THAILAND. Welcome to our rolling coverage of the 2023 Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) + Hospitality Conference and Awards, held this year at The Millennium Hilton Hotel Bangkok.
FAB makes a welcome return as an in-person event for the first time since 2019. Over the next two days it will feature a stellar line-up of speakers from the airport F&B and hospitality world, culminating with a glittering Gala Dinner on 13 September, hosted by Airports of Thailand. Here, the winners of the 20 FAB + Hospitality Awards will be revealed.
Below, we feature extensive live coverage in words and images.
19:00 A memorable celebration of the best of the airport food & beverage industry unfolded at the Gala Dinner.
Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport captured the ultimate Airport Food & Beverage Offer of the Year accolade.
On a triumphant night for the Doha-based company, Qatar Duty Free won numerous other big global awards, plus several regional and Highly Commended accolades.
The awards were presented at a glittering gala dinner hosted by Airports of Thailand (with wines & Champagne sponsored by Emirates Leisure Retail/MMI).
See the full roll of honour of the 20 major award category winners plus regional winners and highly commended entries via our story here.
19:30 Pictured below are the opening scenes from the FAB Gala Dinner tonight hosted by Airports of Thailand, with wines generously sponsored by Emirates Leisure Retail.
17:00 We are delighted to announce that the 2024 Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) + Hospitality Conference and Awards will be staged in California, USA next year. Ontario International Airport will host the event on 25-26 June, with the venue to be confirmed.
The host for next year’s event was revealed at the conclusion of the 2023 conference in Bangkok, Thailand. Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Airline Affairs and Properties Manager Annie Lin and OIAA Advisor Dan Cappell joined The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie on stage to make the announcement.
Read our full story here.
17:00 Martin Moodie presented the third FAB Superstars Awards, which recognise the efforts and achievements of frontline staff all over the globe in the fast-paced and often stressful travel food & beverage sector.
“We aim to recognise the doers, the greeters, the people whose small, thoughtful touches and acts of service quietly make our journeys more pleasurable and memorable,” said Moodie, introducing the awards.
“This is an opportunity for the travel F&B community to reward the efforts of staff during what has continued to be a challenging time and to say ‘Thank you! We see that you went above and beyond.’
“These awards are about heart and soul and we have chosen winners whose incredible stories moved us and who are priceless to their employers and to the lucky people they have helped along their travels.”
Here is the full 2023 FAB Superstars roll of honour:
Front of house team winners
The Americas: The Areas Worldwide Challenge
Asia Pacific: SSP Mactan Cebu Team, Mactan Cebu International Airport
Europe: SSP Burger King Team, Stansted Airport.
Africa and the Middle East: Emirates Leisure Retail Costa Coffee T3 Skytrain, Dubai International Airport
Back of house team winners
The Americas: HMS Host, Toronto Pearson International Airport
Europe: Autogrill Product Innovation, Concept Development and Training Team
Africa and the Middle East: Emirates Leisure Retail Giraffe, Concourse, Dubai International Airport
Front of house star individuals
The Americas: Savitre Sukham, SSP America, John F Kennedy International Airport
Asia Pacific: Kate Chessells, SSP Asia Pacific, Operations Manager Hobart Airport
Africa and the Middle East: Edabelle Ragay-Veloso, SSP Eastern Europe and Middle East, HSE & Sustainability Manager
Back of house star individuals
The Americas: Wael elTabach, Regional Director of Dining Operations, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Paradies Largardère
Asia Pacific: Arianna Brezigar, HMSHost International, Project Manager of Operations APAC
Europe: Jim Norris, Food and Beverage Director for SSP UK and Ireland
Africa and the Middle East: Habibur Rahman Skarkar, Senior Cook, SSP Eastern Europe and the Middle East
16:00 An engaging session – ‘People Power – Retention, Recognition and Reward in the Workplace’ – moderated by FAB Editor-in-Chief Elişa Roche, with Plaza Premium Group Director of Global Brand and Transformation Mei Mei Song and SSP Asia Pacific People Director Patty Wong addressed a wide range of employee engagement topics.
Wong said transparency and communication is crucial in people matters but there is “no silver bullet” to a work-life balance for employees in the challenging airport food & beverage environment. She offered the opinion that the 24-hour nature of the business allows a good degree of flexibility in staff working hours.
