published Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Chattanooga Airport to have two restaurants, but business center is shrinking

ABOUT TAILWIND

Tailwind Concessions services regional airports in 10 cities, including Chattanooga Airport and Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Tennessee.

Chattanooga Airport's new concessionaire is redoing an existing restaurant in the passenger terminal and building an eatery in the boarding area in place of part of the airport's business center.

The construction that's underway eventually will bring eateries and bars to sites both before and after the security checkpoint in the passenger terminal, said Jess Backhaus, operations director for Tailwind Concessions.

Temporary food locations are up now, and it will likely be January or February before all the work in the areas is done, said Backhaus, whose company was named the new airport concessionaire in August.

Burgers, hot prepared items, sandwiches, salads and other foods are slated for the locations, Backhaus said, adding that the company is working with local vendors to sell some of their goods.

He said the new eatery past the checkpoint is using some of the existing business center.

Airport spokesman Albert Waterhouse said the post-checkpoint area will continue to have docking stations and outlets "so the business traveler can comfortably work out of that space."

He also said the existing gift shop located prior to the checkpoint will be moved within the renovated restaurant.

"We are looking at design and use options for the space the gift shop currently occupies but no decisions have been made as of yet," Waterhouse said.

Tailwind has promised more money to the airport, which is receiving 10 percent of gross receipts, up from 5 percent from the agreement with Air Host, the former concessionaire.

  • photo
    The Chattanooga Airport terminal.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive, said he expects airport receipts to about double from $60,000 to $70,000 a year to upwards of $120,000 annually.

In August, the airport terminated the contract of Air Host, which had operated at Lovell Field since 2001. Hart said the airport had to pay Air Host $498,500 to terminate the contract. But Tailwind is to pay that sum in two separate payments.

Backhaus said that having two eateries and bars will take care of not just the business and leisure travelers using the airport, but people who meet and greet them as well.

"We're having space in both [pre- and post-checkpoint] areas," he said.

Backhaus said the company has found that people tend to be more in a hurry before they pass the checkpoint.

The cost of the restaurant construction, which is part of ongoing terminal renovations, wasn't immediately available, Waterhouse said.

In August, the airport cited quality issues and other complaints in terminating the contract with Air Host. But that company's longtime general manager, Jennifer Taber, said airport officials had led her to believe that complaints weren't the issue. Taber said then the airport wanted to strike a better deal with the new company.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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