In Minneapolis, I Saw the Future of Airport Restaurant Dining

When I missed the connection to my shuttle from Seattle Tacoma airport up to Bellingham, Washington today, I had a chance to sit for a while in a small bar called the Pilot House. At the bar, the first thing I asked for was a Seattle beer–Nope, don’t have it.  Then I asked for a Washington state beer–Nope.  I settled for an Alaskan red, and here I sit,  90 minutes to kill and time to reflect on the future of airport restaurants.  Seatac, like our wonderful Bradley, offers free wifi, no password, no BS.

I saw it at Minneapolis St. Paul airport, just as soon as I walked off the plane at Gate 15.  There, before me sat a welcoming sight—about three hundred iPads arranged at bar tables and at all of the seats at the dining tables of a gigantic restaurant. It is called Vico, and it’s the future of how we’ll eat food and pass the time in restaurants in the years to come.  I sat down at the bar in front  of the iPad that was tethered in place by a sturdy plastic strap. But I could still move it up and down and the photos on its shiny retina screen showed me a beautiful assortment of pizzas, antipasto, and panini grilled sandwiches that I could order with a simple swipe of my credit card.

The scene of all of these iPads was shiny and pretty and the dozens of screens somehow kept showing the gorgeous food pictures, even when they were not being used by anyone.  At my seat, first I was made to flip through the Delta area of the screen, that let me find my connecting flight and check to find the right gate, which was in the same terminal.  I had an hour, so I browsed the menu, picking something pretty unique–roasted cauliflower.  Then I picked an exotic soda and it asked me to swipe my card to check out. I did so, and then I gave the iPad my email so they could email me a receipt!

At the table in front of me, some kids were having a blast playing games on their iPads, while their parents either looked at their cellphones or read the news on the iPads. There was the Wall Street Journal, where I read my favorite auto columnist Dan Neil, or MSNBC or a bunch of other choices.

Or there was the option of simply browsing the web, while they roasted  my cauliflower.   About twenty minutes after enjoying this savory and unusual restaurant dish (in an airport no less!) the iPad gave me a pop up down on the bottom telling me I had ten minutes to make my connecting flight.  Later on when i wanted a coffee, and tried to pay for it with, gasp, dollar bills, they said “sorry, we don’t accept cash.”   The nice kid serving me brought me a coffee on the house, and I forced him to take the bucks as a tip.

Prediction–we will see many more restaurants like this in airports, and we’ll soon be used to ordering everything ourselves on a convenient device like an iPad.  It just works.