O'Hare Savors Concessions App & Delivery Service

Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

An Android or iPhone can be a traveler's best friend, but it acts more like a do-it-all personal assistant when it allows users to skip airport restaurant lines and have their food delivered to the gate.

Hungry travelers can now use the B4 YOU BOARD app from HMSHost to browse menus, order and pay for meals at Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD). Workers outfitted in bright yellow chef hats and aprons then deliver the food and beverages to passengers' specific gates - typically in 20 minutes or less. Alternately, travelers can choose to pick up their orders at predetermined spots elsewhere in the airport.

Both the app and delivery service are offered free of charge. For most users, though, not having to stand in line for a sandwich or snack is priceless.

Joe Waller, vice president of business development for HMSHost, reports that the service has been "well received" since its launch at ORD in November. The app's overall debut occurred earlier last year in Terminal 3 at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), followed closely by deployment at Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) in September.

Waller cites the story of an ORD traveler with a tight connection as an illustration of the app's value: "He ordered his meal as his plane was taxiing to the terminal for delivery to the gate where his next flight was scheduled to depart. The B4 YOU BOARD server met him at the gate, and he was able to walk onto his flight with a great, hot meal."

After downloading the free app from iTunes or Google Play, travelers can order select breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees, as well as drinks, appetizers and desserts, from predetermined HMSHost locations. Currently, the list at ORD includes Tuscany Café and Chili's Too! in Terminal 1; Blackhawks Restaurant & Bar in Terminal 2; and Wolfgang Puck Café and Chili's Too! in Terminal 3.

According to Waller, the average bill for orders placed via the smartphone app is around $10.

Today's Special

Chicago Department of Aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino explains that B4 YOU BOARD service began at ORD last November after successful deployments of the program at JFK and MSP earlier in 2011.

"Once we heard about it, we thought it would be a great opportunity to bring an extra amenity to our customers," says Andolino. "HMSHost is always trying to provide greater opportunities and choices for our customers while looking at ways to produce more revenue at the airport. This application fit right in with those objectives."

Although frequent business travelers were the app's initial target audience, early usage trends indicate that other demographic groups at ORD also value the convenience provided by smartphone option.

Parents traveling with children, notes Andolino, often literally have their hands full and prefer to settle in close to their gate. This makes them prime candidates for concessions delivery. "Now, they can order their food and have it brought directly to their gate without hassle," she relates.

The diaper bag set also represents a potentially potent public relations force. "The mommy bloggers have






Project: Ordering App & Delivery Service

Location: Chicago O'Hare Int'l Airport

Governing Body: Chicago Department of Aviation

Food & Beverage Partner: HMSHost

App Name: B4 YOU BOARD

Downloadable From: Apple App Store & Google Play

Technology Developer: Airside Mobile

Launch Date: Nov. 2011

Cost to Airport: $0

Also Used at: John F. Kennedy Int'l & Minneapolis-St. Paul Int'l

such incredible buying power these days," Andolino explains. "They truly are of value in the social media scene as well."

Internal Customers

Another unexpected subset embracing the app is airport employees. Their use even took Airside Mobile, the firm that developed the app, by surprise. "We aimed it at business travelers," explains Airside founder and chief executive officer Hans Miller. "The employee base is something we didn't expect."

Nevertheless, the app has become a "fan favorite" of ORD workers. "If you only have a 30-minute break, the ability to order from your phone and have your food delivered is the difference between having a chance to eat your meal and spending your break in line," explains Miller.

Since its debut at JFK, the app has become somewhat of a "media darling," he notes. In January, it was featured in USA Today's "Five Apps Every Flier Should Have." It was also selected by Apple as a feature app in the "New & Noteworthy" section of iTunes upon its launch at MSP. Among more than 16,000 Apple travel apps, it has ranked No. 32, adds Miller.

"B4 YOU BOARD has definitely increased the attention on our restaurants and HMSHost," reports Waller. "There is nothing else like it in the industry and people - especially the increasing number of tech-savvy travelers who rely on their smartphones for almost everything - absolutely love it."

Whether it's catering to suit-clad businessmen or pleasing stroller-pushing moms, Andolino considers the app a positive addition at ORD: "It coincides and fits with our goal to provide as many amenities and services to our customers to ensure we are best-in-class."


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