Hartsfield-Jackson prepares to rebid concessions contracts

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is launching a major revamp of the shops in its domestic terminal and concourses. AJC file photo

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is launching a major revamp of the shops in its domestic terminal and concourses. AJC file photo

Hartsfield-Jackson International general manager John Selden pledged a "fair and transparent contract process" as the city prepares to rebid contracts for new airport shops and restaurants.

“We are committed, from Mayor (Keisha Lance) Bottoms through the cabinet, through my team,” Selden said. “I cannot stress this enough.”

Selden's comments at the airport's Concessions RFP Industry Day on Tuesday come amid a federal bribery investigation into City Hall, and follow the sentencing last year of the city's former chief procurement officer Adam Smith in the corruption probe.

Last week, longtime city contractor Jeff Jafari was charged in a federal indictment that accused him of bribery, money laundering, tax evasion and tampering with a witness. Jafari in 2017 had shown interest in the airport concessions contracts, attending a meeting for prospective bidders and asking questions of city officials.

The airport held the Industry Day for companies interested in 7- and 10-year concessions contracts at the airport for nearly 100 restaurants and shops expected to generate a total of nearly $170 million in sales annually.

The airport is canceling all of the previous contracting processes for airport shops and Concourse E and B restaurants.

Initial plans are to put out for bid around late April contracts for restaurants on Concourse E — a total of 14 spaces, along with two restaurants on Concourse B.

Then, this summer, the airport plans to put out for bid contracts for 81 shops across the airport’s domestic terminal and concourses.

Most of the restaurant and shop spaces are grouped into packages, with multiple spaces in each contract up for bid.

Contracting reforms

The contracting process for airport shops, initially started in 2017, has been on hold for more than a year because of the federal corruption investigation into Atlanta City Hall.

Bottoms said she wanted to address questions about the integrity of the city’s procurement process before the city took action on contracts worth millions of dollars in revenue.

The city has been working on reforms in contracting, including the recent launch of an e-procurement process and an independent procurement review office.

Another ongoing problem in city of Atlanta contracting has been the volume of companies disqualified from winning. The city disqualified more than half of the bids it received for contracts because of errors in filling out forms and submitting documentation, and the airport didn’t have enough qualified companies bidding on the concessions in 2017 to move forward with all of the contracts.

Selden took the helm of the airport last year, when the contracting for new airport shops and restaurants had already been on hold for months. On Tuesday, he told concessionaires it’s a day “I’ve been waiting for since my first day here. I know there’s a lot of you out here today that have been waiting a lot longer.”

“Let’s make this better for everybody, please,” he said.

More airport projects to come

In coming months, the airport also plans to contract out for a variety of new concessions projects, including plans for a common use lounge on Concourse E, similar to The Club at ATL on Concourse F.

Also planned are airport food trucks in areas where workers have little access to restaurants or eateries — such as at the airport’s truck staging area, holding lots for Uber and Lyft drivers, cargo buildings, maintenance facilities and engineering offices.

And in anticipation of a change in city policy that would ban smoking in the airport, Hartsfield-Jackson is also planning to convert smoking rooms throughout the concourses into restaurants or shops.

“We’re one of the few airports where you can still smoke in the airport, for now,” said airport concessions director Chilly Ewing.

The world’s busiest airport is also phasing out kiosks on the concourses, because of fire marshal requirements that obstacles to passenger flows be removed, Ewing said.

“They’re allowing us to keep the ones that we have because they’re grandfathered,” Ewing said. But after contracts end, “[the kiosks] will be removed and not be replaced.”

Outside of the airport itself, Brown said there are also plans to put out for bid contracts for six business districts, to develop land owned by Hartsfield-Jackson around the airport area into retail, restaurant, office park, travel plaza and light industrial.