Ascending to New Heights with Drinks on the Go

Rob Wigington

Whether it's for business or leisure, people are visiting Nashville like never before. As Nashville experiences a time of unprecedented growth and opportunity, so does Nashville International Airport (BNA). BNA served more than 11 million passengers in 2014, setting a new record for the airport. This means more opportunities to provide the Nashville Airports Experience - our customer service mantra - to each and every traveler. Whether leaving for a trip or returning home, we are dedicated to making sure guests know they're in Music City the moment they arrive at BNA by greeting them with the live music, food and hospitality our city is known for.  

In 2013, we set out to enhance the passenger experience through a new, innovative concept as well as introduce Nashville's booming craft beer movement to the airport community. Nashville is home to 10 local breweries that provide unique artisan beers that are helping form the city's identity today. 

Rob Wigington

Rob Wigington, IAP, is president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. His 30+ years of experience in the industry include positions with the Houston Airport System, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and San Diego International Airport, Airports Council International-North America and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In the fall of 2013, we received our airport-wide beer license, and the following spring, our airport-wide liquor license, making the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority the only known airport in the United States to obtain airport-wide liquor and beer licenses. These licenses allow adult passengers the opportunity to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while listening to live music, getting a manicure or massage, shopping or waiting at their gates. Not only does it allow guests to enjoy their beverage of choice throughout the entire secure side of the airport, but it also addresses capacity constraints created by our previous licensing structure, which required each individual concept to be licensed and prohibited alcoholic beverages beyond lease lines. The airport-wide beer and liquor licenses allow our concessionaires the ability to maximize alcohol sales. It also allows us to pursue additional concepts without the previous seat-requirement restrictions demanded in traditionally licensed venues. Ultimately, we are now making the most out of our terminal space like never before. 

Prior to obtaining the licenses, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of our current liquor and beer sales to determine how the new initiative would affect existing alcohol and concession sales. Through the analysis, we projected an additional $1 million in liquor and beer sales each year - a clear win/win situation for everyone at the airport.

Our Drinks on the Go initiative has been an overwhelming success. We partnered with Nashville-based Yazoo Brewing Company, a craft beer pioneer for the region, to bring the brewer's unique and popular beers to BNA. The Yazoo Beer kiosk - placed at the heart of our terminal to reach more than 70% of our total airport passenger traffic - opened in October 2013. We sold our first "breakfast beer" only minutes after opening, and it has yet to slow down. The concept grossed more than $475,000 in total beer sales in the 2014 calendar year. Moreover, all restaurants and concepts have averaged more than $83,000 in additional monthly alcohol sales, totaling $730,000 in additional sales from May to December 2014. 

On track to exceed our projections, the financial benefits of implementing our Drinks on the Go initiative speak for themselves. These funds allow us to reinvest in the airport and ensure travelers have the best experience possible.

More than simply providing easier access to adult beverages or increasing revenues, this initiative amplifies the Nashville Airports Experience by allowing us to bring the essence of our city to our airport. With the sound, the feel and now the taste of Nashville at the airport, travelers from around the world know they're in Music City as soon as they step foot in BNA. 

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