Hungry air travelers soon won't have to go far to grab a bite from a few of the city's best-known culinary names.
A host of local restaurants and chefs are primed to open eateries in the New Orleans airport's new 30-gate terminal when work is complete in late 2018.
A committee of airport officials and city representatives this week selected a pair of proposals that include ventures backed by famed local chefs Susan Spicer and Emeril Lagasse, as well as Edgar Chase IV, the grandson of legendary restaurateur Leah Chase, and outposts of popular local spots such as Pizza Domenica and Angelo Brocato.
The groups responded to a request for proposals to build and operate restaurants in the two concourses of the new $807 million North Terminal.
City officials want Louis Armstrong International Airport to feature "an award-winning food and beverage program that celebrates New Orleans," according to their request for proposals.
Out of five groups that replied, the two proposals that received the highest marks were a joint venture between Delaware North, a New York-based food and hospitality services company, and Chase Catering and Concessions; and a joint venture of HMSHost, a Maryland-based highway and airport food service company, with local partners Coaxum Enterprises, Lucky Dogs and start-up food and beverage company Kaleidoscope.
The final decision will rest with the New Orleans Aviation Board, which meets Jan. 19, and the City Council.
The venture with Delaware North and Chase's outfit proposes several dining concepts, such as Leah's Kitchen; Folse Market, which would offer items like seafood, po-boys, coffee and wine; the New Orleans Food Expo, which would have fast-casual offerings from local establishments like MoPho, chef Michael Gulotta's modern Vietnamese restaurant, and Ye Olde College Inn; Pizza Domenica, created by chefs John Besh and Alon Shaya; Johnny Sanchez, Besh's collaboration with chef Aarón Sánchez; and Sicilian dessert parlor Angelo Brocato.
Delaware North, which operates in nearly three dozen airports around the world, now has the airport's food and beverage contract in another partnership with Chase. That deal expires in 2018.
The other group, led by HMSHost, a restaurant operator that works in more than 110 airports worldwide, features ventures from local chefs Spicer and Lagasse.
The group's proposal includes new outposts of restaurants like Spicer's Mondo, in Lakeview; Emeril's Table; a new location for Cure, the upscale Freret Street bar; as well as extensions of Treme landmark Willie Mae's Scotch House and the Munch Factory, a Creole comfort food restaurant.
For rent, the airport will charge operators 12 percent of their food sales and 15 percent of alcohol sales, with a minimal annual payment at least $2.2 million. The deal is for 10 years with a potential two-year renewal.
The airport had about $33.7 million in gross revenue from food and beverage sales in 2015, from which the airport management garnered nearly $3.8 million.
Of the local names involved, none goes back further than Angelo Brocato, the Mid-City gelato and dessert parlor. It got its start in 1905 in the French Quarter and has a loyal following for its Italian sweets.
“We have a brand that’s been around over 100 years here, but this would be a big step for us," said Arthur Brocato, who leads the family-run company.
"We get a lot of people who travel and take things home with them, especially the cannoli and cookies. This will be an opportunity for them to get that right there at the airport."
Ye Olde College Inn has roots going back to 1933 and since 2013 has also had a presence at the airport, with a full-service eatery in concourse D. Under the new plan, it would instead have a counter-service stand for po-boys called College Inn Po-Boy Exchange, which would be part of a food court of similarly quick-serve concepts.
Restaurant operator Johnny Blancher Jr. said having a presence at the airport has been good for business, and not just with visitors.
"It's a location where a tremendous amount of tourists come through, but it's also a great spot for the locals to get something they're familiar with," Blancher said. "People tell us they love finding a brand that they trust and already appreciate. They say, 'It feels like I'm still in New Orleans even though I've gone through the gates.' "