Thursday, May 11, 2017
Midway food court changes: Goodbye, Potbelly and Harry Caray's. Hello, Home Run Inn and Schaller's Pump
By Samantha Bomkamp
The Chicago (IL) Tribune
Passengers go through Midway Airport past Harry Caray's Seventh Inning Stretch restaurant on May 10, 2017, in Chicago. Most of the dining options at the airport will change in just a few days as its concessions are renovated.
If you're flying out of Midway over the next week or so, the airport could look very different when you get back in town.
Most existing restaurants, bars and cafes at Midway Airport will close over a nine-day period starting Friday and be replaced with new venues as part of a $75 million renovation of the airport's concession area. The overhaul is part of the larger Midway Modernization program, announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015. Vendors had to get approval from a new concession operator to remain at the airport, and at least some aren't going willingly.
Several notable restaurants will no longer have a presence at Midway, including McDonald's, Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Harry Caray's. In total, 21 of the current food and beverage locations at Midway will close completely. Only four existing eateries will remain: Reilly's Daughter Pub, Gold Coast Dogs, Pegasus and Nuts on Clark.
The 19 new restaurants slated to open at Midway will collectively usher in more upscale food service. Among the new eateries slated to open at Midway are True Burger, Windy City Tap, Pizza Vino, Tabo Sushi and Home Run Inn.
In most cases existing restaurants will close and their replacement restaurants and bars will open the next morning. One of those that will take longer is the transition between an existing Ben & Jerry's and a future Dunkin' Donuts. That will take four nights, but a Dunkin' kiosk and a Jetbox Market will be temporarily placed near the shuttered stores to provide travelers with coffee and grab-and-go sandwiches.
"Our goal is to have a minimal impact on travelers," said Erin O'Donnell of the Chicago Department of Aviation, adding that the number of food and drink options at the airport won't go down at any point during the renovations.
Starting Friday, May 12, 21 of the current eateries at Midway International Airport will close and be replaced with new vendors. It's part of the airport's $75 million overhaul of the concession area.
The renovation work and the transition to new brands will take place from Friday to May 20. Concessions in Concourse A will be renovated first, followed by Concourse B and the main concession area, the Midway Triangle, which has the highest concentration of restaurants and bars at the airport.
Most departing restaurants and bar brands didn't return calls for comment. Potbelly, one of the airport's long-running tenants, also declined to provide an executive for an interview, but the Chicago chain's CEO spoke about the impact of the Midway store's closing on a recent conference call after releasing financial results.
"Midway hurts," Potbelly President and CEO Aylwin B. Lewis said, after announcing that the city had declined to renew its lease. "The 16 years we have had that site, we felt it was a privilege. It was a brand-builder." The store reported a profit of $2 million last year with $8 million in revenue. The Midway location was the chain's busiest location.
n Midway Airport's main food court, known as the Midway Triangle, on May 10, 2017, in Chicago. Only a few brands in the current lineup at the Midway Triangle are expected to remain after renovation.
Passengers eat in Midway Airport's main food court, known as the Midway Triangle, on May 10, 2017, in Chicago. Only a few brands in the current lineup at the Midway Triangle are expected to remain after renovation.
"Losing an $8 million shop and a $2 million profit shop is difficult, but we can withstand it," Lewis said. "Definitely can withstand it better today than if it had happened three years ago or five years ago."
Potbelly will close on May 14 and will be replaced by Home Run Inn.
Schaller's Pump, the storied Bridgeport watering hole that closed recently after 136 years in business, is still on schedule to open a Midway outpost, but not during the upcoming nine-day stretch of brand transfers. Schaller's will instead open as part of a later phase of airport redevelopment. The bar, famous with politicians and White Sox fans, was believed to be oldest continuously operated bar in Chicago.
The overhaul of existing concession areas, stores and restaurants is the first phase of the redevelopment. The second phase includes a major build-out to increase total concession space at the airport by about 60 percent, or 26,000 square feet. The concession renovation and expansion project is expected to be complete by summer 2020. Upgrades to the airport also will include the addition of new stores and amenities, as well as other airport upgrades like security checkpoint and terminal parking garage expansion.
The airport currently employs about 700 concession workers, 550 of whom have taken jobs with new vendors there. The city says there were 500 additional workers hired by new concession manager Midway Partnership LLC. Midway Partnership, a joint venture of three companies picked through a modified bidding process, hired all existing employees that reapplied for jobs at the airport, the city said.
In total, the number of concession jobs at the airport is expected to double to 1,400 by the time the project is completed.
As part of its contract with the city, Midway Partnership has agreed to pay higher than the city's minimum wage.