Raleigh-Durham Int'l Premieres New Retail & Restaurants

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 


Project: Food/Beverage & Retail Program

Location: Raleigh-Durham (NC) Int'l Airport

Terminal: 2

2010 Gross Revenue: $20 million

2010 Rent Revenue: $3 million

Architect of Record: Fentress Architects

Associate Architects: O'Brien/Atkins Associates, The Freelon Group

Consultant: AirProjects

Tenants: 16 food/beverage, 21 retailers, 3 services

Strategies: Combining local brands to reflect regional flavor and national brands to add stability; blurring lines between restaurant seating and gate areas

When Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) cut the ribbon for its new Terminal 2 earlier this year, it also debuted a new, more diversified food service and retail program.

"There was a long lead time for a project like this," reflects Ingrid Hairston, RDU's business development officer. "We completed the program design in 2005 and did most of our leasing for the program in 2007. You have to have time to design your program, then you have to go through the leasing process, and finally tenants have to be given enough lead time to design their spaces."

Construction of individual spaces, Hairston notes, ranged from four to seven months.

The terminal was completed in two phases, with 25 retail, restaurant and service tenants opening in 2008, and the remaining 15 tenants opening in January 2011.

The airport authority decided that it was in its best interests to self-manage the concessions program - retail, food/beverage and service.

"We like interacting with our tenants," Hairston explains. "Our program is large enough that we're able to provide diversity for our customers, but not so large that the program is unmanageable for the airport authority. We like being able to touch the service to make sure it is meeting our customers' needs."

Driven by Design

The new terminal's overall architecture and design was crafted to honor North Carolina's rich traditions and highlight the region's high-tech Research Triangle. Quality concessions were needed to complement a 60-foot-high atrium, Douglas fir trusses spanning more than 100 feet, large-scale art and other striking features, explains Hairston.

The airport consequently used two main strategies: integrating local vendors and leveraging the design and presentation of the shops and restaurants.

"Traditionally, we have leased with large national companies," Hairston explains. "This time around, however, we wanted to lease with some smaller local companies as well. We've developed a program on both the retail and restaurant side that offers customers diverse concepts."

Well-known, well-established national brands were combined with local concepts representing the Raleigh-Durham area. On the food service side, the airport brought in 42nd Street Oyster Bar, a restaurant Hairston considers a "community mainstay." On the retail side, it added a used bookstore called 2nd Edition Books Sellers. "People come from far and wide to visit this bookstore," she notes. "It's a homegrown business and is one of the most talked-about concepts in our program."

Retail consultant Ann Ferraguto, principal of AirProjects, helped define and implement the retail and food/beverage concepts.

"RDU wanted to have a local and regional feel to the program through the design and concepts, and we were able to achieve that," Ferraguto relates. "The national brands add credibility and stability to the program. Typically, airports that have a mix of local and national brands perform better."

It was important, she adds, to develop design criteria that allowed all tenants - local and national - to maintain their individual identities.

According to Hairston, the airport team and tenants worked closely to design unique stores that would fit well with the larger building.

"The terminal uses high-quality, yet understated materials," she explains. "People walk into the building and they literally stop in their tracks to look around. It's a beautiful terminal. We asked our tenants to go a little crazy by trying to pick up some elements in the building design that are not necessarily traditional in their stores. We wanted them to add color and create a sort of dynamic movement so the spaces blended into the terminal but remained unique. As a result, there's almost a streetscape feel to the terminal."

The airport's storefront design criteria include marquees, which allow tenants to express their individuality and highlight their concepts.

Hairston is enthusiastic about the results: "We have towers and spires, an old-style marquee for the A&W and Bruegger's Bagel spaces, an old beer barrel marquee at the Carolina Ale House, a lighthouse at the 42nd Street Oyster Bar - unique design features that make the spaces stand out to the customer while beautifying the terminal. We are extremely pleased."

No Membership? No Problem

Raleigh-Durham International is putting egalitarianism into action with a private lounge that offers VIP services and amenities to any passenger traveling through Terminal 1 who pays the facility's $29.95 day rate.

Open from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., The Club at RDU provides complimentary snacks and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), as well as a full menu of premium food and beverage items for purchase. Visitors have ready access to flight information displays, television, newspapers and magazines. A business services center with PC workstations, printers, telephones, fax machines, free Wi-Fi and a meeting room make it easy for travelers to get work done at the airport.