SSP, she noted, works with Gallup to regularly monitor employee sentiment about their working lives, to help shape employment policy.
She highlighted SSP Group CEO Patrick Coveney’s travels to more than 30 SSP markets in the last year, during which he talked to employees, learning more about their roles and experiencing their challenges at first hand.
Employees themselves participate in SSP’s ‘Fly, Learn & Grow’ initiative, which gives them opportunities to travel and see how things work across the company’s different markets.
Song noted that PPG has a high percentage of very loyal employees who have been with the business a long time, and she described a feeling of family and camaraderie amongst staff.
Many of these loyal employees get opportunities to work and travel with PPG pre-opening teams, using their skills sets to help the company to enter new airport markets.
Senior managers are encouraged to work and observe at PPG airport facilities to ensure they are always grounded in the challenges of staff working on the ‘shop floor’. Song herself tries to do this as often as she can.
14.30 Kepler Club CEO Ömer Alaettinoğlu and CapsuleTransit CEO Ryan Loo featured in the ‘Positive Disruption of the Airport Hospitality Offer’ in an engaging afternoon session.
The business leaders emphasised the importance of a technology-focused business model that generates revenue through short-term resting/sleeping services at the airport.
Aside from the traditional airport lounges where paying members can stay while waiting for their flights, Kepler aimed to diversify the services available at airports and bring what it calls “fast casual services” to passengers.
But for these new services to become more popular, Alaettinoğlu noted that importance of efficiency and customer service. “I always tell my staff that the single most important thing we emphasise should be customer satisfaction. Customers should be happy and should be willing to come back after their stay.”
Inspired by the capsule hotels in Japan that were created in 1979, Loo took the opportunity to modernise this concept in 2019. But as the pandemic brought the world to a halt, the newly-established business had to close as well.
With the return of international travel, Loo sees an increasing interest in these accommodations in the airport environment. “As travel started to recover at certain airports, travellers are looking for seamless connectivity. Capsule hotels play a very important role in fulfilling this need.”
He also seeks to change people’s perception of these capsule hotels. “We want to elevate the perception of capsule hotels and make it more inviting, premium and acceptable to the general public,” he said.
CapsuleTransit offers a wide range of services and amenities including coffee, toiletries, lockers and more. And customers can just check in anytime and pay on an hourly basis.
14:00 In the session ‘Pushing the Boundaries of Airport Food, Beverage and Hospitality’, Ever Rich Duty Free President Kevin Chiang gave an excellent presentation which aimed to answer the question: can airports truly integrate food & beverage, lounges and even gate areas into one holistic experience?
Chiang revealed strong growth numbers from Taoyuan International Airport, including the startling statistic that the airport’s F&B customer growth rate is +90% in comparison to 2019.
He gave observations on traveller behaviour at the airport, which included a rise in digital payments and increasing numbers of, and spend from, Southeast Asian passengers.
Chiang highlighted the great diversity of F&B options at Taoyuan International, giving the example of Wong’s Broth, which has now been on the Michelin Guide Taipei Bib Gourmand list for five consecutive years. This is now a 40-year-old establishment with its sole venue at the airport.
He noted the rise in demand for local specialities, highlighting the popularity of dishes such as beef noodles, which are are an important and representative delicacy in Taiwan.
The local options offered by Ever Rich Duty Free at the airport include a wide variety of Taiwan street foods, which are representative of local culinary culture. Sense of Place is becoming an increasingly important driver for food & beverage, Chiang said.
Following the presentation, Chiang sat down with The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie and gave insights into how Ever Rich Duty Free is elevating the customer experience at the airport and how he sees the commercial offer evolving.
12.15 A very lively conversation on airport customer experience between Premium Group Director of Global Brand and Transformation Mei Mei Song and presenter Dermot Davitt took place on stage.
The bright and engaging Song shared insights into the journey of the Hong Kong-based company founded by her father, the legendary Song Hoi-see a quarter of a century ago.
Plaza Premium Group introduced the world’s first independent airport lounge and today operates the largest network of international airport lounges and related airport hospitality experiences and passenger service solutions.
11.15 An excellent session titled ‘The Evolving Role of Airport Lounges in the Customer Experience’ delved into how airport lounges and hospitality services are becoming an essential part of the traveller experience.
