After the recent renovation of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s Departure Lounge 3, HMSHost invited Airports International to experience the full flavour of its flagship European location. Caroline Cook reports.
As part of Autogrill Group, HMSHost creates dining and shopping options for more than 100 airports around the world, bringing local and international brands to travel venues in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. Its operations at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands, have grown over many years and the recent unveiling of the airport’s new-look Lounge 3 has exemplified the company’s talents within the Food and Beverage (F&B) sector.
Schiphol has seen several changes in recent years and travellers have been welcomed with an increasing number of options for dining and shopping. Lounge 3 has been completely renovated and now offers customers a wider selection from its 26 shops and seven food outlets. The airport describes the new lounge as an “exciting synergy between Dutch tradition and international flair.” Architects Benthem Crouwel NACO and Merkx+Girod have designed a light, airy space with tall ceilings and plenty of windows; HMSHost have seized this concept to create visually attractive units which appeal to the airport’s diverse range of passengers.
Lounge 3’s retail and culinary offerings are formed around a central square that HMSHost describes as an anchor point for retail spots. The square has three features that are synonymous to the Netherlands with the units Bread!, Say Cheese and House of Tulips. Bread! in particular draws the passenger in with its wooden bread racks that tower above the lounge. Customers have the option to order an organic sandwich freshly made in front of them or can choose from a selection of food in the ‘fast lane’. The quintessentially Dutch unit also offers freshly squeezed juices.
Vice President of HMSHost EMEA, Dawn Wilding, explained to Airports International the importance of Bread! within Schiphol: “Lounge 3 sees the majority of its intercontinental flights between 10am and 12pm. This means that most passengers need breakfast, not a bar.”
The location of many units within the airport is significant to the passengers’ perception of them. HMSHost has a particular focus on unit placement, as exemplified with Bread! Another example of this is La Place Express, a Dutch brand situated landside that opened in October 2010. As Ms Wilding suggests, an airside location may not have suited this brand as it is only truly familiar to Dutch natives. La Place Express offers on-site preparation of fresh produce and serves paninis and flatbreads. Different supplies are delivered every day making the menu very flexible and the Express unit is the only one of its kind in an airport.
Ms Wilding highlights the importance of location to HMSHost. The concept team for the company spends a lot of time choosing a location for a unit and claim that it is “not just a science, but also an art.”
Lounge 3 also contains a Juicy Details juice bar, McDonald’s restaurant and the airport’s fifth Starbucks coffee shop. Retail offerings include Swarovski, Victoria’s Secret, Let’s Play and Mont Blanc. Towards the end of the lounge, passengers can enjoy the new concept, East Bar & Bites. This unit has a strong Oriental theme and is stylishly decorated with black furniture and a magnolia tree. Its menu includes sake cocktails and Eastern finger foods such as sushi. The bar truly excels in the smaller details, such as Quick Response (QR) codes in the menu – which customers are invited to scan with their smartphones, thus attaining more information on the products.
East Bar & Bites was introduced as a result of the increase in Chinese and Asian passengers and HMSHost is exploring other ways in which the F&B offerings at the airport can reflect this. Otto Ambagtsheer, Schiphol Group Managing Director Business Area Consumers believes “transfer passengers are a key element for a mainport.” He believes that although substantial market research has not yet been undertaken due to the recent opening, Chinese and Asian passengers are already catered for – to a certain extent – with brands such as Hermès and Burberry in the renovated lounge.
In August 2010, Schiphol Group opened the new Holland Boulevard, situated between Lounges 2 and 3. Passengers here are welcomed by a “Dutch sense of place” and features such as a Holland Casino branch, the Airport Library, a Back to Life spa and lounging areas with adjoining children’s sections. The Bols Experience bar, with interactive screens for passengers, creates cocktails with spirits from the local Bols brand. Pieces from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (the museum itself is currently partly closed for restoration) are on display within the Rijksmuseum Schiphol on the Boulevard.
