Travelers passing through the main terminal at Raleigh-Durham International Airport will have several new restaurants to choose from starting in January.
The Airport Authority approved a contract with Miami-based concession company Areas USA, which plans to bring six new eateries to Terminal 2 starting Jan. 12. They will replace six existing restaurants whose leases are expiring.
The new restaurants are:
▪ Cantina Grill, serving Mexican food, replacing Carolina Ale House.
▪ Wow Bao, an Asian restaurant serving dumplings, buns and bowls, replacing A&W All American Food.
▪ Deli & Co., which specializes in made-to-order salads, replacing Brookwood Farms.
▪ Bond Brothers Brewery, a restaurant offering 14 varieties of beer made by the Cary-based brewing company, replacing Gordon Biersch.
▪ Raleigh Taproom, a spinoff of Raleigh Brewing Co. and planned Raleigh Brewing Tavern in Terminal 1, replacing Carolina Vintages.
▪ Rush Bowls, which sells fruit and vegetable bowls and smoothies, replacing Flavours.
The new leases are for 16 months, which is short by RDU standards. The airport wants to take time to consider its overall offerings in the terminals, to see if it can provide more diverse and locally based options for travelers, before it seeks new vendors to fill as many as 19 spaces in Terminal 2 starting in 2021.
Some or all of the six new restaurants may remain beyond the short-term lease, said Kimberly Stewart, RDU’s director of concessions. A typical retail lease at RDU is for 10 years, and several shops and restaurants, including Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s restaurant Whisky River, still have several years on their leases.
RDU has placed an emphasis on finding shops and restaurants that can’t be found anywhere other than the Triangle and North Carolina. Root & Branch, a shop that opened in Terminal 2 in January, is stocked by Pam Blondin, owner of downtown Raleigh retailer Deco, and Jessie Williams, a jewelry maker with two Edge of Urge shops in Raleigh and Wilmington. Sales have been so strong that the idea was duplicated in a shop called Triangle Market that opened in Terminal 1 in August.
As RDU looks to go local, Airport Authority member Dickie Thompson urged Stewart and others not to cater only to the well-heeled traveler.
“We should remember that some of our passengers and travelers that come through here are somewhat economically challenged,” said Thompson, an outgoing Raleigh City Council member. “So we don’t want to price everybody out.”
Authority chairman John Kane told Thompson not to worry.
“I don’t think that just because we’re going more local is meaning it’s all upscale,” Kane said. “We could have a local list of burgers and hot dogs.”
“Barbecue?” Thompson added.
“Barbecue, exactly,” Kane replied.