Airport dining has historically been a mixed bag of mostly less-than-stellar options. Deciding where to eat in the terminal wasn’t the question. Instead, it was simply a matter of what was available.
Lately, however, the concept of airport dining has taken somewhat of a leap forward, not only in quality of food, but also in atmosphere and the variety of options available.
And variety, atmosphere, and quality were just the beginning. Continuing advances in technology have also conspired to even more fundamentally transform the airport dining experience into something that could actually be called convenient —even, dare we say it, enjoyable.
As in much of the rest of the world, this technological revolution is being driven by the continued proliferation of mobile devices and apps that allow us all to have so much of the world perpetually at our fingertips.
According to a recent study by an airline industry technology company, 50-75% of airports planned to use or develop mobile technology to maximize revenue and improve travelers’ experiences in 2020.
Those numbers will only increase as air travel makes its post-COVID comeback for a public grown accustomed to convenient, contactless service.
Airports like Reagan National and Denver International have begun providing iPads at restaurant tables on which diners can check out the menu, order food and drinks, and more. 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 to make it easier to find something to eat.
But the benefits aren’t restricted to the dining room. Many airports are using this mobile access, not just to increase convenience and decrease wait times in the restaurant, but also to allow travelers to order and have their food delivered to them right at the departure gate.
OneDine’s solutions offer easy initial setup and data-driven insights to make restaurant and dining operations more efficient and 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.
Technology is even transforming the back of the house at airport restaurants, with such innovations as technology to reduce the cooking time of burgers or even kitchen robots tasked with the more repetitive cooking tasks, like stirring, sauteing, or even the flipping of those burgers.
Time is a highly valuable commodity when it comes to air travel, and these and other technologies help to make the most of it by decreasing wait times and eliminating the need to traipse your way to the other side of the airport and then rush back to your gate after gulping down your meal.
But what if you don’t even have time to wait for your food to be delivered to you?
Newark Liberty Airport, along with Amazon, have got you covered there as well. Using Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, travelers at Liberty’s Terminal C can walk into CIBO Express Gourmet Markets, check in at the door with their credit card, grab food and beverage items from shelves or coolers, and simply walk out without having to wait for a cashier. Just grab and go. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that.
Technology keeps on rolling forward, and in this time of unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, it’s continued to step up to keep society moving as much as possible through shutdowns and social distancing restrictions.
And while jumping on a plane and gliding away into a relaxing holiday getaway may seem at the moment like a pipe dream, the time will come when we can start packing our bags. And when it does, you won’t have to worry about finding a good meal in the airport (or about lugging your carry-on for miles to look for it).
Whether using your own mobile device or browsing your way through an airport-provided iPad, mobile technology continues to transform the air travel industry, and the world, all while helping to keep you well fed.