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Notice anything in particular about the shots below from Hong Kong International Airport’s T1 fast food court?
I’ll give you a clue. Take a look at the empty tables. No, not because they are empty but because they are clean. And note how in every picture you can see staff members (wearing red uniforms) constantly keeping the place spotless. When you process as many people as Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) does, that matters.
Compare and contrast that with my experience at a leading European airport recently (pictured below), where five of the first seven tables I saw were overflowing with the culinary carnage of departed diners. Dirty, empty plates, half-finished meals, cups, tea ridden saucers, tea bags you name it. There were no other spare tables.
I watched what happened. Or didn’t. Five minutes. Ten minutes. No sign of a clear-up. I went downstairs for a breakfast instead in a delightful little independent café. I finished my scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and cappuccino, paid the bill and headed upstairs again to see if anything had changed. You guessed it. Tables still uncleared.
Now is that because the concessionaire is paying an unrealistic concession fee – and airports need to know that staffing and service is the first thing to be cut when a concessionaire is under pressure – or was it simply down to poor management? Or simply a bad day (we all have them). I didn’t know. What I did know was that I took my business elsewhere. As has been documented many times, the quality of food & beverage is absolutely critical to the airport’s reputation, not just the operator’s.
That simply doesn’t happen in Hong Kong because airport authority and concessionaire are on the same page when it comes to the basics. And with food service it doesn’t come any more basic, or critical, than food service.
Several times in recent months (and twice in recent weeks) I have dined at The Peak Lookout at HKIA, largely I must say because I adore the view down towards the bustling landside departures zone. There’s a mighty sense of drama at HKIA, underpinned of course by its dramatic architecture but also by the tangible feeling of this place being a “crossroads of humanity” as long-time Commercial Director Hans Bakker used to call it.
On Friday I had the pleasure of taking breakfast there with Cissy Chan, Executive Director, Commercial and Alby Tsang, Assistant General Manager, Retail & Advertising. The breakfast was simple (scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, once more, with a pot of steaming hot green tea) and delightful. Occasionally the service can be a bit brisk here (and I’m not talking fast) but otherwise it’s a consistently good place to dine pre-flight or while waiting for someone to arrive.
As always there were plenty of other talking points during my recent visits. Here are some of them.