Blatstein is a former nightclub owner who got into the airport restaurant business in the mid-1990s.
Before his company, OTG Management, made its well-publicized announcement last month to deploy 7,000 iPads in four airports in North America, Blatstein was best known for bringing celebrity chef Michael Lomonaco and his $42 New York strip steak to La Guardia Airport.
Deploying thousands of iPads to La Guardia and John F. Kennedy Airports in New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and the lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto is the next step in Blatstein's master plan to "take the airport out of airport food."
The stand-mounted iPads, along with USB and iPad dongles for charging, will not only occupy the seats of OTG restaurants (which range from upscale French bistros like Bisoux in La Guardia to chains like Jamba Juice and Dunkin' Donuts), but also be placed in hundreds of seats next to the actual boarding areas.
"We know that some people get nervous being away from the gates, so we're going deep into the gatehold areas," he said.
To gain this unprecedented access, OTG had to strike multi-million dollar deals with Delta Airlines, which controlled these seats in La Guardia, JFK and Minneapolis-St. Paul, and in Toronto with the Airport itself.
"We pay either a minimum annual guarantee or a percentage of revenues, whichever is bigger," he said.
OTG CEO Rick Blatstein says iPads help "electricify" the vibe at his airport restaurants and boost sales up to 20% per customer.
Credit: OTG Management
Is it worth it? In an 18-month pilot at the two New York airports, OTG found customers ordering via iPad spent 15-20% more than other patrons. OTG already got between $8-10 per patron, which Blatstein says is higher than most other airport restaurant operators, and wasn't the result of jacking up prices as airport restaurants are notorious for doing. Using iPads boosted sales between $1.20 to $2 per patron - not too shabby, though Blatstein thinks "we can push that even higher."
Customers "are in full control. They can customize their order, easily add chicken or shrimp or some side dish," he said. "And when they're done, they can swipe their credit card without having to look around for their waiter or waitress."
Translation: the iPads also sped up customer service, allowing OTG to turn crowded seats over more quickly and serve more customers - which also boosts revenues.
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