Airports were very utilitarian when I was younger. I can remember the first time our family flew out of Laguardia airport in NYC. As a child, I marveled at the fact that there are TVs at some of the seats. All you had to do was put a quarter in the slot to watch some TV. Of course, we were a family on a budget, so I don’t ever recall being able to use one of those TVs.
Fast forward to today’s airports. They’re divided into two categories. There are plenty of old airports where the physical plant is the biggest limiting factor. Think Laguardia, Cleveland and the C/D terminal at Dulles. Low ceilings and narrow concourses make it difficult to overcome the prison-like feel some of these airports can take on. The other category is new/renovated airports where wide concourses and high ceilings make passengers feel more comfortable.
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is a mixture of both. There are some older terminals that date back more than a few decades. And, there are some newer concourses that have opened as recently as just over a decade ago. I was connecting in IAH today on my way to a work trip and had a bit of time to kill. The United Club closest to my gate was closed for renovation so I wandered a bit with a longer connection.
I wandered into part of the C concourse that’s just getting ready to open, but won’t be fully operational for another day or 2. From the looks of things, passengers are in for a greatly improved experience. I’m following up to get a bit more info, but here are a few details I was able to learn from my quick walk. For starters, here are the restaurants passengers will be able to sample:
- Ember, an American Steakhouse
- Pala, a Neopolitan Pizza Restaurant
- Bam Bam, a Vietnamese Cajun Beer Garden
- Vida Taqueria
A New Model For Gate Areas?
OTG is the operator of these areas, including all the food service at the gates themselves (more on that in a minute). If you’ve been through Newark Airport recently, you’ve seen their food options. Newark Airport undertook a pretty substantial renovation, replacing moving walkways with restaurants and other food options. Those concourses weren’t the most spacious to begin with and they’re even tighter now. The food has improved, but the operations still struggle to be excellent. To my knowledge, OTG hasn’t gone through the process of taking over gate areas as extensively as they’ve done at the C concourse in Houston.
Each gate area has comfortable seats with access to power and a tablet where customers can play games, surf the net and order food. That’s where OTG makes their money. The way things are set up in the new Houston rollout each gate area will be “geo-fenced” to the restaurant closest to it. You’ll be able to walk to another to order food. But, if you’re fine with the restaurant closest to you, there’s no need to get up or wait in line.
The total number of seats in each gate area hasn’t been decreased, even though they’re spaced out more. And, when you consider that not every seat gets occupied at each gate (I know I’m guilty of parking my bag on the seat next to me from time to time), spacing out the seats itself doesn’t mean fewer places to sit.
I only had a few minutes to walk through so I didn’t get pictures of some more intimate seating options, think easy chair ad opposed to airport terminal seats. There’s also a food court that was boarded up (I did see a Potbelly)and a Cibo Express.
The Final Two Pennies
It looks like all the proper paperwork will be in place in the next day or two for restaurants to start opening up. Construction crews were putting the final touch on some areas. Elsewhere, stores like Cibo Express were fully stocked and ready to open. I actually wandered in to Cibo before it “opened”, so customers should be enjoying new amenities soon.
I’ll be interested to give these restaurants a try. These look at least a few steps better than the Newark operations. While I haven’t spent extensive amounts of time in Newark Airport, my meal choices there have been a mixed bag. As a guy who ends up eating a lot in airports, I’m hopeful this is a big step forward.
Let me know if you try out one of these new restaurants. Include a couple of pictures and a quick write-up and I might have something cool from my goody bag for you!
The post Sneak Peek At A Major Houston Airport Food Upgrade was published first on Pizza in Motion