Why airport food is so expensive? Explained

If you have ever traveled by air then you have been shocked by the high price of food items at airports and while spending a lot of money on drinks, meals and snacks are never fun, there is actually a complex reason that you can see such high prices near airplane terminals. So, today we are here to let you know why airport food is so expensive?

Your hunger can be especially costly at airports and travelers often see their carefully crafted vacation budget punctured by a case of the munchies, even familiar favorites from the local food court or cafe that can come with a steep markup. By reading this article you will know about some important things like, who is responsible for high food prices at airports, understand the complexity of commercial rent at airports, other costs associated with food retail at airports and also you will also know how you can save costs when traveling.

Why airport food is so expensive?

If you want to make your flight then you have to arrive at the airport an hour or two prior to your scheduled flight. If you are facing long flight times then you likely know that the food served on the plane is not going to be enough to fill you then you may decide to eat beforehand at one of the many food kiosks or restaurants that airport has. Although, the prices you may think twice about ordering food from an airport.

Here are reasons why airport food is so expensive-

Who sets the food prices at airport restaurants? 

First, you need to understand who is in charge of setting prices at airport restaurants before you have a clear understanding of why airport food is so expensive. Airport restaurants are owned by both small and enterprise business owners who lease space from the airport itself. So, it can be possible that these companies set the prices.

It is easy to chalk up the high prices to supply and demand if we consider this assumption.  If you offer the only coffee, burger or stiff drink on this die of airport security then you can charge whatever you want for your items, But the truth is not that simple a number of airports have restrictions on item pricing for companies operating under their roof, which is known as ”street pricing”. This makes sure that vendors do not charge over a particular percentage above what they would for the same products sold outside the airport.

Yet, you have to pay $6 for a bottle of water at some terminals at the airport. The reason comes down to business operating costs such as rent, commission and other fees. Although, businesses must charge more for their products such as food, to generate profit. So, airports themselves are in part responsible for high food prices at airports.

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You must know that airport rent is not handled the same way as traditional commercial rent. Rather than applying to operate in a commercial space through a property management company, airport vendors must submit detailed RFPs (Requests for Proposals) that describe their intended use of the property.

Only then, a designated committee selects vendors based on their business requirements and preferences. After that, the business might get a proposal from the airport that outlines a lease agreement. These lease agreements need a monthly rate plus a commission of sales. Commercial space on rent at airports is more than double, with no limit on the price.

So in this way, for a food vendor, rent alone is a significant cost. If a restaurant or a food stand lowers its pricing then travelers will catch on and flock to that place until the others inevitably follow suit. So, instead of creating the flock effect, they find that prices remain high and there is little force fluctuation in any given food item throughout the same airport.  Another issue with price regulation is that airports implement

has its place in preventing restaurants from labeling food items with even more outrageous price tags than they already are.

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When it comes to airports, paying a high price to rent a space is not the only fee that a business owner is responsible for. But restaurants and food stands have to pay a commission on what they sell.

The exact amount of commission will rely on the vendor’s lease agreement with the particular airport. Although, it is not common to see commissions of more than 10 %. Getting the lease is one more hurdle in and of itself, airports go through a rigorous vetting process. This competition is another factor that drives up airport food prices.

Delivery Fees

In case, someone owns a cafe outside of an airport then their coffee vendor might stop by every few weeks to give them a new batch of coffee beans. The ease at which this all happened is not the same in the case of an airport.

Instead, people who supply airport companies with goods have to manage the hassle of airport parking and the fees that are associated with that, passing through security and delivering the food items or products to the restaurants or stores. With all these results, suppliers tach a premium price on airport delivery services, thus imposing businesses to keep higher price tags on their food items.

Storage Space

Storage Space at airports is hard to come by and this is also a major reason, some airport restaurants or cafes have the added expenses of paying for rent and storage to tackle their extra supplies. This is also the added time and financial commitment to have more employees transfer goods from storage through security and into the restaurant or cafe on regular basis.

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Background Checks

I am sure that you have noticed that the price of airport food outside of security tends to be slightly cheaper than inside the secure area.

Not just do restaurant owners know you do not have a number of options at that point but it also has to do with the fact that their employees have to pass extra background checks. And where there are background checks there is more money that restaurant owners have to spend which results in higher prices of the food.

Turnover Prices

We all know that working at an airport opens the opportunity for shifts covering any 24 hours, depending on the airport, Although, even the most passionate and enthusiastic new employees at a restaurant may soon get tired or bored of late night or early morning shifts.

However, it is not only shifts or work schedules that deter employees, but airport business owners also face trouble in retaining employees because it is often challenging to arrive at an airport by using public transportation. So, employees receive discounts on airport parking but still have to shell out parking money monthly.

And employees have to allow extra time to pass through security. High turnover prices are detrimental to profit margins at airport restaurants or cafes. In fact, employee benefits claim that turnover can cost business or restaurant owners as much as 33 % of an employee’s salary. This is also the one reason that the food business at airports has to keep their food products priced higher.

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How to save money on food items at airports?

Why airport food is so expensive

If you are going to spend a premium price on your airport food, the food might as well be delicious. Airports recognize foodie culture as just a must as they acknowledge that a number of travelers are willing to shell out a few more dollars for a meal over a boxed one.

This is a reason, a number of airports now favor choosing restaurants and food stands that offer you high-end food choices. These types of restaurants offer you healthy and unique ingredients.  But we also know that the downside of this food is the fees and commissions tacked onto high-end food are greater than the fees and commissions tacked into cheaper food.

Discounted food products are next to none at airports so the only best way to save money is by purchasing food items before arriving at an airport and carrying it in with you. In case, you are traveling abroad and you cannot enter another country with some important things such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meat products, etc.

Although, you will be able to take just about any other food item with you to an airport or onto a flight. Then the solution is that,  yes you can take your food items through the security checkpoint, as long as it does not violate maximum liquid requirements. But when it comes to liquid food products then you can take up to 3,4 ounces of liquids with you past airport security.

You can also bring your food and are permitted to bring along protein bars, candy, fruit, veggies, granola and other solid snacks. This is one of the best and easiest ways to save money.  Therefore, I suggest you bring an empty reusable water bottle with you as you can fill it up to a water fountain once you pass through the security check.

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One more suggestion is that you can also check your credit and airline status as some credit card companies offer airport lounge benefits. Airport lounges are also a great place to load up on complimentary snacks and drinks before your flight takes off and you can also take your family or friends helps to get some airlines at some locations.

Likely, it may behoove you to focus on one airline program only. By doing this and earning enough status, you will eventually get to the point where you will have complimentary access to airport lounges whenever you travel by air. And you will never have to pay extra only for a hot dog or burger ever again.  I recommend you pack dry snacks with you and see if you have access to lounges and parks when you travel.

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