Identifying the passenger and making sure the F&B offering feels familiar to them will be key to success at New York’s JFK Terminal 6, Vantage Airport Group’s Sammy Patel has said.
In a wide-ranging interview exploring ambitions for the new terminal, the Vice President Commercial said passenger insights were vital.
The John F Kennedy Terminal 6 project is budgeted to cost $4.9bn, with the first phase due for completion in the first quarter of 2026. It will be fully open by 2028.
In early November, Vantage Airport Group and JFK Millennium Partners opened a competitive solicitation process for retail and F&B in the new terminal.
“We don’t do anything, any concession programme across any of our programmes worldwide, without first fundamentally understanding who is the customer who is the user of that terminal building,” Patel told TRBusiness.
He added: “Every six months every year we’ve undertaken extensive passenger research to really understand who is the passenger that we expect to go through Terminal 6.
“That then fundamentally allows us to understand what their requirements, desires and needs could be.”
A large part of this will be ensuring the local Queens population are well represented, he added.
Anchor tenant Lufthansa Group as well as partner JetBlue ae also crucial in helping build that passenger profile picture.
“[We’ll] provide as much as that as possible to all the prospective respondents who may be interested in food and beverage.”
JFK T6: Local involvement at every stage
Building a successful F&B offering from that point hinges on building a sense of familiarity, Patel continued.
“Familiarity is a key thing. We know that there is a need to ensure that we do have local [stakeholders] involved, and at every stage.”
A successful offering also reflects the city, he added. “New York speaks for itself. It’s not hard to celebrate New York.” What is “hard”, he acknowledged, was how to tie in the city’s “unique moments” within the terminal.
Balancing passenger F&B needs is also important, but it needs to be a more granular basis than simply national and international passengers.
“We’ve started to find cautious, not everyone knows these little cool holes in the walls,” he said, referencing “cool” restaurants.
“They’re on their way home and they just want something they know. And they’re comfortable.
“What we’re trying to do based on the passenger research is try to make sure that we’ve got something for that family, the two or three kids who really don’t want to be exploring. They just need something safe.”
He also asked the question about balancing the needs of business travellers, and “giving them enough space”, too. “Frankly, they want to stay and spend some money with us,” he added.
This is part three of a three-part interview with Vantage Airport Group on the JFK Terminal 6 developments. Part one, ‘Not your typical RFP’, can be read here. Part two exploring “digital-first” solutions, can be read here.