You’re Going To See More Local Coffee Places In Airports, And Not Just Starbucks - Scott Livengood

You’re Going To See More Local Coffee Places In Airports, And Not Just Starbucks. Here’s Why.

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For nearly 30 years, there was one refuge that travelers could count on in many airports around the country: Starbucks.

No matter how questionable or costly the food choices, fliers could line up (and the lines could often be long) to get the latte or iced tea they were used to drinking at home.

But soon, you may see names other than Starbucks showing up when you stroll down to your gate.

The reason is the end of a long-time exclusivity agreement between Starbucks and HMSHost, one of the major concessionaires who run food and drink businesses at the country’s airports.

Since 1991, only HMSHost could operate Starbucks’ airport locations, which now number about 400. Back when the deal began, it helped the coffee company get valuable visibility as it was expanding across the U.S. and around the world.

And, HMSHost’s participation meant travelers could find brand-name coffee rather than have to rely on no-name brew.

However, in January, the two sides decided to end that exclusivity agreement. They say they will continue to work together. But, there will be some changes.

HMSHost can contract with different coffee companies, while Starbucks can experiment with different ways of offering drinks.

Increasingly, airport operators have been asking for more local businesses, rather than the ubiquitous national names.

New Orleans is a great example. Its new terminal is populated by restaurants from across the Crescent City. Coffee vendors include locally owned PJ’s Coffee, Cafe du Monde, famed for its chicory laced cafe au lait, plus Peet’s Coffee and Tea, and Starbucks.

In Denver International Airport, local favorite Dazbog Coffee has a store near the C gates. In Detroit, local grocery chain Plum Market offers Zingerman’s Coffee at its airport outlet.

Of course, you can find Dunkin’ coffee at multiple outlets in Boston’s Logan Airport, but there is also an outlet of Peet’s in Terminal B.

Meanwhile airline travel patterns mean that concourses can be jammed in certain seasons, like summer or the holidays, and during morning and evening rush hours. But other times, business trails off.

Since Starbucks locations are fixed, operators had to suffer through slow times, then be overwhelmed once business picked up.

In an interview with CNBC, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said the company was exploring ideas like movable coffee kiosks that could pop up in spots where they are needed.

For instance, if travelers get stranded due to a snowstorm, they wouldn’t have to hunt down Starbucks. The coffee company could wheel itself to them.

“It is clear we have to reinvent and rethink how we do this,” Johnson said in the interview.

Moreover, Starbucks may now show up in airports where HMSHost is not present, something it wasn’t able to do under the previous deal.

So, travelers, keep an eye open as you’re trying to keep your eyes open. Your coffee choices are expanding.

About Scott Livengood

Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.

Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.

Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.

He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.