Joining moderator Dermot Davitt on stage were CAVU Experiences Director Matt Etchells; Travel Food Services (TFS) Executive Director Varun Kapur; Airport Dimensions Head of Business Development APAC Syaifullah Sarip; and DreamFolks Services Chief Business Officer Sandeep Sonawane.
Etchells shared some insights about how his team is offering an “elevated” customer experience in its lounges.
He said: “Our key product is the Escape Lounge, which we operate both across the UK and the US. We offer a number of elevations such as the rotation of champagnes throughout the year, cut-to-order chef’s steaks and – primarily – an adult-only location.
“We also have our Premium service, which is the closest thing you can get to a private jet experience, but open-to-all. You get a concierge service, private security, the chef meets you in the lounge and a chauffeur-driven car takes you straight up to the airport steps. That product has been closed since COVID but will re-open very early in 2024 when the Standard 3 security comes into force next year.”
Etchells also spoke about the critical importance of paying attention to mundane details. “Over the next six months I want to be spending much more time focusing on the basics and the fundamentals of our product proposition.
“It is always tempting to focus your attention on the innovation, the technology, the ‘sexier’ side of the business. But are we truly spending enough time on what I would describe as one degree shifts and consistency, on colleague training, on menus and – of course – on standards.”
Travel Food Services’ Kapur talked about the business boom for airport hospitality just waiting to be harvested in India.
“People think of India as one of the new kids, from a business point of view, and it is palatable on the ground. You will see that the second you enter and it is testament to what is being done. India is a very young country with great potential and a massive population.
“It will soon be one of the three largest aviation markets in the world and we are going to see a massive boom there and we will need people to cater to this aspirational crowd.”
He spoke about how his company had leveraged its relationship with SSP to gain valuable insights about the new consumers and found key areas of growth.
“We saw convenience, wellbeing and leisure travel, more dwell times and premiumisation as key themes. There is a huge increase now in the allocated budget for travel versus what people did in the past.
“We know that what matters to [airport] customers most is wellbeing, ease and convenience, enhanced experiences and doing good. People really do care about sustainable practices and companies giving back.”
He said they had been receiving “incredible” customer feedback at TFS lounges, wherever authentic local design touches or stories were told.
“At the welcome area of our Bangalore lounge, the carpet is handwoven by local artisans. Bringing that story in and talking about it is crucial. Every space tells a story and that story is inbuilt. You have to do things differently. That’s what customers want.
“In F&B we do à la carte. Lounges got stuck in a rut of offering buffet lunches. That’s great, but it’s not the experience that you want. The lounge should really be the best restaurant in the airport. It should be premium.”
Airport Dimensions’ Sarip also talked about personalisation as a key element in satisfying the customer.
He presented on Airport Dimensions research, and said: “We wanted to see if airports had fallen out of favour with travellers. What did we find? There is a higher demand for personal space; a safe space away from crowds.
“And 62% wanted to have the option to shop online and deliver food or other items to a home destination, a food delivery app at the airport. There are signs telling us that convenience is big.
“Personalised experiences at the airport are big, as is premium shopping. People are willing to spend a higher amount for spa, wellness, anything that provides some kind of premiumisation. And devices are at the core of this customer experience.”
DreamFolks Services’ Sandeep Sonawane rounded things off with some excellent insights about the different types of consumers using airports, both in India and around the world.
“We know about the discerning customer,” he said. “But there is another set of consumers that we sometimes forget, the ‘aspirants’. These are people who want to be seen with the select few. They want to mingle with people who can afford a first class or business class ticket. The middle class is huge.
“There is a sea change in the consumer pre- and post-COVID. I think we are going through a disruptive phase. People felt lounges might be a better place for them, with better food and better hygiene and because of that they started coming into those spaces and the growth jumped.
“Let’s face it none of us were ready for it but it’s a good problem to have!”
Flashback to last night (part 1) Here, we share some official images from last night’s FAB-ulous Welcome Evening, generously sponsored by SPP. It was an amazing party – featuring a stunning fireworks display above the Chao Phraya river – that brought the beach to riverside Bangkok.
Check back here later for more colourful flashbacks to last night.
10:00 For the session ‘Converging Channels: The Fusion of F&B and Retail’, Lagardère Travel Retail Executive Vice President Foodservice Global Mélanie Guilldou has been stage to present on her company’s impressive growth strategy in the airport food & beverage market. She then sat down for a discussion on the subject with moderator Dermot Davitt.
