If you’re having to build out a new dining outlet in a working airport, don’t apologise, make a virtue out of it.
Welcome to the Under Construction Cafe. I’m at Geneva Airport and pretty soon this place will look very different as the latest incarnation of the successful Montreux Jazz Festival food & beverage concept opens for business, courtesy of Caviar House & Prunier owner Peter Rebeiz.
None of the people you see in shot taking breakfast (and many of them breakfast beer – they’re a hardy lot these Swiss) is complaining about dining in temporary premises. The Under Construction Cafe is exactly what it says, a kind of pop-up restaurant that I suspect may be featuring on more than a few Facebook pages even as I write.
Last night I had dinner with Peter (below left, pictured with his outstanding chef) and Geneva Airport CEO Robert Deillon (right) at Caviar House & Prunier’s downtown outlet. What an occasion. Great wines, great food, great company. Peter and Robert (rarely for an airport CEO) are out and out ‘foodies’, a fact that will be emphatically underlined as the new food & drinks ventures awarded earlier this year come into operation over coming months. I won’t spoil the surprise, but I can promise you there’s some real excitement in store.
I’ve set up a very temporary Moodie Report Interim Bureau at the Canonica snack bar right down the end of the airport in the B gates area before my flight home to London. This outlet is a classic example of keeping it simple. The offer is basic, but fresh, good and value for money. The service is quick, the staff friendly, the views (I’m up on the new mezzanine area gazing out at the planes and the runway) excellent. Shame there’s nowhere in the whole gate area to charge my laptop (now, like me, on its last legs) though, a perennial bugbear in airport food & beverage.
Geneva Airport has done an excellent job in reinventing its retail offer and food & drinks is about to follow suit. Needless to say the Caviar House & Prunier shop (separate from the soon to be revamped dining outlet) is excellent, one of my favourite stores in any airport in fact, but there’s also a lovely Swatch boutique (complementing the two upscale watch stores, Hour Passion and Air Watch Center a short distance away); a strong boutique offering including Omega, Ralph Lauren, Hermès; a stand-alone Swiss chocolate shop; a separate and nicely open Lindt & Sprüngli store offering fresh chocolates; and (despite an unpromising location) a very elegant luxury beauty products boutique featuring Ioma, Tom Ford and La Prairie.
Then there’s the Nuance (now owned by Dufry) duty free shop, a hit and (to a much lesser extent) miss affair. Hits include an excellent tobacco area right at the front of the store; a small but nice wine section (how good to see premium wines laying down rather than standing) offering a good mix of Old and New World; an alluring Lindt display (below); and about half of the beauty and spirits departments respectively.
Half? How so? Spirits starts well with a nice open upscale area with some great premium display but then simply gets squeezed by the physical constraints of the shop. The same for beauty which tails off after a bright, elegant branded cosmetics offer into a cramped, crowded back area of the store. Overall though, given the space and shape issues, it’s a pretty good store and certainly much better than it used to be.
Queue management is one of the misses as the pictures below reveal. I saw two would-be customers give up rather than keep waiting – a case of otherwise certain sales lost.
I had a very interesting chat (at the Under Construction Cafe of course) with Sophie Reusse (below) who manages the airport’s commercial concessions. She’s really excited about the new food & beverage programme having put all the contenders through the most testing of tender processes. Not only did the tendering committee read about the proposed offers, they tasted them. How about that? The would-be food & drinks concessionaires had to present a sample of their menus to be viewed, weighed, tasted. Now that’s what I call an airport that cares about its consumer offer.
[Cailler, the super-premium chocolate from Nestlé International Travel Retail, made its travel retail debut in Switzerland the day of my visit]