Airport Restaurant & Retail Association
A new industry voice
The Airport Restaurant & Retail Association aims to be the voice of restaurateurs and retailers across the aviation industry on matters of policy and decision making. Dermot Davitt spoke to some of the influential figures in the association’s creation to find out more.
Newly-formed industry organisation the Airport Restaurant & Retail Association (ARRA) has a clear mission: “to educate the airport community on fundamental policy decision-making that has a collective impact on restaurant and retail members”.
A group of retail and food & beverage concessionaires came together to create ARRA with the idea that it would represent all sizes and categories of concessionaires across the airports industry.
Founded in December, the association is now busy attracting members, large and small, from across the regional concessions business to add to its growing network. ARRA has established an initial budget drawn up by members and will also begin the search for a full-time executive director to represent its interests.
In the early stages board members are holding bi-weekly conference calls to discuss the association’s priorities, and members plan to gather at key airport and aviation industry events through the year.
Key plans include:
- To develop joint public relations initiatives to promote the association to the airport communit
- Educate and build membership
- Position the association as a resource to airports on concessions policies
- Focus on how airport concessions policies impact both customer experience and ACDBE and JV partners
ARRA’s first President is SSP America Executive Vice President Pat Murray, with other influential figures in the association’s creation including HMSHost Executive Vice President of Business Development Derryl Benton, Concessions International Senior Managing Partner Kirk Weiss, and Crews Managing Partner & President Nick Buford Crews.
“As the voice of restaurateurs and retailers across the aviation industry, the association’s mission is to ensure an effective dialogue so matters of policy and decision making impacting our members are informed by ARRA’s point of view,” Murray tells The Moodie Davitt Report.
“A group of us have been working on this for almost 18 months. It started with the view that it was difficult for our interests as retail and food & beverage operators to come to the fore when there are so many other topics out there that affect the airports business. Nearly everyone in the world of airports has some sort of association to represent their common interests. It made sense for us to create an association that gives us that voice.”
He adds: “The purpose of an association is to elevate that conversion in the industry and have the topics discussed – because often they are not and decisions are made without the full information.
“The topics are many, from security to sustainability to infrastructure and building new real estate. We will formulate the topics that should lead our agenda in the coming months.
“People who run airports for the most part have not got a retail or restaurant background. There are some things specific to airports that are close to what we do and that we know about. We will be cautious about what we raise; the topics are about win-wins, not about us complaining how difficult doing business is. Our partners may not realise there are things we do in our business already that can benefit them.”
Benton comments: “It is an overdue development. We want to be an asset to our airport partners and an asset to the airport and aviation trade organisations in our industry such as ACI (Airports Council International) or AAAE (American Association of Airport Executives). Within the organisation we are all fierce competitors and will continue to be, but there are times that ARRA can be a voice to speak on the issues at the right time, especially as our industry continues to seek new revenue streams.
“This is exciting and I believe very positive for our industry as we continue to find innovative ways to service the travelling public.”
Crews adds: “The membership growth has been very encouraging so far. Some of the larger operators have helped to drive the process at the beginning as they can bring more resources into play. But all the smaller companies, like ours, have come in quickly and it has been positive. We will continue to have more conversations with other operators in the industry as we all try to serve the public and our airport partners better.”
According to Weiss, ARRA can be a real voice for change with airports but much will depend on sharing best practices. “The concessionaires in the association have experiences from almost all airports right across the country,” he says. “We see what works in some and does not at others. It’s about sharing what works best to improve everyone’s experience.”
Weiss and Crews also highlight the key role that small and minority-led companies will have in the new association.
“It was surprising but welcome to see the representation of ACBDE businesses and other small businesses make up over two-thirds of the original group,” says Weiss. “The board has both large and small or mid-sized companies on it from the start. We feel we have a strong voice. There is a commonality of themes across all players – rising costs from labour to construction and other downward pressures.”
Crews adds: “From the beginning even the board structure was about combining the small and large companies. We all compete for RFPs but beyond that we are aligned with each other and with the airports to drive growth for the business and elevate our guests’ experiences.”
A set of formal goals for the association has yet to be decided, though board members say that at this point they are not considering running conferences or exhibitions, or having a lobbying function as, for example, duty free association IAADFS (International Association of Airport and Duty Free Stores) has long had.
“There is limited membership overlap with IAADFS, which represents duty free operators, and we are not planning any exhibition,” says Benton. “The goal is to find synergy around common interest issues that we as retail and F&B operators are experiencing – and that what we do is beneficial to our airport partners and the industry at large.”
Murray adds: “The focus first is on our airport partners and the people and companies that play into that. Many of the topics that are important to us are important to them too. We may in future want to talk to regulators but only in the sense that it helps us support our airport partners.”
On the eventual scope of the association, Murray concludes: “There are a lot of international companies who want to come to North America – in a perfect world we’d like to involve them in the association too.
“It has been founded by companies and individuals from North America, but we did not do that to exclude anyone, it was just because the founding members were from here and it was practical. There is so much going on in the world outside. The topics are often the same everywhere. If we succeed, others might want to reach out and join us.”
The initial board includes the following members:
Pat Murray, SSP (President)
Andy Weddig, Paradies Lagardère (Secretary)
Bryan Loden, HMSHost (Treasurer)
Bill Casey, Areas
Judy Byrd, Byrd Retail Group
Richard Ayson, Delaware North
Nick Crews, Crews of California
Winston Burns, Newburns Management Group
George Tinsley, Tinsley Family Concessions
Mike Mullaney, Hudson Group
Kirk Weiss, Concessions International
The need for a new association: the ARRA view
- We are a group of businesses who operate in challenging airport environments. Our goal is to create an opportunity for dialogue and an exchange of ideas that elevate the passenger experience and ensure our ACDBE partnerships survive and thrive in this increasingly complex business.
- Our input will offer our airports and airlines a more detailed understanding of the complexities we collectively face in running our businesses so we are all working collaboratively to meet the expectations of the industry for the benefit of passengers.
- We are airport stakeholders who have direct interaction with millions of passengers each year at airports. The food, beverages, products and services passengers purchase from us are essential to the travel experience.
- Our businesses are an important aspect of the local economies and create jobs for local residents.
- We aim to do our part to strengthen the dialogue with our airport partners as members of the airport communities we serve.
- Prior to the association’s establishment, we did not have a dedicated outlet to represent the collective interests of our members. This association creates the opportunity for restaurateurs and retailers to connect and have a single, cohesive voice when speaking to our counterparts in the industry.