Hartsfield-Jackson plans new restaurants, shops across airport

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is moving forward with a contracting process for new restaurants and shops across the airport, more than a decade after the last airport-wide refresh of concessions.

Plans to revamp food and retail outlets at the world’s busiest airport were delayed for years by contracting issues and a federal corruption investigation at Atlanta City Hall, then put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on Thursday, the airport held an informational session for companies interested in two contracts for multiple spots across several concourses. Hartsfield-Jackson officials plan to contract out for many more concessions locations across the airport next year.

Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Balram Bheodari on Thursday told interested companies that the airport is preparing for future growth and pledged to uphold integrity.

“This is going to be a very transparent process, and at the end of it all, the most responsible proponents will be awarded these packages,” Bheodari said.

A number of key factors have changed since the last major concessions overhaul at Hartsfield-Jackson in 2012.

The concessions procurement is moving forward less then two weeks after Hartsfield-Jackson terminated its concessions director Marlene Coleman.

The airport did not give a reason for the dismissal, and said after her departure that questions about contracting opportunities should be directed to the city’s Department of Procurement.

Last year the city of Atlanta, which owns and operates the airport, approved an increase in how much concessionaires can charge at the Atlanta airport. While they were previously allowed to charge 10% more than similar prices outside the airport, the city upped that to 15% above street pricing.

Airport officials said the change was because the pandemic drove supply chain issues and higher expenses, and some businesses are paying higher wages to try to attract workers. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said while on the City Council — before being elected to lead the city — that he wanted to increase the price cap so airport vendors could pay workers a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Higher prices paid by travelers also benefit the airport, by driving higher rent paid by concessionaires, since rent is based on a percentage of gross sales.

Another key change in the last several years is that some local concessionaires have merged, including the acquisition of Atlanta-based Hojeij Branded Foods by national giant Paradies Lagardère.

Concessionaires have struggled with staffing issues through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the only major concessions contract awarded since 2020 was for a new Concourse T extension that recently opened with food outlets still under construction.