Richmond Int'l Adds New Post-Security Dining Option

Kimberly Kaiser
Published in: 

With the increased screening measures that have evolved in the last 10 years, getting through security checkpoints as soon as possible has become a primary objective for many travelers. However, once on the "other side," sit-down dining options can be hard to come by.


Project: Restaurant/Bar

Location: Richmond (VA) Int'l Airport

Name: Club Level Grill

Cost: $1.6 million

Project Partner: Delaware North Companies

Design: Johnson Studio

Construction: BRD Construction

Benefits: Expands post-security sit-down dining options near departure gates

Design Features: Audio & visual flight departure information; extra electric outlets for passengers to recharge electronics; sports theme includes stadium seats from Camden Yards

Richmond International Airport (RIC) in Virginia recently completed a six-month, $1.6 million project to ensure that isn't the case in its terminal. In late January, the airport and Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services debuted the new Club Level Grill.

Situated on the B concourse between gates B6 and B10, Club Level Grill provides an "upscale casual dining experience" with a clear line of sight to all gates, says Cain Bassett, general manager for Delaware North.

Before its soft opening in December 2010, each concourse at RIC had a Sam Adams Brew House and some sort of restaurant midway through the concourse, but nothing so close to the gates, explains Troy Bell, marketing & air service development/PIO Capital Region Airport Commission.

The area occupied by Club Level Grill was earmarked for future concessions development following a 2002 expansion of Concourse B, explains Bell. "Sometimes when restaurants are added to airports, they are really squeezing out gate space. Club Level Grill was planned space," he stresses. "We wanted to provide the upscale dining experience when you've already passed through security."

RIC also has a pre-security Applebee's, which is similarly categorized as "upscale casual," but most of the options in the concourse are fast food restaurants.The location of Club Level Grill, adds a unique draw. "As you clear security, you can see it," Bassett explains. "So regardless of whether customers are flying out of gate B1 or B17, it's in their visual eyesight."

Gate Dining

Before RIC proceeded with the Club Level Grill project, airport management tested the concept by placing a 200-square-foot Sam Adams kiosk with a portable bar and outdoor café seating near the gates.

"They had some success with it," reports director of real estate and facility Russ Peaden. "They were able to establish a presence down the concourse with light food offerings and basically a bar setting - draft beer, mixed drinks, that sort of thing. It catered to the afternoon crowds that were there."

The kiosk's success paved the way for the more permanent Club Level Grill. "It was an experiment, and it went pretty well," recalls Bell. "It verified some of the feelings that Delaware North had about how customers in Richmond would use the facility if it were offered closer to their departure gate."

Club Level Grill provides more menu options than the two other sit-down concourse restaurants: Sam Adams Brew House and Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, notes Bell. Its seating capacity is also larger than the other options on the concourse, and it has separate spaces for family dining and bar patrons, he adds.

In addition to providing views of all the gates, the new restaurant also features departure screens, so passengers and wait staff can see if a flight is departing shortly and plan accordingly. The airport's paging system also interrupts Club Level Grill's Sound system with boarding announcements.

"If you are sitting there having a cocktail or dinner and your flight is about to board, you can hear it actually inside the restaurant," Basset explains.

A grab-and-go case provides packaged food and drinks for travelers who still feel more comfortable waiting at the gate.

Powering Up

In addition to Richmond-style "pick an' roll" pulled pork, Club Level Grill serves up an ample portion of electrical outlets.

"In this modern age of technology, everyone has a laptop," comments Bassett. "If you look throughout airports, you'll tend to find people sitting in the middle of an aisle trying to plug in their cell phones to get them recharged. We tried to take that into consideration at Club Level Grill. Not only is there a bench area with outlets, there are also plug-ins around our bar area as well."

Bell credits Delaware North for getting so many power options into the restaurant. "There are a lot of outlets," he says. "Whether you have your laptop ... iPad ... or your cell phone is starting to die, there are a lot of outlets right at the bar area, and there are tables with accessible outlet strips down the middle. It's cool to see."

Layout and Design

Although Richmond doesn't have a professional sports franchise, it's a "big sports town," says Paeden. And Johnson Studio took that into account when designing the sports-theme restaurant and bar. "There are a lot of pictures and graphics of teams, players and mascots that are near and dear to our hearts," he says.

Nutzy the Flying Squirrel, mascot for the Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants) has a special spot in the local eatery. "We're big baseball fans and are happy to finally have a baseball team back in this town," notes Paeden.

With Richmond hosting two NASCAR weekends each year, car racing is featured prominently. And collegiate sports from Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond and nearby schools such as William & Mary also get their due. "Local residents identify with a lot of the design elements," he comments.

Keeping with the sports theme, the bar stools are modified stadium seats from Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards and beers are served in mugs bearing the logos of regional sporting teams. The menu also includes trivia on local sports teams and sports-theme food such as "shut-down" chicken wings and ballpark corndogs.

"It's a sports bar, and the Richmond International Airport is largely a business traveler airport," explains Bassett. "In putting it together, we kept that in mind. It's a mixture of professional business people, but it's going to create its own niche."

If Club Level Grill proves to be a success, Bassett says he could see it "becoming a mainstay" - not only in Richmond, but in other airports with a Delaware North presence as well.


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