The countdown for Heathrow's Terminal 5 (T5) is running, with the opening due on 27 March. As T5's hospitality operators gear up to cater for 30 million passengers a year, Kerstin Kühn spoke to the BAA's head of category for food and beverage, Catherine Peachey
What were your major challenges in the build-up to the launch of Heathrow's T5?
With all big projects like this, there are logistical challenges involved in getting contractors on site and working within the space provided. For the food and beverage offering, there are some fantastic spaces, including large outlets such as Gordon Ramsay's restaurant [Plane Food 700sq m] as well as smaller "island" sites such as Krispy Kreme. While operators brought in their own designers for their outlets, we have been working closely with them to ensure everything works well as a whole. All the operators have risen to the challenge, and everyone has responded really well to any problems.
What are you hoping to offer passengers travelling through T5?
The most important thing we're trying to achieve is creating something completely different that gives people that wow factor and something they have never experienced at an airport before. We want to have an F&B element so compelling that passengers are happy to follow security procedures, check in early and start their holiday or business trip at the terminal, rather than seeing the time spent at the airport as an inconvenience and waste of time. We offer something for everyone: couples going on honeymoon can have a glass of Champagne, while families can have a meal together, and business travellers can have a meeting or catch up on work in a suitable environment before boarding their flight.
Who will be present at T5?
Operators range from high-end outlets such as Gordon Ramsay and Caviar House & Prunier to restaurant chains including Carluccio's, Giraffe, Itsu and Wagamama, and smaller outlets such as Starbucks, Eat and Pret A Manger. Altogether, there will be more than 20 F&B outlets at T5. All the operators will charge the same prices as they would on the high street, so there's no difference in the value for money they provide.
What are the biggest challenges operators have faced?
The airport rules on health and safety mean that restaurants cannot use gas in their kitchens, which has forced them to come up with alternative cooking methods. Everything else is the same as in normal restaurants. However, the biggest challenges are to do with getting staff through the airport's tight security checks, which is a completely new procedure for operators that haven't had outlets at an airport before. All staff have to provide references for the past five years and undergo criminal record checks. This includes everyone - even delivery and general maintenance workers.