Guilldou said that airports and brands are now setting their eyes on experience and retailtainment, which she describes as the top consumer trends. This is why creating these new concepts are what could likely be the new trend in travel retail as evidenced by the success of Lagardère’s downtown shops. “Bringing food [at these stores] is the best way to create this experience,” she said.
The Bound concept store – a bespoke travel essentials and café offering – at Brisbane Airport is among the examples from Lagardère of this emerging trend. Guilldou said: “We developed this to be able to attract more people and to have a different experience in the store. From day one, it was already creating strong interest from customers.”
She emphasised how the combination of these two trends can bring benefits across the entire value chain. “It can bring many benefits, but first the goal is not to cannibalise anything but to bake a bigger cake. We have been able to monitor and prove it was creating some value and maximising revenues.”
9:05 Day two of the conference has kicked off with some fascinating industry insights. The Moodie Davitt Report Travel Retail Research Director Jess Allerton (pictured presenting below) set the scene, outlining a ground-breaking new study into the airport food & beverage market.
The in-progress initial study is being produced by The Moodie Davitt Report alongside its partner, tRetail Labs. Also presenting was tRetail Labs Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder Sossina Shenkute.
Discussing the rationale of the new report, Allerton said: “We all know in our industry it can be hard to find data specifically on airport food and beverage. Yet F&B is a critical revenue stream for airports.
“There are no clear sources providing data on the total market, there’s no trended total category data, and what data that is available is typically aggregated within the travel retail category so it becomes very difficult to disseminate at a granular level, or draw any conclusions from what is out there.
“We have been hearing from F&B operators there is a growing demand for contextualised data and insight as F&B becomes an increasingly important category on its own.
“Therefore, there is a clear opportunity to bridge this gap by harnessing the power of data analytics, and coming together as an industry, to share data helping operators, brands and airports to build better targeted, forward-looking strategies.
“Our new global study aims to do just this– contextualising F&B data to provide insight into the market, visualise who operates where, provide the unprompted consumer perspective and discuss current trends and developments in the industry.”
In an engaging presentation, Shenkute (pictured delivering her talk above) presented some of the early findings of the tRetail/Moodie Davitt Report research, with a specific focus on Asia Pacific markets and ‘travel sentiments’; a taster of the comprehensive report which will follow.
She said of the travel sentiment element: “For each airport we conduct a traveller sentiment analysis through a social listening methodology to understand travellers’ experiences and perceptions surrounding brands, products and services. As well as identifying any emerging trends or needs we also monitor all major regional and global platforms.”
For updates on the report, please subscribe to our FAB newsletter (via email to firstname.lastname@example.org). More follows.
19:00 FAB has always had a different vibe to other industry events and tonight was no different as SSP Group hosted a brilliantly immersive party that brought the beach to riverside Bangkok.
A magnificent Welcome Evening culminated in warm words from SSP Group CEO Patrick Coveney about the significance of the event’s return, followed by a stunning fireworks display above the Chao Phraya river. What an astounding statement of belief in SSP’s commitment to our sector and to FAB.
17:15 In this final session of the day, renowned chefs Diana Chan and Pitaya Phanphensophon were put to the test as they cooked live on stage, showing off their prowess as they prepared each other’s native cuisines, in a competition in partnership with COCA & Mango Tree Restaurants Worldwide. The session was led by COCA & Mango Tree Restaurants Worldwide Director Walter Lee.
16:30 Airport International Group (AIG) Chief Commercial Officer Deema Anani today unveiled a major F&B tender opportunity at Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan at the conference.
Anani originally announced the tender during the FAB Conference & Awards in 2018 in Helsinki. The concession was awarded to BTA Catering and Lagardère Travel Retail in 2019. But the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic forced the airport company to cancel the opportunity.
For this new tender, the airport is seeking a master concessionaire to occupy 1,600sq m space in departures and 600sq m at the arrivals area under an eight-year term.
With a vision already set out, Anani said AIG wants to work with a partner to help them achieve it, in what she describes as “the truest meaning of partnership.”
She said: “The difference in this tender is that we’re offering zones so we’re not identifying what goes where but we’re identifying what we would like to see. We’re leaving it to the successful bidder basically to design the space and design the location and say what goes where based on their vision expertise and experience.”
