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McDonald’s coming to Sea-Tac after local burger chains pass

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on June 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
June 6, 2012 2:57 pm

The Big Mac and the Quarter Pounder are arriving at Sea-Tac Airport next spring after local burger chains turned down the chance to sell their products to airport patrons.

The Port of Seattle commission, which governs the airport, Tuesday approved a 12-year lease with McDonald’s Corp. to operate a restaurant at the terminal end of the airport’s B Concourse.

The commission had balked at signing a lease with the big chain earlier this spring and had asked airport staffers to make a bigger effort to attract a local vendor. That effort proved fruitless.

The airport in recent years has been trying to make the mix of retailers, bars and food vendors at the airport more reflective of the Puget Sound community rather than filling the airport corridors with nationwide chains.

Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper said the effort to recruit a local restaurant for the spot at the end of the B Concourse likely was unsuccessful for two reasons: the location was not in the prime central terminal area where there’s a cluster of restaurants and the restaurant space needed an expensive remodeling to bring it up to contemporary standards.

The Chinese restaurant that had previously occupied the space had moved out in 2006, and the space hadn’t been updated since the early ’90s.

McDonald’s and its Tukwila franchisee plan to spend a minimum of $2 million to remodel and equip the space. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year with the restaurant opening in the spring of 2013.

Port staffers told commission members McDonald’s can be successful in the less-than-prime location because of its popularity and familiarity with travelers. Airport surveys show that Sea-Tac travelers ranked McDonald’s in the top ranks of restaurants they wanted at the airport.

Sea-Tac is one of a handful of the nation’s top 25 airport that doesn’t have a McDonald’s outlet.

The main terminal’s existing burger seller, Wendy’s, produces sales far beyond the norm for airport fast food retailers. The port said the Central Terminal Wendy’s is often so crowded that travelers abandon their wait because they’re concerned about missing their flights.

One further advantage for the airport is that the new McDonald’s will offer seating for 40 customers. The central food court tables are now frequently operating at capacity with all tables filled by diners.

The port expects the franchise will generate $323,000 in new revenue for the airport in its first year. Estimates put gross sales at the fast food outlet at $3.5 million in its first year.

Bob Comiskey, the McDonald’s franchise holder, said the restaurant expects to hire about 60 workers. If the pattern at Comiskey’s other stores holds true at Sea-Tac, 90 percent of employees will be women or minorities. The average employee wage is $10.11 an hour.

All of the apples, milk and potatoes served at the restaurant will be sourced in Washington, he said.

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