Pappas Restaurants Starts Petition to Fight Ousting from Hobby Airport — Updated
Updated, 2/23/23, 3:44 p.m.: The Mayor’s Office of Communications has released a statement regarding Pappas Restaurants’ claims regarding the circumstances of its contract ending. This has been added at the end of this article.
Pappas Restaurants, the longstanding, family-owned business that operates numerous restaurants across Houston, including Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Pappadeaux, Delta Blues and Pappasito’s Cantina, has posted an Instagram plea for support. The company is asking people to sign a petition protesting an impending decision by the City of Houston to replace its restaurants at Hobby Airport with those from an out-of-town company. Update, 2/23/23, 3:50 p.m.: The contract was secured by a joint venture group that Pappas Restaurants is part of called Four Families.
The post, which can be seen below, reads, “We have been feeding you and your family at @HobbyAirport for years but the City of Houston wants to replace our local business for a company with no ties to our city. Sign our petition to help #KeepHobbyAirportLocal with the link in our bio to #SaveOurPappas”. As of press time, the petition has over 8,000 signatures.
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The company that the City plans to replace Pappas with is called Areas HOU JV, LLC, and according to the Houston Chronicle, is a subsidiary of a business called Areas SAU, which is based in Spain. According to the company website, it specializes in food and beverage concepts “designed to meet the expectations of both travelers and landlords in airports, highway service plazas and railway stations”, and brands shown on the website include national chains such as Subway, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and Peet’s Coffee. The City of Houston is planning on giving Areas a 10-year contract worth $470 million, a decision that comes after three bidding rounds spanning three years.
A statement from Christina Pappas, director of marketing for Pappas Restaurants, reads:
“As a company that has invested in the City of Houston for decades, creating thousands of jobs and serving our community with a track record of charitable giving and goodwill, we are using the platform we have to demand what all constituents of Houston deserve from our leaders: transparency. The process for businesses to land city contracts requires so much openness and communication, and we have spent more than three years working with The City of Houston through a series of last-minute cancellations, sudden requirement changes, and, at times, complete silence. We are eager to keep serving the people who know and love our brands and will do so regardless of developments related to this proposal process. Our hope is that March 1st brings a conclusion that honors the commitment we’ve shown to the City of Houston.”
This follows an appearance at a city council meeting by Pappas Restaurants’ CEO, Chris Pappas, on Tuesday, February 23, which can be viewed in the city council meeting video archive. (Click “Public Speakers” under Video Index to go directly to his statement.) The following day, city council members voted to delay the vote on awarding the contract to Areas until March 1.
If the Pappas Restaurants bid was selected, there were plans to bring in one of its additional brands, Delta Blues Barbeque, as well as The Original Kolache Shoppe, The Hangar Kitchen and others. Under a different contract that was approved on January 4, LaTrelle’s Management, a Houston company that qualifies for the FAA’s Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Program, is bringing in other local businesses such as Fat Cat Creamery (teamed with Dunkin Donuts, Common Bond Bistro and Bakery, Velvet Taco, Pinks Pizza and Dish Society.
Should the Areas contract be finalized, it opens the door for other local food and drink businesses to have a presence at Hobby Airport, including Killen’s Barbecue, The Spot and SpindleTap Brewery.
Update, 2/23/23, 3:47 p.m.: The Mayor’s Office of Communications released the following statement in response to Pappas Restaurants’ claims:
“We are disheartened to learn of the inaccuracies and disinformation being spread by Pappas restaurant group.
The City of Houston is not evicting any concessionaire from William P. Hobby Airport. The contract awarded to Four Families in 2002 through a competitive procurement process is set to expire, which is why Houston City Council is currently reviewing a potential 10-year food and beverage concessions contract at Hobby Airport. Four Families is a joint venture among Pappas Restaurants, LaTrelle’s Management, Grover Jackson/GP Capital America LLC.
Four Families has operated at Hobby Airport for the last two decades as a result of contracts awarded through the same rigorous and meticulous competitive procurement process. Earlier this week, Mayor Turner echoed the sentiments expressed by City Council members that Four Families and Pappas Restaurants have been a wonderful concession partner and community member. The competitive procurement process does not measure the quality of an individual, but rather the rate of return received by the City of Houston and the quality of service provided to passengers. The rate of return is not the same as projected sales. The proposed awardee offered a significantly higher rate of return and delivered the local concepts sought after by Houston Airports through this procurement process. The City of Houston is obligated by law to make its decision based on the results of the procurement process — not a popularity contest. The process was followed, and procurement has presented to City Council the top-ranked competitor. We wholeheartedly object to Pappas’ questioning the integrity of the same procurement process that awarded them much success at our airport over the last two decades.
The integrity of the procurement process allows City Council to decide based on set standards rather than public opinion.
While we cannot speak to the specifics of the procurement process until City Council has voted, we can confirm the procurement process was competitive. We understand why, Hobby Airport is the first and only 5-Star airport in North America. As an innovator in the aviation industry, Hobby Airport is committed to redefining and elevating what the airport experience can be for all guests.
We are concerned with the blatant misrepresentation by Pappas Restaurants that suggests if City Council approves the contract that scored highest in the procurement process Hobby Airport would be without local restaurants.
That is incorrect.
The contract under review by City Council features iconic local concepts and supports small businesses that have deep ties to Houston. Killen’s Barbeque, The Spot, SpindleTap Brewery, Throughgood Coffee and Clutch City Coffee are among the proposed selection of distinct and fun local culinary options that will also celebrate the mouth-watering and signature flavors of Houston. The eclectic mix of award-winning and notable local favorites and trusted national brands will strengthen a sense of place within the airport.
Plain and simple, Hobby Airport will stay local if City Council approves the contract before them. Earlier this year, Houston City Council awarded a 10-year food and beverage contract to LaTrelle’s Management, which currently works with Four Families to operate concessions inside Hobby Airport. LaTrelle’s will bring Common Bond Bakery, Velvet Taco, The Rustic, Dish Society, Pinks Pizza and Fat Cat Creamery to Hobby Airport by November 2024.
Unfortunately, the inaccuracies are spreading quickly because Four Families has hired a lobbyist to run a smear campaign that questions the integrity of the process. After 20 years of approved concession contracts by the City of Houston, we were hopeful Four Families would respect the competitive procurement process.”
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.
I want to sign the petition.