Why is food and drink at the airport so expensive?


If you’ve ever been to an airport, you know the shock of a seal when purchasing food and drink inside an airport terminal. The high cost of food at airports has long been a source of frustration for travelers. It’s true that airport meals are expensive, but there are a number of factors that contribute to the high prices.


high rent and fees

Operating a restaurant within an airport presents unique challenges and costs. Airport lease agreements differ from traditional commercial lease practices.

McDonald's at Hong Kong International Airport.

Rather than working with a property management company to secure commercial space, airport vendors must submit a comprehensive Request for Proposals (RFP) outlining their plans to use the property. They are then evaluated by an expert panel that selects vendors based on the airport’s specific needs.

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According to The Parking Spot, rents for commercial space inside the airport are more than double the average price of space outside the airport.

Another factor driving airport food prices higher is that vendors must pay a portion of their revenues to airport authorities as a concession fee. Concession fees help the airport operate, maintain and improve its infrastructure.

Starbucks at Hangzhou International Airport.

These fees can be expensive and are often passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Portland International Airport charges a minimum annual fee of $80 per square foot annually or 10-18% of sales, whichever is greater.

Shipping and supplier costs

Logistics and supply chain challenges in operating within an airport environment increase the overall cost of food. Delivering fresh produce, perishables and consumables to airport restaurants can be more complex and costly than traditional eateries.

A Chick-fil-A truck delivering to the airport.

Vendors must adhere to security protocols, limited delivery times, and special handling procedures, all of which can result in high shipping and procurement costs. This causes the supplier to charge the vendor a higher fee for transporting the goods to the airport restaurant. Not to mention that airports are typically far from city centers, so shipping rates tend to reflect the supplier’s travel distance.

Employment and personnel costs

As you can imagine, airport security is tight and this applies to staff as well as passengers. Restaurants have to pay up to $100 for a rigorous background check instead of a basic background check every time they hire a new person at an airport store.

A view of the parking lot at Hong Kong International Airport.

Additionally, if restaurants want to retain staff (and avoid paying for multiple background checks), they may need to offer perks such as paying for employee parking. Discounted parking is available for those who work at the airport, but it’s more expensive to begin with. Therefore, the discounted parking fees employers must bear for their employees can be higher than regular fees at malls and other establishments.

In conclusion, the high cost of airport meals may be understandable from a business point of view, but it does not make travelers less frustrated. To reduce the impact on their wallets, passengers can consider several strategies. Bringing snacks and meals from home, choosing dining options outside the immediate vicinity of the airport, and considering airport loyalty programs that offer discounts and rewards can help meet your budgetary needs.

Source: Parking Spot, portland harbor



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