Marqette’s success at our annual Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Awards in being named Airport Food Hall of the Year was a triumph for independent companies in a sector that is dominated (though not to the extent of duty free retail) by larger operators.
Marqette, part of the Michael JF Wright Hospitality Group, opened at Dublin Airport Terminal 1 in 2015. Its offer spans several sectors of airport F&B, including bar, food hall and ‘food to go’. At FAB 2017 in Toronto, the company was shortlisted in three categories: ‘Airport Food Hall of the Year’, ‘Airport Bar of the Year’ and ‘Airport Food to Go of the Year’, winning the ultra-competitive Food Hall category against over 30 short-listed rivals from around the airport world.
This is what our judges had to say on the night: “Our winner has created a Food Hall that offers an abundance of freshly produced food perfectly targeted at the airport’s passenger profile. This development has transformed the overall F&B offering with unsurpassed commercial success. It features an in-house artisan bakery, spit rotisserie, crepe, omelette and wok-based street food counter, an impressive breakfast and hot food range and much, much more, delivered by a brigade of 40 chefs and an extensive front of house team all dedicated to providing ‘exceptional food and exceptional service’ – every day.”
During the FAB conference that ran alongside the Awards, Marqette General Manager Michael Thornton spoke with great passion about how the company aimed to “become a destination and an experience rather than a convenience”.
Easier said than done. Michael touched on several key tenets of the Marqette philosophy that make a difference, including food provenance, customer service, creative use of social media, hands-on (and on-site) management, bespoke designed uniforms; and nurturing a Sense of Place.
I would add another factor, one that is too often overlooked in airport dining. Cleanliness. Recently I travelled through Dublin Airport T1 and took an extensive look at Marqette and some of the airport’s other F&B outlets.
Besides the buzz and vibrancy of Marqette (the place was packed mid-morning on a Sunday), I noticed how frequently the tables were cleaned. Almost as soon as anyone vacated a table, an assistant was on hand to clear and clean it. The pictures below tell that story as well as capturing some of the exuberance that earned Marqette its FAB Award.
Now contrast that with the next outlet on my walk, a general dining area anchored by a Starbucks*.
Here a different and much less pleasant story was unfolding. Tables and leaners were piled with dirty plates, cups and bags. I watched and waited; then waited some more. And then some more. 15-20 minutes. Very little clearing. I watched customers clear the previous diner’s aftermath several times. I wandered back to Marqette to check if my comparison was fair. It was. The place was spotless. I went back to the second location again. Nothing had changed.
Airport dining gets a bad rap, often unfairly. But sometimes the sector plays into the hands of its critics. I always hesitate to single out businesses for criticism when they are doing their best. But I don’t think this one was. I admire the Starbucks brand, product and story very much (in fact, its excellent new-generation outlet at Los Angeles International Airport, run by HMSHost, won the Coffee Bar of the Year award at FAB 2017) but on my visit at least it was not looking good. I don’t have to tell the story. The pictures do it for me.
Update: Note that I say ‘anchored by’ a Starbuck. SSP, which runs Starbucks at T1, points out to me that the surrounding seating area is actually the responsibility of Dublin Airport Authority as far as cleaning and table clearing is concerned. We are happy to emphasise this important clarification.
VISIT 1 – MARQETTE
VISIT 3 – MARQETTE (AGAIN)
Now, Starbucks isn’t the only operator to have messy customers. But, as I mentioned earlier, what was noticeable as I walked back to Marqette was that every time customers left, waiting staff would make a beeline immediately for the table. I watched for several minutes as these young women worked their socks off. The pictorial evidence proves the point. Bravo Marqette, you made your mark. And cleaned up those of others. Sorry Starbucks, no stars this time.