Raising the bar at Belfast

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HMSHost’s new-look food & beverage offer at Belfast City Airport, which was launched at a special event this week, hits some real high notes for the all-important qualities of newness and Sense of Place, we believe.

The Autogrill-owned concessionaire, which crucially, has an investment-friendly 10-year contract at the airport, unveiled a new Harvest Market concept, a Bushmills Bar plus the first Espression by Lavazza concept to open in Ireland.

The first two bring a much-needed Sense of Place to the environment, but do so in a clean, modern, upscale way, rather than the tacky, souvenir-driven approach one sees at some other airports.

In layout and design, Harvest Market (pictured above, and inspired by the market of the same name in the city) is simple and consumer-friendly, we found, with salad station, packaged food shelves and pizza oven all housed in their own separate zones. Again, how often at airports do we see a long line of customers queuing with trays while waiting for orders to be fulfilled at a single, central service point ahead? At Belfast, airport and concessionaire have taken that element out of the equation.

Harvest Market also plays heavily on the local produce and freshness of its goods, reinforced by a map of its regional suppliers on the wall – right by the wood fire pizza oven, which is sure to be another attraction for passengers here.

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Bushmills Bar (above), created in partnership with Diageo, plays heavily on the traditions of the nearby distillery. This is one of the best bars you’ll see at an airport anywhere, with a premium environment, upscale furniture and just the right amount of light for this style of bar (i.e not a lot). The best accolade we can pay is that it wouldn’t look out of place in the centre of the city it serves, home to many famous pubs.

Securing the popular Lavazza brand for an airport of this size (around 3 million passengers a year) is also quite a coup, though notably it is located well away from the other key commercial areas, which may have an impact on footfall. Like the other concepts, it offers something different, and an element of surprise that will surely appeal to travellers.

Add in the new-look World Duty Free store airside, also recently opened, and Belfast City can boast a commercial environment that would be the envy of many other larger airports in Europe.

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