Yampa Valley Regional Airport plots a course toward profitable restaurants | CraigDailyPress.com

Yampa Valley Regional Airport plots a course toward profitable restaurants

Tom Ross

Yampa Valley Regional Airport restaurant Manager Jennifer Bell and airport Director Kevin Booth have plans to make the airport's restaurant operations financially self-sufficient for the first tine in 2016 with the help of a strategic expansion of seating in the Way Station dining room in the secure passenger waiting area at the departures gates.

Steamboat Springs — Yampa Valley Regional Airport Director Kevin Booth and restaurant manager Jennifer Bell think they’ve turned the corner on the airport’s unprofitable food and beverage service thanks to tighter controls on food costs and payroll. But their biggest strategic move emphasizes the Way Finder snack bar in the secure area beyond TSA screening, where departing passengers can take a deep breath and relax. — Yampa Valley Regional Airport Director Kevin Booth and restaurant manager Jennifer Bell think they've turned the corner on the airport's unprofitable food and beverage service thanks to tighter controls on food costs and payroll. But their biggest strategic move emphasizes the Way Finder snack bar in the secure area beyond TSA screening, where departing passengers can take a deep breath and relax.

— Yampa Valley Regional Airport Director Kevin Booth and restaurant manager Jennifer Bell think they've turned the corner on the airport's unprofitable food and beverage service thanks to tighter controls on food costs and payroll. But their biggest strategic move emphasizes the Way Finder snack bar in the secure area beyond TSA screening, where departing passengers can take a deep breath and relax.

"We've increased seating from 33 to 60, and this ski season, we'll be serving hamburgers ($16), as well as the popular fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits at breakfast ($9), and we purchased brand new taps, so we can serve local microbrews (think Butcherknife Brewing Company)," Bell said.

On track to break even

Recent combined financial performance of Yampa Valley Regional Airport restaurants, 3 Wire Grill and Way Station snack bar.

2013 – loss ($288,651)

2014 – ($301,942)

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2015 budgeted – ($195,030 )

2015 projected – ($69,175)

2016 budgeted – profit $7,455

(Tracking the annual profit/loss statement for the airport restaurants requires understanding that the busy season at YVRA straddles two years, beginning in January, dropping off in April at the end of ski season and picking up again for a couple of very busy weeks in December.)

When the significantly expanded YVRA terminal opened in 2011, the full-service 3 Wire Bar and Grill opened at the same time. But the restaurant has bled money ever since. Booth, an Air Force veteran who assumed leadership of the Routt County-owned airport in January, was quickly confronted with an airport that was seeing declining passenger numbers and hence, declining revenues, as well as an airport restaurant that was compounding the problem.

Bell, previously the assistant manager, has eliminated the positions of hostess and bus person and cut back on the number of prep cooks the airport restaurants employ.

Now, Booth expects that at the end of 2016, the airport food and beverage operation will no longer be in the red.

"We project a small profit," he said. "Essentially, breaking even."

Routt County — which only assumed management of the restaurants in its new terminal addition after it failed to get any response from private operators — anticipated from the beginning the restaurant would not be profitable. But they didn't expect it would lose $288,651 in 2013 and $301,942 in 2014. Booth, who inherited the challenge when he took the job in January, expects the restaurant to lose less than $70,000 this year.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said he credits Bell for doing what was required, including sending staff home and closing the restaurant to save personnel costs when a scheduled inbound evening flight was late.

"It really came down to establishing good restaurant management," Sullivan said. "I have to hand it to Jennifer Bell and Kevin for giving her the support she needed."

After consulting with local restaurant owners, including Rex Bryce of Rex's Family of Restaurants and Intrawest Senior Vice President of Food and Beverage James Snyder earlier this year, Booth and Bell were persuaded that a more robust snack bar could help solve their challenge with 3 Wire.

Many travelers would acknowledge some level of anxiety about going through TSA security screening, saying it's after they get through security and find their gate that they can relax and consider sitting down for a hot meal and perhaps an adult beverage.

For the same reason, 3 Wire, a beautiful dining room and bar outside security screening, wasn't seeing the number of customers the county had originally hoped for. The full-service restaurant will continue in that role, Bell said, but both 3 Wire and the Way Station will also offer grab-and-go meals for travelers in a hurry.

If things work out as Booth projects, increased seating at the Way Station will leverage the tendency of travelers to be more inclined to order a meal once they pass security.

The 27 additional seats were achieved by installing some smaller bistro tables and creating seating where there was none before with a wooden bar ringing the perimeter of the snack bar. The bar was built at a significant saving by in-house building maintenance staffer Richard Bush, who is also a finish carpenter. Booth, a longtime military pilot, thinks the stools adjacent to the windows overlooking the aircraft parking apron will be in high demand.

"When I eat in airport, I want to sit by the window so I can see the airplanes," Booth said.

Ironically, delayed flights will prove an ally in airport management's bid to increase solvency in a food-and-beverage operation that has been a historic drag on airport finances since it opened with a major terminal expansion in 2012.

"Let's face it, flight delays happen," Booth said, and that only gives travelers more incentive to purchase a burger and a microbrew.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1 To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

On track to break even

Recent combined financial performance of Yampa Valley Regional Airport restaurants, 3 Wire Grill and Way Station snack bar.

2013 – loss ($288,651)

2014 – ($301,942)

2015 budgeted – ($195,030 )

2015 projected – ($69,175)

2016 budgeted – profit $7,455

(Tracking the annual profit/loss statement for the airport restaurants requires understanding that the busy season at YVRA straddles two years, beginning in January, dropping off in April at the end of ski season and picking up again for a couple of very busy weeks in December.)

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