Missoula airport seeks restaurant applicants as terminal project advances

A rendering of the first phase of the new passenger terminal under construction at Missoula International Airport. The airport will select a new concessionaire to provide food, beer and wine in the new facility. (Photo courtesy of the Missoula County Airport Authority)

Passengers waiting for a flight at Missoula International Airport will have more room to roam when the new terminal opens in the coming years. When that day arrives, they’ll also have a new array of dining options.

The Missoula County Airport Authority is now seeking proposals from concessionaires that are interested and capable of providing service to the nearly 500,000 passengers who fly from Missoula each year.

Proposals are due in mid-December and the board is expected to reach a recommendation in February.

“I’ve gotten some interest already from some national companies,” said Lynn Fagan, the airport’s chief legal counsel. “We sent it out to four or five local folks as well, including the two concessionaires that we have on site already. We need those concessionaires on board now to help design that space.”

Dining options in the current boarding area are few, with Liquid Planet providing limited service from a small booth. Jedediah’s provided a full restaurant, though it was located in the terminal’s public area and, as a result, was out of reach for checked passengers.

Fagan said both concessionaires have expressed interest in providing service when the new facility opens, along with several others. The new terminal will include a larger restaurant space for checked passengers, typical of other major airports.

“We want them to provide us a vision,” said Fagan. “We’re not in the restaurant business. We want to see what they’re going to do and see what people would like. We’ll go over the submissions. We usually pick the top three, ask them to come meet with us and present their vision.”

The airport currently holds a beer and wine license that also comes with a gaming license. The airport will likely lease the beer and wine license to the winning bidder. The board hasn’t decided whether the gaming license will be included.

Construction of the new terminal is well underway, with most of the foundation poured. Vertical construction is set to begin in December.

“This is our next upcoming phase, the vertical construction of the building when it starts to rise out of our basement,” said Tim Damrow, the airport’s project manager. “Before too long, we’ll know what the project costs are going to be and have those in stone.”

With that phase of the project set to begin, the airport wants to lock in a concessionaire to help design and fit the new restaurant. The chosen applicant must have the ability to front the costs involved with fitting the space.

“We’re looking at a 20-year contract, because we are asking them to put up a fairly large capital investment,” said Fagan.

“One of the things we’re asking them for is their concept. What are they bringing to the airport, as well as their menus, the local flavor, different things like that. Do they have the financial ability to do what we want them to do?”

The second phase of the terminal project will likely include a second concessionaire, though that project is still years away.

“There are concession spaces designed in it,” said Fagan. “We haven’t fleshed those out yet. There will be another bid at that point.”