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Express Catering invests US$4M in food court expansion at Sangster Intl Airport

Ian Dear, CEO of Express Catering Limited (ECL), says the renovation of the Sangster International Airport food court represents an opportunity to capture 100 per cent of departing passengers as opposed to 70 per cent of the current capture rate.

His company is participating in the renovation of retail space by the airport’s operator, MBJ Airports Limited. As such, he told Caribbean Business Report that the project will cost ECL in excess of US$4 million but should deliver increased revenues for the company thereafter.

CEO of Express Catering Ian Dear (File photo)

“Based on the increased capture of departing passengers from the west terminal and an anticipated increase in the average spend based on access to a larger variety of food and beverage offerings, it is believed that this will add US$3.0 million in increased revenue in the first year, climbing to US $5.0 million of incremental revenue by the second full fiscal year.”

Expansion plans revealed

MBJ Airports Limited has embarked on an extensive refurbishment of the post-security sections of the airports from both east and west concourses, which will add 4,000 square metres of retail space. 

London-based Pragma, a consulting specialist on travel retail, is providing advice on commercial strategy, space planning, and investment advisory with the aim to enhance customer experience and commercial revenue. With 25 years’ experience in airport design, the company will work alongside The Design Solution to design the new space.

Sangster International Airport’s retail section with a food court. (Photo: www.dfnionline.com)

The expansion provides for an increase in passenger circulation and orientation areas, while the increased terminal space will primarily accommodate the relocation of the current food court.

In this regard, Dear outlined, this represents an increase of approximately 630,000 departing passengers when tourism returns to pre-COVID-19 conditions.

Depressed revenue, positive outlook

For the nine months ended February 28, 2021, the total departing passenger count at Sangster international Airport was 81.33 per cent lower than the corresponding period in the previous year. 

At the same time, ECL earned US$2.27million in revenue for the period, compared to US$12.91million for the same period the year before. Loss per share for the nine months amounted to US$0.149, compared to earnings per share of US$0.162 Cents.

Dear, however, is very upbeat about the near future. 

Ian Dear, CEO of Express Catering, which is the concessionaire at the Sangster International Airport, is anticipating increased arrival of passengers to Jamaica as vaccine programmes in the United States are in high drive. (Photo: Yahoo)

“We are now closer to full resumption than ever before and all are embracing this. Approximately 168 million Americans have taken at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and a large percentage of those are fully vaccinated,” he said in comments attached to the nine-month financials.

“This statistic is important for our business because that country provides over 70 per cent of our customer base. The current guide within a number of states is that masks are now optional when persons are fully vaccinated. For the April to May 2021 period, MBJ Airports is reporting passenger numbers that averages to 38 per cent of 2019 totals for the same period.  Confidence is returning.”

Sangster International Airport, in which Express Catering operates, is the Caribbean’s largest tourism gateway.

As the only provider of food for the post-security area, ECL is contractually bound to relocate the existing stores plus add the required new offerings.   

The food and beverage offering now numbers near 45 stores, including the newly secured franchise of the Bob Marley One Love Café, for which ECL will be the first location in the world to offer this type of experience.

ECL has also added Bento Sushi, one of the largest sushi companies outside of Japan; and Freshëns Fresh Food Studio, a healthy “fresh casual” concept, Dear also disclosed. 

Ready for the next wave of tourists

Year to date, ECL’s fixed assets expenditure of US$171,875 was due to the MBJ Airports Ltd’s development work to revamp the post-security food and beverage lounge.

“Being the dominant food and beverage provider at the airport, ECL is required to invest in this expansion by relocating existing concepts to the new food court as well as to develop and introduce new offerings to widen the available options for food and beverage in the airport,” Dear stated.

ECL secured funds to carry out the expansion secured during the February 2021 quarter.

However, the main contractors have delayed the handover of the project by at least four months to date. 

“We are fully prepared to commence our part of the project once the handover is complete.”