“It is necessary to rethink the business model, expanding and diversifying the services and products offered”

Autogrill is Corporate Sponsor of this year’s ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition, with Chief Marketing Officer Ezio Balarini participating in the Fourth Working Session – “Eating is the new shopping” – at the event. Interview by Ross Falconer

Ezio Balarini, Chief Marketing Officer, Autogrill Group: “Digital will play a fundamental role in the future. In fact, it is necessary to rethink the business model, expanding and diversifying the value of the services and products offered, also through the introduction of new tools and technologies to promote change and increase customer service.”

Customers are paying increasing attention to the provenance of the food & beverages they consume. Today, they not only want to eat well, but also know where the product comes from, how the supply chain is built, and how much it impacts on physical well-being. These aspects are certainly being considered by operators in the airport F&B sphere.

“Autogrill Group has been able to give airport terminals both the vivacity and character of the best local restaurants, and the innovation and creativity of brands created ad hoc to satisfy travellers’ needs,” says Ezio Balarini, Chief Marketing Officer, Autogrill Group. “Another important aspect of the Group’s philosophy is innovation, in terms of both advanced technological services and avant-garde cuisine.”

Indeed, digital transformation is a strategic priority for Autogrill, which tailors solutions to the particular needs or behaviours of travelling consumers in each location. For example, it recently introduced kiosks for pre-ordering in several quick service restaurants – 71 in North America and about 50 in Europe.

“In North America, HMSHost finalised an exclusive agreement with Kallpod based on which a new generation interactive service will be made available in 100 restaurants at 33 airports,” Balarini explains. “More recently, it has signed a partnership with Freedompay and Alipay, allowing all forms of mobile payments in our stores.”

Meanwhile, at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, HMSHost International and Deliveroo have launched a new service for passengers flying from the D and E gates, who can now order F&B through their smartphones.

“Digital will play a fundamental role in the future,” Balarini asserts. “In fact, it is necessary to rethink the business model, expanding and diversifying the value of the services and products offered, also through the introduction of new tools and technologies to promote change and increase customer service. The possibility of ordering through the kiosks or the mobile payment are revolutionising the travel experience.”

“Continuous transformation of the market”

Last year, Autogrill expanded in Spain by entering Barcelona-El Prat and Gran Canaria airports. At Barcelona-El Prat this includes a mix of local concepts and international brands such as Starbucks and TGI Friday. At Gran Canaria, Autogrill has opened a Leon restaurant, as well as Cafè de Indias and the Playa Padre lounge bar.

Last year, Autogrill expanded in Spain by entering Barcelona-El Prat and Gran Canaria airports. New openings at Gran Canaria include a Leon restaurant.

Meanwhile, Autogrill, through HMSHost, has been awarded a new 10-year F&B contract at Boston Logan International Airport. The planned completion of all openings is scheduled for mid-2020. Openings in the airport’s Terminal B include Kelly’s Roast Beef – a family-owned casual eatery with four eastern-Massachusetts locations; Trade – a casual-dining Mediterranean restaurant; Sullivan’s – a quick-service seaside-style eatery; and Monument Restaurant & Tavern. Terminal B will also offer four Starbucks outlets.

In Boston Logan’s Terminal C, openings include an airport location of Hanover Street’s year-round indoor marketplace, Boston Public Market. Here, travellers will find local market vendors offering fresh, seasonal food and drink from New England’s farmers, fishers, and food entrepreneurs. The space will also contain a full-service bar and a Starbucks. Terminal C will also showcase Santarpio’s Pizza – a well-known East Boston landmark. Meanwhile, in Terminal E, Saloniki Greek is a quick-serve Mediterranean-style restaurant with a full-service bar.

Looking ahead, Autogrill plans to continue building partnerships with successful brands, increasing the portfolio of brands under concession. Indeed, it is this variety of brands that defines the company’s business model.

“Dynamism and innovation are the company’s response to the continuous transformation of the market, while experimentation, gastronomic research and promotion of particular territories are the key drivers for maintaining a sustainable and long-lasting competitive edge in every country where the Group operates.”

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