The emergence of non-membership airport lounges like The Club is a growing trend, reports Teresa Damiano, RDU's director of marketing. "The traditional thinking around airport lounges is that they cater to a VIP clientele - a business traveler who wants free snacks and drinks and a quiet space to work," Damiano explains. "While The Club at RDU caters to this traveler, it's also available to any other traveler, including families who want an alternative to the typically more crowded areas of the terminal while waiting for their flight. The Club offers flexibility for business travelers, families and leisure travelers."

Travelers can purchase a day pass or a number of frequent-use passes. The airport is also considering special contractual deals for local companies with numerous business travelers, adds Damiano. "It's a great corporate travel perk, and some of the larger companies are very interested in the concept," she reports.

RDU contracted with Airport Lounge Development to operate the facility. Club services are managed by Gideon Total Management Services, a subcontractor of Airport Lounge Development, since its opening in May.

The Club's décor features work by local artists. Mahler Fine Arts Gallery of Raleigh promotes emerging artists by rotating new pieces into the space every four months.

HMSHost, which operates two Starbucks in the new terminal, also partnered with JQ Enterprises to open Carolina Vintages, a custom restaurant/wine bar that features North Carolina wines, local draft beers, food produced in North Carolina and organic menu items.

The new concession also includes a wine cellar for retail purchases, reflecting what Tim Meyer, HMSHost general manager at RDU, characterizes as a "growing trend" in the airport restaurant business.

"Business has been very good," Meyer reports. "Many wine distributors have told us that we are already the number one on-premise seller of North Carolina wines."

SSP America, which manages five vendors in the terminal, is similarly upbeat. "Business has been good thus far, despite it being our slow time of the year," relates SSP regional standards operation manager Ric Jenkins. "We're happy."

The company is also pleased with the new look. "RDU is night and day from where it came," notes Jenkins. "The new terminal is state-of-the-art and refreshing."

Please Stay Seated

In designing the new terminal, Fentress Architects focused on how people move through, as well as dwell within, the space.

"The first thing we think about is the reason people come to the airport, which is to change from one mode of transportation to another. So making the circulation path as fluid and intuitive as possible is our initial goal," chronicles Curtis Fentress, principal in charge of design. "After that, of course, people need food and wish to purchase things."

Since 9/11, passengers spend more time in the terminal, primarily in post-security areas, Fentress notes. With increased dwell times, post-security retail and food service have become increasingly important - and potentially profitable.

"At RDU," Fentress explains, "we have blurred the line between seating at a particular food service vendor and seating at the gates. The seating kind of spills out of the food service establishment, which encourages customers to remain seated at the food vendor while keeping an eye on their gate."

The longer customers sit, the more they spend. Passengers can have another drink or one more piece of North Carolina barbecue, because they can see that their aircraft hasn't started boarding yet. All of this, of course, translates into increased revenue for vendors and the airport.

In 2010, retail and restaurant vendors in Terminal 2 grossed approximately $20 million - $3 million of which the airport realized in rent.

"The most important thing about that rent is that it's not aeronautical revenue," Hairston emphasizes. "Diversifying revenue streams is crucial to the financial success of airports."


Featured Video

FREE Webinars

Leveraging Technology Throughout the Airport SMS Lifecycle


RECORDED: Thursday, September 7th, 2017 at 11:00 am EDT

Most airport layouts were designed when passengers played cards while waiting for a flight because an onboard meal was an expectation and the very idea of a smartphone would have been laughable.

What was once a mess of beam seating everywhere now has a multi-function use: part lounge, part cafe, part office and a wealth of amenities. New uses of spaces as well as new types of furniture are finding their way into the airport because today's passenger is really focused on getting to point B rather than the journey itself. Airport design and furniture elements have a stronger impact on the passenger experience than one may realize. There's the comfort. The durability. The usability.

Matt Dubbe from Mead and Hunt and Joe Agati from Agati Furniture will tackle these questions and others in: Airport Interiors are Experiencing Massive Change: What You Need to Know.

View an archived version of this session in its entirety: 

View full webinar:  Airport Interiors: What You Need to Know - (Flash)
View full webinar:  Airport Interiors: What You Need to Know - (MP4 video)
Listen as Podcast:  Airport Interiors: What You Need to Know - (podcast)

Featured Video

# # #

# # #