JWU News

Creating the Modern Airport Experience with Rick Blatstein

OTG Founder and CEO Rick Blatstein

1/31/2017 | What do LaGuardia, O'Hare, and Newark airports all have in common? Aside from being major transportation hubs, they are all home to OTG “experiences” — concessions and restaurants that just happen to be strictly in airport spaces.

OTG (an acronym for “On the Go”) specializes in elevating the airport and customer experience. The company launched in 1996 at the Philadelphia International Airport and today has grown to more than 300 locations across 11 airports in North America. OTG Founder and CEO Rick Blatstein visited Johnson & Wales' Providence Campus as the School of Hospitality's annual Distinguished Visiting Professor. 

“We create concepts we believe our customers will love,” Blatstein explained. “Experiences that exemplify and represent the community. After all, the airport is the gateway to the community.”

Rick Blatstein during his presentation at JWU Providence

There are 3 pillars to creating these successful experiences, Blatstein said — dining, design and technology. 

Dining: The way to someone's heart is through their stomach
When OTG is contemplating expanding to a new city, the first step in their development process is to understand the community: “We get [members of our team] out eating and drinking, and talking to local chefs and patrons. We want to get a vibe for what the area is all about,” Blatstein said. This helps OTG not only develop a rapport with the local culinary talent, but also helps them figure out what type of concept would work in the area. 

Design: “These aren't cookie-cutter experiences”
“You need to be creative, you need to look at every space,” Blatstein said. This belief is what led OTG to convert spaces previously utilized by moving walkways and gate hold areas into “revenue and experience creating areas.”

Technology: Tech-enhanced dining 
At every seat in an OTG establishment, there is an iPad plugged in and ready to serve as your menu, flight-tracker, and entertainment. “We developed our technology to specifically fit our needs,” Blatstein explained. “Operations and tech work together, so the developers understand the needs of operations, and vice versa.”

Rick Blatstein with JWU Providence students

But when push comes to shove, it's all about the customer in Blatstein's eyes. “When I get to spend time in these airports, I'm not watching what our crewmembers are doing. I'm looking at our customers—How do they feel? Are they excited?—because the customers will tell me if our crewmembers are delivering the experience they deserve,” he said.

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Learn more about OTG in the video below:


Topics: Hospitality Providence