The Dutch Kitchen and Bar is full of local paraphernalia that is charming without being overwhelming. Customers can choose from a wide range of foodstuff, including poffertjes, kibbeling, beefburgers, kroketten and open sandwiches. Fresh juices and smoothies are also available. Products are served on Royal Delft tableware, detailed with traditional, blue and white designs. The entire unit is dotted with oversized manmade tulips and one particular section is an unmistakeable nod towards the children’s story ‘Alice in Wonderland’, with a long table displaying unusual crockery and seating inside gigantic cups and teapots. As Mike Simons, Director of Operations HMSHost Schiphol Airport, so aptly puts it: “The Netherlands is a small country that thinks big.”
Schiphol’s Lounge 2 has not been remodelled yet but this does not mean that it is dated. Mr Ambagtsheer told Airports International that it would “hopefully see renewal in the future” but that currently architects were working on the further improvements of Lounge 4, the departure lounge for low-cost carriers. Among Lounge 2’s various units is Murphy’s Irish Pub, offering passengers a “taste of Ireland.” Every part of this bar is sourced from the UK and real ales are included in the drinks offering. Murphy’s also has a smoking area, the first of nine installed in the airport. According to Ms Wilding, since HMSHost provided these areas to the departure lounges, beverage sales have increased by 30%. Lounge 2 also has a mezzanine level containing the food court and the airlines’ private lounges. Starbucks, Sbarro, a Shirasagi sushi bar and a noodles bar sit among the retail sites, the latter two staffed by trained Japanese chefs.
Lounge 1 has seen many improvements in the last few years, the most notable being the recently opened Park Café in the larger Airport Park. Selling a wide variety of products, ranging from smoothies to burgers, the area aims to supply customers with a sense of outdoors. The café and surrounding area are designed using bright greens and whites. Birdsong is played through speakers hidden within real trees installed around the unit and images of the world’s most famous city parks line the walls. A quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of the main lounge is characterised by projected butterflies, their charm only increased with their reaction to movement. The Airport Park also has an outside area with green grass-like flooring, seats intertwined with plant life and a terrific view over the apron.
The lounge is also home to the Grand Café Het Paleis – a replica of the Palace of National Industry in Amsterdam, which was destroyed by fire in 1929. This restaurant is the height of sophistication with plush seating, chandeliers and a winding staircase. It is has a rich menu and fully stocked bar and, according to HMSHost, generates approximately €10,000 a day in revenue.
Next to the Grand Café is Lounge 1’s biggest unit, Mediterranean Sandwich. Up to one million sandwiches are made here every year with a weekly €150,000 turnover during peak periods. Mr Simons states that this particular venue has made €42,000 in one day. This is not the only record breaker in the airport; Lounge 1’s Starbucks has reportedly hit €100,000 in one week before. The Fair Taste Café is an example of the airport’s support of environmental concerns. Everything in the unit is fair trade, recyclable, organic or locally produced and all design elements have been made using sustainable materials.
At the end of Lounge 1 sits Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar, adjoining Café Chocolat. The bar is decorated in blue and black and a large tropical fish aquarium is placed by the seating area. A large purple ribbon winds above the café and since its opening in 2009, according to Mr Simons, many travellers have commented on the quality of the confectionery treats sold alongside the hot beverages. The café also has a retail section which accounts for 30% of its sales. HMSHost claims that the staff here are fully trained and can supply nutritional information on the products.
There is no doubt that HMSHost has gone to great lengths to provide Schiphol passengers with a memorable (not to mention delicious) experience whilst waiting for flights. Ms Wilding told Airports International: “Choice is important to a passenger. They should be able to get the food that they want and that food should be of the highest quality and at value for money.” Schiphol is the company’s flagship European airport and Ms Wilding hopes that others will see the results of its endeavours: “It’s about finding the right blend of local and international brands and about working closely with the airport to achieve that. HMSHost is always interested in developing further in order to make the traveller’s day better.”