3 Major Trends in Airport Dining

Airline travel might not be the first thing on your mind at the moment, but once the pandemic passes, many of us will be flying the friendly skies before we know it. And as anyone who’s ever flown can attest, layovers and delayed flights can be hungry times.

Historically, airport food hasn’t been highly sought-after. In recent times, however, it’s become much more likely to find something other than fast food or chain restaurants. Airports in many cities have finally heard the famished cries of travelers pining for a meal that they can write (or at least text) home about.

Let’s take a tour of some of the top trends in the widely varied field of airport dining.

An increase in upscale dining options

As travelers become more sophisticated in their tastes and expectations, airports have been forced to up their game.

For years, airport dining options were modeled on the premise that people generally want just a quick, easy bite before hopping onto their flight. Now airports around the globe have realized that, when it comes to fine dining, if you build it, they will come.

More and more, airport terminals are becoming prime dining destinations, led by places like San Francisco International (SFO), where you can find Iron Chef Cat Cora’s full-service restaurant, the gourmet food, wine, and specialty coffee shop Napa Farms Market, and a host of other fine dining options, all of which are required to serve hormone-free dairy products, sustainable seafood and cage-free eggs.

But San Francisco isn’t alone. Cat Cora’s reach, for example, extends to other locations, including Atlanta, Houston, and Salt Lake City. New York’s JFK, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Newark have also hopped on the bandwagon of upscale culinary offerings to brighten your next layover.

Street food

Outside of airports, food trucks have exploded onto the dining scene. In cities across the country, it’s become increasingly easy to find mobile purveyors of snacks and meals to go, and now that trend has spilled over into airports with food carts (and, yes, even trucks) inside the terminal.

Minneapolis has introduced Food Truck Alley in their Lindbergh Terminal near gate E4, where you can find great food from Twin Cities icons like Holy Land, Salty Tart, and Red Cow in two refurbished food trucks and an Airstream.

Austin’s new south terminal features an outdoor waiting area with room for one of three rotating local food trucks to serve up their unique creations. Depending on the day, hungry travelers can get beef, chicken and pulled-pork sandwiches from Stacked Sliders, meat and veggie tacos, tortas, and more Tex-Mex goodness from Mellizoz Tacos, or pizza by the slice or the pie from Stony Crust Pizza.

Techno convenience

Another big trend for airport dining has more to do with technological convenience than it does with food.

Airports like Reagan National and Denver International have taken to providing iPads at restaurant tables on which diners can check out the menu, order food and drinks, and satisfy their other touchscreen addictions.

Newark’s Liberty International Airport has even gone so far as to place over 6000 iPads in 60 restaurants and gate areas to ease the monotony of waiting to board and make it easier to find something to eat.

For those already in the airport food game who might want to get in on this techno-revolution, solutions like OneDine’s can help improve convenience for customers while keeping service as contactless as possible—an important consideration in this COVID and post-COVID world. OneDine’s solutions offer easy initial setup and data-driven insights to make your operations more efficient and your service more personalized as well as contact-free, all with no app required.

Guests can easily browse the menu, order, and pay right from their table or from the terminal gate on their mobile device without having to wait for a server to visit them.

Guests can also experience safe, contactless payment with a variety of options, including SMS messages with a link to an online payment portal, a QR code or sensor that can be scanned/tapped at their table in order to pay, and ordering online via a custom mobile browsing/ordering website with contactless payment options at checkout or upon meal delivery.

Yes, airport dining is no longer the crap shoot it once was. The only problem now is choosing from among the many great dining options waiting for you at the terminal.