The Sacramento Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a request by Sacramento International Airport to allow concessionaires to raise food prices beyond current contract limits.
The board agreed by a 4-1 vote to eliminate a contract clause that requires airport food and beverage outlets to cap their prices at not more than 10 percent higher than the cost of similar products at comparable restaurants around Sacramento.
Supervisor Phil Serna dissented, saying the proposal could allow concessionaires to “gouge” customers at airport terminals, who are essentially a captive clientele in the boarding gate areas behind federal security checkpoints.
Airport officials said they were asking for the cap to be removed as part of negotiations with concessionaires representing 21 food outlets to ensure those businesses are profitable as their costs of business increase over time.
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In an emailed statement to The Bee after the vote, airport executive John Wheat did not address when prices might increase or by how much, but wrote he expects to conclude contract negotiations with the concession companies in the next 90 days and intends to keep prices “fair.”
“We look forward to working with our concessionaires to maintain the quality and selection of our award-winning food and beverage program at prices that are fair to our customers,” Wheat wrote.
Although a number of restaurants and food outlets at the airport have names of local restaurants – such as Esquire Grill – the airport facilities are operated and managed by national companies under licensing agreements. Local restaurants provided recipes, ingredients, lists of vendors they use and have input on other elements of how the airport restaurants operate.
Serna opposed the removal of the cap without applying some way of controlling price escalation guidelines that would be tied to the concessionaires’ business costs.
“I believe what I suggested is reasonable for all parties involved, including for our airport concessionaires and especially for consumers,” Serna said in an email to The Bee. “Quite frankly, the airport director is not the one who is going to be stopped in the supermarket by upset travelers who don’t want to pay for $25 hamburgers and $15 beers.”