Restaurateur Bringing 7,000 iPads to Airports: "We're Seeing 15-20% Revenue Boost"

Restaurateur Bringing 7,000 iPads to Airports: "We're Seeing 15-20% Revenue Boost"

Summary: I interviewed Rick Blatstein, founder and CEO of OTG Management, who says lending iPads calms travelers, "electrifies" the vibe of his airport restaurants, and raises sales.


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 1 small

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.

Preventing Stolen iPads and Sticky Screens

Topics: ÜberTech, Apple, CXO, iPad, Mobility, Tablets

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Break even point

    What is the break even point of deploying all this technology? That would be my concern.

    Really not surprising. Studies show that patrons paying with credit cards usually buy more than cash customers.
    • @mstrsfty...

      At an additional $1.20 to $2 per customer, considering how many people pass through airports and are limited in choices of food, I'd say the payoff shouldn't be too long in coming.
    • Go technology!

      Windows 8 in the clouds: Emirates giving 1,000 flight attendants HP ElitePad tablets!

      From GeekWire


      The Emirates official Youtube channel made a video of how they are using Windows 8 in the airport.

  • Just like the creation...

    of the Internet made outsourcing to India possible, and Sarbanes-Oxley spying created the market for portable iPads with data modems, the iPad as an ordering device is the restauranteur's solution to the health care mandate. iPads don't require health care benefits! THERE is your return in investment!
    Tony Burzio
  • Just curious...

    What is an "in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise"?
    Hallowed are the Ori
  • Just think...

    How dirty those screens will get from french fry fingers. A sanitation nightmare.
    • After dematerialization, dehumanization?

      All the data seems correct to me, almost expected.
      Airports are very low quality spaces, where people just go by, normally thinking about their destinations.
      I just hope the commom business won't start the same trend of getting rid of people to have machines helping customers in the choice and payment processes. I like people, I know I'm out of fashion, but I truly like to be served by people, even better when they have a personality.
      Miguel Tavares
      • You may be in the minority

        You make a great point about the priorities of customers at airports.

        Fast food restaurants seem to be another obvious place for using iPads or computers for ordering/paying.

        As for other kinds of restaurants, my experience is that I only have a few family-run places or local cafes where I start to have 'real' interaction with the hosts/waiters. But it takes at least half a dozen visits, usually.

        Otherwise, my interactions with waitstaff at the majority of restaurants I go to tend to be stilted and forced, like when I'm paying for groceries, etc. I don't think I'm particularly Aspergers-ish in this regard....
        • Ehhhhh . . .

          you might be!
          • Fair point.

            My family might agree with you on this :)
  • If the fastfood inustry implements iPads...

    ...then the fast food restaurants will be worth the heist :)
    Just saying...I saw nothing LOL.