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Food on the Fly: Boise Air Travelers Get Grub on the Go

The app is appropriately named "Grab"


According to the Transportation Security Administration, wait times at TSA checkpoints are nearly double those of 2015. For Delaware North, the company that manages food services at the Boise Airport, getting passengers to buy meals while rushing to and from flights has been a challenge—but it may have found the solution in the smartphone.

"We even had [an app] we built in-house, knowing that there was a need," said Delaware North Regional Vice President Jeff Friedman.

As Friedman pointed out, Delaware North is a food service company, not a software developer, so it partnered with Grab, an app that lets travelers order and pay for food from airport eateries without leaving the line. Delaware North launched Grab at the Boise Airport May 12 and now passengers can order from 13th Street Pub, Parrilla Bar and Grill, Bardenay, River City Coffee, Cross Grain, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Harvest & Grounds and Smashburger right from the TSA checkpoint, and it will be ready and waiting once they've cleared security without waiting in a second line.

TSA lines have a profound impact on how much money people spend in airports. A 2015 FlightView analysis showed passengers spend up to 45 percent more if they're satisfied with their airport experience. Another FlightView analysis showed an extra 10 minutes waiting to get through security reduces retail spending at airports by up to 30 percent.

Grab CEO Mark Bergsrud knows this intimately. He spent 20 years in the airline industry working at United and Continental airlines, including a stint as the senior vice president of marketing at United. Bergsrud said he remembers how much of a game-changer the Internet has been for the airline industry, from the first mobile check-ins and online plane ticket sales—developments that "added a ton of value to the experience and efficiency to the airline."

The hurdle to Grab's success, he said, was making the app useful in as many airports as possible. Recent partnerships with large airport food service companies has helped the company overcome that. Delaware North operates food services in 30 airports in North America, and another agreement with Paradies Lagardere will eventually add Grab coverage to as many as 217 airports in more than 30 countries, including air traffic hubs in Pittsburgh and Denver.

"Our goal is to provide a ubiquitous platform. We want to provide coverage at every significant airport, with every airport's dining and retail," Bergsrud said. "For our partners, the real value proposition is, they'll have access to millions of customers rather than tens of thousands."