Anani also spoke about the importance of innovation and Sense of Place. “If you do not understand the place [Jordan], you cannot develop a Sense of Place. The Sense of Place definition is elastic, what it means to the local community is what really matters.”
15:30 Qatar Duty Free Senior Vice President Thabet Musleh captivated the audience in a session dedicated to the great ambition and execution of recent Hamad International Airport (HIA) food & beverage projects.
The F&B offer has been completely transformed, he noted, from the café brands in the airport right up to the first Louis Viutton restaurant and lounge in the world.
Musleh reported a remarkable +100% increase in food & beverage revenues at the airport in the year-to-date measured against 2019. This has been achieved with just a +11% uplift in passengers.
“It’s a phenomenal growth and transformation,” said Musleh, noting that F&B partners SSP and HMSHost have grown their HIA business +100% and +1,000% respectively this year to date vs. 2019.
He recalled that during the early days of COVID-19, “we went back to the drawing board and really questioned ourselves [about the make-up of the F&B offer]. Now, you can see real commercial results driven by bold commercial decisions.”
Part of the strategy, he explained, was to change the perception of HIA as an airport with a luxury offering only.
Musleh, who has brought five social media influencers to Bangkok to share content on the FAB conference to their followers, continued: “From the budget traveller with simple sustenance requirements to the first class passenger looking for an exclusive experience, we’re now catering for every need. No matter how much you spend, where you come from, how long you stand at the airport, we can guarantee you an experience.
“I say this with immense pride and not with arrogance. But I don’t believe that there is an airport in the world that can challenge us on our F&B.”
And the HIA F&B revolution will not stop there, with Musleh revealing that a number of new openings at the airport have just taken place and there are more in the pipeline.
He invited the conference audience to get involved with the HIA F&B offer: “I’d like to issue an open invitation today to brands to come up with any new concept, any new idea. No matter how crazy, we will listen. If it’s right for our passengers and meets our ambitions we’re not afraid to take risks and take the lead.”
14:45 The Great Vietnam Travel & F&B Opportunity. IPP Travel Retail CEO and Imex Pan Pacific VP Business Development Phillip Nguyen (below) and Dufry Regional Managing Director Asia Pacific David Mackay address the emergence of a great travel market, with some great insights and dash of humour. More to follow.
14:00 A Conversation on Purpose, Not Compliance. That is the theme for a fascinating discussion (moderated by Dermot Davitt) with SSP Chief Executive Officer Patrick Coveney and Minor International Founder & Chairman William Heinecke.
The pair revealed what they learned from Covid, hopes for future expansion together and the power of having deeply loyal staff in a segment called ‘A Conversation on Purpose, Not Compliance’.
“Our relationship goes back some 30 years, and we certainly share common values,” said Heinecke as he spoke about how both companies learn from each other. “Since we operate many brands domestically, we are able to give targeted, expert support, whether it is a fast ramp-up for an airport location or something else. We want to be a global player, we can learn a great deal from SSP and we would certainly like to partner with them in other locations going forward.”
This power of collaboration and shared learning was enthusiastically mirrored by Patrick Coveney, who added, “What has mattered so much for us is finding a way to bring the capabilities that we’ve got into markets that we wouldn’t necessarily understand brilliantly by ourselves.”
Heinecke spoke about how a global company like his is levelling the playing field for all staff and focusing on sustainability in a measurable way.“
Like SSP, we are very focused on diversity and in our company globally there is no differentiation between male or female, he said. “We are very broad in our nationalities with over 62 countries represented. It’s an area where we’ve found very similar thinking to SSP and, being a public company, we are also focused on the environment. SSP is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2040 and we say we are going to be by 2050. Let’s see who gets there first because we are very focused!”
On sustainability in the hotels business, he added: “Half the world is short of water and everyone always brings up our request to ‘not use our towels more than once’. A lot of people think we are ‘green-washing’ and trying to save a bit of money but when you see some countries in Africa where they have no water at all, you realise we are all on the same planet and have to respect it. We have made a huge impact just by trying to reduce the amount of laundry we do.”
