New Dining Concessions to Durango Airport

by | Jun 21, 2023

 DURANGO, Colorado— Tailwind Hospitality Inc. secures two-year contract to run food and beverage operations.

Concessions at Durango-La Plata County Airport will look different over the next two years as Tailwind Hospitality Inc. won a bidding war to take over food and beverage operations.

The company, which manages food, beverage and gift shop establishments, is under a two-year contract with the airport. Originally based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, it provides concession services to 40 different airports nationwide.

DRO Director of Aviation Tony Vicari said the bidding for food and beverage operations is standard operating procedure for airports across the country. The current food and beverage operator, Durango Deli’s business contract expired in 2020, but the airport extended its lease on a month-to-month basis because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally, when a contract expires, the airport would seek new requests for proposals. But because of the impact the pandemic had on airports, the airport commission, in consultation with the Federal Aviation Administration, decided it wouldn’t be in any party’s best interest to seek new concession proposals.

Concessions at the airport typically have a competitive bidding process to ensure optimal service and maximizing the financial return on investment for the airport enterprise fund. The airport also does this to comply with the federally mandated Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, Vicari said.

“Consequently, that program mandates that we bid out our concessions on regular intervals to make sure that there’s kind of fair access into those areas,” he said.

Durango Deli has been operating at the airport for 31 years but lost the bidding for the space to Tailwind. Owner of Durango Deli Neil Johnson declined to comment about the change Tuesday.

Businesses bidding for space at the airport are decided on by the airport’s evaluation committee, which analyzes experience, qualifications of the proposer, a management and operations plan. Those plans include everything from staffing, strategy, concept, brand offerings and sample menus.

“We don’t provide fixtures and cooking equipment. We provide the functional shell baseline utilities and obviously the environment here at the airport,” Vicari said. “But the concessionaires are expected to fit that out in a way that fits their business model and fits what they want to present to the public.”

Tailwind Chief Executive Officer Jeff Switzer said the company will be making upgrades to the kitchen at the Durango Deli and trying to add high speed cooking equipment to the post-security bar housed in the American Airlines Terminal.

Tailwind intends to add additional concession locations if its contract is renewed after the airport remodel is complete, but will renovate the existing food and beverage locations under its current contract.

At the end of the contract, the company will evaluate how many concession locations it is going to add, but it did not want to start developing plans while the airport was under construction.

“There’s a terminal remodel coming up. So we can’t put a whole lot of money into it because anything we put in is going get thrown in the garbage in two years,” Switzer said.

He said Tailwind will keep existing food and beverage employees at the airport.

“We give priority to the existing employees when we take over because they know the airport and the routine,” Switzer said.

The airport is still finalizing the contract with Tailwind, and Vicari said it’s likely that the company will take over operations sometime in September.