UK. Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is to introduce Proof, a new food-led bar concept owned and managed by the company.

The concept will be rolled out initially at MAG’s East Midlands Airport this Summer and will then be introduced at its other UK airports, Manchester and London Stansted.

The company described Proof as “a modern and flexible bar concept, designed to focus on fresh, high quality food alongside a superior, spirits-led, drinks menu”.

The move continues MAG’s strategy of offering more of its own products to travellers, from car parking through to the departure gate. MAG claimed that its strategy of building its own brand and operations in the food & beverage space is “unique among major UK airports”.

Keeping it in-house: Proof will launch initially at East Midlands Airport and then roll out to Manchester and London Stansted

MAG Executive Vice President, Lounges Beth Brewster said: “MAG is innovative in the UK in establishing its own in-house food & beverage product. Ultimately, we are trying to give our passengers the best possible choice of environment as they spend time in our terminals, whether that’s at an airport lounge, at a MAG-operated bar, or at one of our fantastic partner brand restaurant, bars and coffee shops.”

Proof will be managed by the MAG lounges team, which runs the group’s Escape and 1903 Lounge concepts, with seven lounges in the UK and four in the USA. The catering and bar operation for MAG’s UK Escape Lounges was also all brought in-house last year.

The move to develop a proprietary F&B brand continues MAG’s strategy of offering its own products to travellers across the airport estate

Each Proof bar will be numbered, with the number denoting the year in which the host airport commenced commercial flight operations. The first bar at East Midlands will therefore be called Proof 65. The venue design will use the local history of the airport and area, and will also feature the work of local artists on its walls.

Proof 65 at East Midlands Airport will feature small plates, with Mediterranean flavours and regional ingredients, such as Egg & Red Leicester Cheese Frittata, and Hot Smoked Salmon Fish Cake with Gin Aioli. Its drinks menu will feature 15 gins and local specialities including Two Birds (Market Harborough), Burleighs (Loughborough) and Nelsons (Uttoxeter) alongside popular brands such as Sipsmith & Hendricks.

MAG is currently recruiting for a General Manager for both Proof 65 and the Escape Lounge at East Midlands Airport.

Martin Moodie comment: What a big and intriguing play this is by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to bring part of its expansive F&B offer in-house. As MAG notes, it is the first UK airport to develop its own F&B brand and to manage the operation itself.

The initiative underlines the importance of F&B to airport revenues and reputation. Present a shoddy, over-priced grab and go, bar or casual dining offer and it’s not just the F&B operator’s image that suffers but the airport’s. MAG believes it can enhance control, quality and revenues via an initiative that long term will neither be confined to East Midlands Airport nor food & beverage.  Note these words carefully – “a strategy by MAG to offer more of its own products to its passengers, from the car park right through to the departure gate”. Could the company take that principle through to its logical extreme and one day bring its key commercial business, duty free, in-house, perhaps in partnership with a retailer (see below)?

“The barrier to [duty free] entry is procurement, supply chain and IT,” notes one veteran industry executive. “Every other function could be done in-house. I see more partnerships in the future similar to AdP and Lagardère. It really is about risk appetite from airport shareholders. Do they want guaranteed minimums or are they willing to take a trading risk?”

MAG is not the only airport company to have brought some or all F&B operations or other commercial services in-house (or partly in-house) in recent times. Groupe ADP, for example, has joint ventured some of its F&B and retail; Frankfurt and Amsterdam Schiphol have created similar partnerships for travel retail and duty free. But the creation of a MAG sub-brand is a noteworthy extension of that principle and firm statement of intent. Proof, in fact.

NOTE: The Moodie Davitt Report also publishes The Foodie Report, the world’s only media focused on airport (and other travel-related) food & beverage. The Foodie Report e-Newsletter is published every two weeks and The Foodie Report e-Zine every month.

Please send all news of food & beverage outlet openings, together with images, menus, video etc to Martin@MoodieDavittReport.com to ensure unrivalled global exposure.

The company also organises the annual Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards. This year’s FAB will be held in Helsinki on 20 and 21 June. Click here for details.