best

LAX Order Now emerged from a foundation that LAX built more than a year ago with terminal commercial partner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW). LAWA and URW worked with airport e-commerce provider Servy on a digital marketplace that allowed airport guests to browse menus and order online for the first time.

That foundation allowed the airport to be more nimble when the pandemic struck, and the partners collaborated again to make LAX Order Now a reality.

Utterback describes LAX Order Now as a top-to-bottom improvement over the original system because it not only provides contactless ordering and pickup, but also includes training about safe handling procedures for concessionaires and advertising support to promote the service. The associated surge in use by customers demonstrates just how much demand there is for such technology, he adds. 

Customers use Grab, Servy’s airport e-commerce platform, to browse menus from participating restaurants and pay via credit card, debit card, Apple Pay and Google Pay. The system sends updates and alerts as orders become ready, and customers retrieve their seal-packaged orders from designated pickup locations.

“We know that the easier we make it for guests to purchase, the more likely they are to do so,” Utterback says. “As those orders come in, we are able to learn so much about the customer—when they buy, what they buy, where they buy. That allows us to further enhance our offerings through special promotions, sales and discounts. And as those sales increase, the more our airport concessions partners are able to hire employees to meet the demand. It’s a win for every stakeholder in the airport, all made possible by putting the customer first.”

Perk for All

The LAX Order Now option is a boon for airport workers, too. By ordering ahead, employees are able to spend less time waiting in line during their breaks. Employees also receive special promotional codes and ongoing discounts for online orders.

Not surprisingly, more food and beverage vendors are choosing to participate on the digital platform. Currently, LAX Order Now includes 25 restaurants throughout seven of the airport’s nine terminals—up from 20 restaurants when the platform first launched in September.

“The last year has been incredibly challenging for all of our concession partners, but we believe that the more we innovate, the more we can maximize revenue and jobs for the airport and our partners,” says Utterback. “Technology alone can’t solve the challenges facing airports today, but if new technologies like LAX Order Now increase safety for our guests with essential travel needs this increases the likelihood of air travel returning to previous levels sooner. And the sooner air travel increases, the sooner airport concessions will see associated increases in customers.”

Wider Deployment

Shortly after launching LAX Order Now, URW and Servy contacted Miami-Dade Aviation Department about working together to drive sales for concessions at Miami International Airport (MIA). In November 2020, the partners launched MIA2GO with 18 restaurants. More are expected to sign on as travel recovers and concessionaires return to full operation.

“We are proud to partner with URW and Grab in making MIA the newest U.S. airport offering a mobile food pre-ordering service,” says Lester Sola, the airport’s director and chief executive officer.

So far, MIA considers the program a success. In fact, the airport logged 1,300 QR code scans within the first 90 days of operation.

Mike Salzman, executive vice president and group director of Airports for URW, says that facilitating contactless ordering is a vital step in helping airports rise to the occasion during this unprecedented period for the industry.

“If new technologies like LAX Order Now and MIA2GO help travelers feel safer when they fly, that increases the likelihood of air travel returning to previous levels sooner,” Salzman says. “And the sooner air travel increases, the sooner all airport personnel can get back to work…There’s a snowball effect that we create as we begin to digitize the airport.”

Beyond the options at LAX and MIA, about 70 airports across the globe participate in similar partnerships, with 6.25 million orders processed on the Grab Airport Marketplace to date.

Response to the contactless option has been fantastic, he reports. “This is what airport customers have always been asking for—a way to get what they want, when they want it. It has also been well-received by our frontline workers, who have a safer experience interacting with customers.”

For Salzman, contactless ordering is about much more than an app or website. “This is about setting the airport up for a digital future by creating an adaptive, responsive service that caters to the ever-evolving needs of the traveler,” he explains. “LAX Order Now and MIA2GO will continue providing a more convenient, efficient experience for years to come when the pandemic is behind us.”

Servy Chief Experience Officer Jeff Livney concurs, noting that restaurant menus can also be integrated into third-party channels such as airline and airport apps, making them even easier for the traveling public to access.

“Servy always sets out to enhance the hospitality experience for guests through our technology,” Livney says. “We have been very pleased with the results.”

Looking ahead, he notes that food and beverage programs such as LAX Order Now and MIA2GO can be expanded to include retail concessions as demand warrants.


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