And he said he had been humbled by the devotion of his staff during Covid, “I am not afraid of tsunamis, or airports that go bankrupt, but we lost a billion dollars during Covid through hotels that were shut down,” he said, “At one stage we had all 500 hotels shuttered and many of the airports were too. In China, we were only allowed delivery in Shanghai but nobody could move around the city. We managed to get two or three stores open but that meant that staff had to live in the store, had to shower there, dress there. It really makes you feel proud of your teams and amazed by the spirit of the people.”
12.00 For a session titled ‘Food and Hospitality in the Traveller’s Journey’, Emirates Leisure Retail (ELR) & MMI Group Chief Executive Officer Tyrone Reid took to the stage to present on the rise of his companies (which are both subsidiaries of the Emirates Group) and their growth in travel retail.
ELR owns and operates a wide-ranging portfolio of retail, restaurants, cafés and bars in airports across the US, Middle East, Asia, Australasia and East Africa.
A key focus of the presentation, and subsequent conversation with presenter Dermot Davitt, was ELR’s work as master concessionaire for the new terminal at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar.
Reid highlighted the strong Sense of Place that runs through both the retail and F&B concepts at the airport and underlined its importance for future projects.
Asked by Davitt about EMI’s growth aspirations for the airport space, Reid noted upcoming projects at Changi Airport and Australasia. But he cautioned that priorities for future business will depend on bidding prices being at sensible levels.
“We don’t have to go after everything,” he said. “We are very focused on what we want to bid for, but we are not bidding at any price. There’s been a shift where these bids are really pushing the price up for everyone.
“So we’re just taking a long term view that we will grow in a natural, organic way, bidding for the right opportunities. We are looking for the deals where can get long term agreements, getting payback for investments over a longer period of time.”
Discussing the Minimum Annual Guarantee (MAG) concession model, he said: “The minimum guarantees in this day and age have become a real challenge and a real burden for everyone. Where you actually pay as you grow, you have an incentive to grow which makes it a much more level playing field [in competition with the industry’s bigger players].
“We are seeing challenges with rents increasing and MAGs increasing – this has a knock on effect on price [to the consumer]. There is global squeeze on traveller spend and there’s a link between rent and price.
“I’ve had conversations on many occasions with airport operators saying if you want high street prices we need high street rents it’s as simple as that. I think a commitment to the right level of rent [set by the airport operators] can allow us to price to the consumer in the right way.”
11:00 The voices of leading women in the industry on their experiences, and the importance of diversity & inclusion in building a new world for travel and dining formed the theme for an enthralling session called FAB Women.
Moderated by Elişa Roche, FAB Editor-in-Chief at The Moodie Davitt Report, it featured a quality quartet of women leaders, including Diana Chan, Chef & MasterChef Australia Winner 2017; Freda Cheung, President and CEO Asia Pacific, Dufry; Mélanie Guilldou, Executive Vice President Foodservice Global, Lagardère Travel Retail; and Natalie Phanphensophon, Chief Operations Officer, COCA & Mango Tree Restaurants Worldwide.
Guilldou underlined the importance of having diversity in an organisation. She said: “As an organisation, we reflect the customers that we serve so having that diversity in the workforce is absolutely crucial.”
Cheung shared that Dufry’s global diversity inclusion committee regularly convenes to address key issues such as career advancement among women in the workplace.
She said: “The topic that we address is what are the unintended barriers that keep women away from accessing advanced opportunities. I personally believe that advancement opportunities are equal for everyone – man or woman doesn’t matter but there are certain elements that are underlying assumptions that maybe were made of expectation and that has really kept women away.”
Chan, who has been successful in her craft despite the male-dominated nature of the culinary industry. She said: “I knew very early on that if I didn’t put my foot down I was never going to be heard or I was just going to be walked over. So I did and that gave me the confidence.”
Running a generations-long family business previously led by her father, Phanphensophon knew that she had big shoes to fill: “Hospitality is quite a delicate job so it needs a lot of patience whether you’re male or male. But we need females – nothing gets done without them.”
10:00 MasterChef Australia winner 2017 Diana Chan joined Martin Moodie on stage to give her thoughts on Food and the Travel Journey. Speaking about the moment she found out she had won Australia’s most-watched TV show, she said, “I was like, Oh my god, sh*t I won! I couldn’t believe it. It took me a while to process the news. For three months I had accustomed myself to not being disappointed just in case.
Diana’s journey in taste started young.
“Mum and dad were fantastic cooks and would talk about their day over dinner, she said, “I thought that was a beautiful way to bring people together.”
