For the first time in more than a decade, the Massachusetts Port Authority is looking to hire a new company to oversee the concessions at its four Logan Airport terminals — a decision that could remake the vast array of retailers and restaurants there for years to come.
Many of the country’s biggest airport concessionaires and developers are jockeying for the business: About 160 stores, restaurants, and newsstands operate in the terminals now, together generating about $175 million in revenue a year.
A new management team could usher in a range of new tenants over the next several years. The people who run Logan have hinted they are looking for more of a regional theme among the concessions, meaning that the 100,000 or so people who trek through Logan every day could see more Boston brands, names like Legal Sea Foods and Stephanie’s.
“This is really significant because the whole makeup at Logan is going to change,” said Ramon Lo, publisher of trade journal Airport Revenue News.
But change won’t happen overnight: The companies’ agreements with Massport begin to expire at the end of June 2017 and many individual tenants have leases that will extend well beyond that date.
Potential bidders are waiting for Massport to officially open up the process next month. But a number of them are already trying to line up the right teams, with an aim to replace the incumbent landlords, Airmall USA and Westfield Corporation.
“It’s as big as anything out there,” said John Cugasi, a business development executive with concessionaire Paradies Lagardère. “You’ll have a lot of players interested because of the size of the procurement.”
Massport could end up consolidating all four terminals under one master operator, although the authority remains open to alternatives, such as assigning one company to handle restaurants and the other to oversee stores. Airmall wants to come back, while Westfield isn’t showing its hand yet, company officials said.
Paradies Lagardère, a division of a French company whose main US office is in Atlanta, is one of the biggest players in this industry — and one of the most likely contenders. Cugasi said that while his company is weighing a bid to oversee the roughly 190,000 square feet of commercial space that Massport says is available, it’s also considering smaller efforts that would involve operating as a partner with another commercial landlord.
Some of the potential players would be familiar in Boston. Delaware North Cos., the owner of the TD Garden, is considering a bid. And Rebel Restaurants, the local group overseen by Jon Cronin, may bid on the food and beverage business in all four terminals, possibly with a partner.
National companies that aren’t household names around Boston are also following Massport’s plans closely — firms such as SSP America, OTG and HMSHost. Some of the national concessionaires, such as HMSHost and Paradies, already run individual stores at Logan.
Westfield, which oversees the shops in terminals A and C, is circumspect about its plans because Massport hasn’t yet issued a formal request for proposals, although it issued a statement saying it’s interested in learning more about the agency’s vision for the airport.
But Airmall, the longtime developer for terminals B and E, is making it clear that it’s not ready to walk away.
“We love it here [and] we want to continue,” said Michael Caro, vice president at Airmall, which first arrived at Logan in 2000. “We’ve helped Massport make a lot of changes that have been to the benefit of the customer. We’re looking to stay.”
Caro said he expects Massport will consolidate its concessions business under one landlord instead of two, a prediction that’s shared by others based on the guidance Massport has provided and the chatter within the industry.
Massport isn’t saying much publicly yet. CEO Thomas Glynn declined to comment, other than to issue a brief prepared statement, saying in part that “the master concession agreement will be an important decision for Massport and for the millions of people who use Boston Logan International Airport each year.”
But the agency has offered some clues on its website for the criteria it could apply when weighing the various bids, to give the potential bidders time to prepare. The goals: to find operators that can develop a diverse lineup of shops with competitive prices and services for travelers, while maximizing revenue for Massport. The agency takes a piece of the tenants’ revenue, but it declined to say how much.
Massport wants to see the new operator upgrade the interior design, while assembling a tenant lineup that reflects the character of Boston and the region. And the agency said it wants to continue its practice of keeping prices in the airport comparable to elsewhere in Boston and Cambridge.
Tucked into the guidelines are two proposed changes in how Logan is run. Massport says it would prefer that bidders create a centralized distribution center for food and other products that are being trucked in to the vendors. The agency also wants to see an agreement in place that could make it easier for a union to organize workers at the airport.
Many local restaurateurs are paying close attention. Those with existing locations at Logan are protected, at least in the short term, by their leases. But a new landlord could still have a big impact in terms of the overall environment and the other restaurants that could arrive.
Legal Sea Foods CEO Roger Berkowitz said he’s not worried: He already has five Logan restaurants, hopes to open a sixth, and doesn’t expect major changes in how he runs them. He said he has talked with some of the potential bidders but it’s too early to publicly discuss those negotiations.
“Airports are a strong part of what we do,” Berkowitz said. “I want to do more, not less.”
Bidders also reached out to the Waldwin Group, a local Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee with eight locations at Logan. Waldwin CEO Clayton Turnbull said he expects to continue to operate at Logan after the change.
“I’m assuming ... any of the bidders would bring more local brands,” said Lo, the trade publisher. “The airport is the first and last thing that anyone sees of the city. I think it’s exciting to have that opportunity to have more of a Boston flavor.”