Taking an absolutely FAB-ulous tour of the airport culinary world

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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For the past two days I’ve been whizzing around the airport culinary world. I’ve breakfasted in Brisbane, Bristol and Bangalore. I’ve lunched in Iceland, Ireland and India. I’ve sat down for dinner in New York, New Zealand and the Netherlands. I’ve sampled wines in Naples and Newark, La Guardia and Los Angeles; supped beer in Brussels and Birmingham.  I’ve studied menus from Dubai to Doha, Denver to Dusseldorf, Bristol to Brisbane, Lapland to London, and Sydney to San Francisco. In fact I’ve globe- and gourmet-trotted from A (for Athens) to Z (Zürich).

And you know what? I did all this without even a little toe’s indentation of a single carbon footprint. In fact I did it while locked up in a West London hotel conference room where the only tangible link with airports was the constant stream of aircraft descending towards Heathrow from the skies above.

The occasion was the judging for the 2016 Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) awards, which will be given out at the FAB Conference & Awards in Geneva in late June. This year’s awards – back after a two-year absence – attracted an incredible 270 entries, each including a substantial presentation and many of them complemented by videos, photos, menus, wine lists, marketing material and other collateral.

For two days I sat, read and watched with my fellow judges, David King, Founder, The David King Partnership (Convenor of Judges); Charlotte Christiansen, Associate Director, Davis Coffer Lyons (previously London Gatwick Business Development & Retail Performance Manager); and Anders Barsøe, Managing Director – Meyers and Løgismose’s directly owned shops and restaurants, Denmark (a former chef and previously Copenhagen Airports Category Manager – Food & Beverage and Convenience).

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David (especially) and I had already spent many days poring over the entries. And even after our intensive four-person assessment, there’s still much to do (including secret visits to several short-listed outlets). The judging process was at once gruelling and thrilling. Gruelling in its demands on one’s concentration, thrilling in that the entries collectively represent a fascinating snapshot of travel related food & beverage in terms of trends, tastes, consumer communication, Corporate Social Responsibility and commercial success – a feast of the senses (other, alas, than actual taste).

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We’ve been running FAB since 2011 (when a heating failure at the conference venue in mid-winter Manchester prompted us to dub it the Frozen Food Conference) but there is no doubt that the class of 2016 represents a step change in the diversity, excellence, commitment and thought that underpins the entries

If you’re going to hold awards, especially ones like FAB that involve so much interest, passion and commitment on the entrants’ behalf, you have to take the judging seriously. You have to care as much as the nominees do; you have to be neutral, questioning, self-challenging and honest. Not everyone, of course, will agree with our ultimate list when we reach it but I promise you this. It will include food & drinks offers – and related innovations and marketing programmes – that will wow you. Truly, truly FAB-ulous.

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