Why is airport food so expensive?

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Food: There is not one but many reasons why airport food is expensive. Firstly, the restaurants need to pay a good amount of money to the airport authority for setting up a restaurant at the airport. Setting up a shop or a restaurant at prime locations is usually costly, so you can estimate the rent that these airport restaurants need to pay.

This not just applies to restaurants but other shops at the airport like the ones selling handicrafts, sarees and sweets.

Secondly, they make use of a concept that is widely taught in MBA. Let’s say you are walking inside the airport and you see a restaurant, you will ask yourself whether to eat or not. But if there are 10–15 restaurants in the same place, you will rather ask yourself where to eat. This is a mind game that not just restaurants at airports play but you will see this at other places too.

Coming to the most important reason — it is the accessibility to food. Restaurants inside airports do not target all the passengers coming to the airport to catch their flight; they specifically cater to those passengers who are spending a layover. These passengers had waited for an hour or two to catch their flight, sat inside the aircraft for another 2–3 hours and will have to wait further to catch their next flight. So they need food and when there are restaurants inside the airport, they will prefer shelling out a little extra money and eating at the airport instead of going outside to the city and coming back to the airport.

In April 2022, I went to Hubli from Kolkata with my brother and had a 6 hours layover at the Bangalore airport. Our bill at KFC was for 900 rupees while the exact same order outside costs us 500–600 rupees. The prices were inflated by a 50% margin!

But then I guess it is still cost-effective in a way. The reason is, that airports in India are usually situated outside of the city premises. So if you had to book a cab, go to some restaurant, have food and come back, your cab fare would end up costing more! Plus, there’s a risk of missing your flight too. So you’re not just paying for the food at the airport but for the ease of access to it as well since there isn’t an alternate option available.

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