Diana, who travels regularly all over the world, was typically frank about her perception of airport food. “Most of it is abysmal,” she said only half-jokingly, “It varies from one to another. When you walk through an airport you know what you want and if it is not there, you might not bother. Sometimes I don’t even eat at the airport or the lounge.”
So what can the industry do to improve? “I would look for things that are comforting and I don’t necessarily mean carb-heavy. Something fresh, local and comforting all in one would be my ideal airport meal.” And her best airport meal may surprise some. Without hesitation, she said, “McDonald’s! You always get the same burger, the same pickles, it’s always consistent.”
If she had the chance to open an airport restaurant, what fare would she offer? Simple, she said. Dumplings and noodles all the way.
09.15 A keynote session kicked off the conference, as Dufry Group CEO Xavier Rossinyol gave insights into the Dufry-Autogrill mega-merger, the challenges of meeting evolving traveller needs and the converging role of retail and F&B.
He said: “It’s very easy to lose sight of the most important thing which is that whatever we do, it has to be centred on the needs of the travelling consumer. Those needs must drive the business.”
Following his presentation, Rossinyol had a candid question and answer session with The Moodie Davitt Report Chairman Martin Moodie and fielded questions from the audience. Themes covered included the Dufry-Autogrill merger, the post-pandemic concession model, digital and staffing challenges, and the key role of Sense of Place in the consumer F&B offer.
The session ended with Moodie asking Rossinyol if he sees a bright future for the modern travel retail industry. He replied: “Absolutely. I see brands working in some industries who know their capacity for future growth is extremely limited. Because they know they are in a dying business. A few years from now such businesses are going to be taken over by Amazon or someone else.
“Our industry? It depends only on the people in this room. It’s for us to decide if we want a great future. One thing I can tell you, there will be more people travelling for sure.”
09:00 The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie and President Dermot Davitt kicked off the 2023 Airport Food & Beverage Conference & Awards proceedings this morning, welcoming guests to the event.
Moodie noted that this is the first time the event has been staged in the Asia Pacific region and gave thanks to Airports of Thailand and Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau for supporting the conference.
Setting the scene, he said: “Since we began [the first event was at Manchester Airport in 2011], this event has changed a lot – as has the world. Digitalisation and even sustainability were barely themes on the radar – now they are top of everyone’s agenda – with COVID an accelerator, if a most unwelcome one.
“Back in 2011, chef-driven restaurants were in their infancy and while the concepts of food provenance and Sense of Place were well-established, they have picked up extraordinary momentum since.
“Our sector has gone through a qualitative revolution in those 12 years – at every level. In that time, travel dining has also become a more central part of the conversation about how travelling consumers are served and how our industry functions.
“Consolidation plays from some of the biggest companies have underlined F&B’s significance as very much complementary to retail, with the convergence of those channels an important dynamic.”
Concluding, he said: “Here in Bangkok we aim to champion the excellent and to showcase the success stories of F&B – a channel that has become centre stage in the airport world in the years since we created this event. Have a FAB-ulous two days ahead.”
Discover more about the FAB + Hospitality Conference and Awards 2023 at our dedicated website here.
FAB EZINE SET TO RETURN
The Moodie Davitt Report is delighted to announce the return of the FAB eZine, a standalone digital magazine dedicated to airport and other travel-related food & beverage views, news, trends, tastes, people, product and principles.
Initially quarterly, beginning in Q4 2023, The FAB eZine will devote year-round coverage to the burgeoning airport food & beverage sector, including broader hospitality services such as hotels and lounges.
The FAB eZine will complement the annual Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards and our already extensive F&B and hospitality coverage on The Moodie Davitt Report.com and in The FAB Newsletter.
Elişa Roche has been appointed Editor-in-Chief, bringing a rare combination of culinary and journalistic excellence and experience to the role. Elişa trained as a chef as part of ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’, a British TV show watched by millions and fronted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. She went on to work as Chef de Partie at some of London’s top Michelin-starred kitchens, e.g. Fino (now Barrafina), The Ivy and Bambou.
Cooking later turned to food writing and presenting, most recently as overseeing editorial partnerships at Food Matters Live. Elişa was also Host and Producer of award-winning B2B podcast ‘Career Conversations’, encouraging young people into the food & drinks industry.