Flying through O'Hare Airport is a little tastier for hungry travelers and maybe just a little bit more convenient, just in time for the holidays.
O'Hare is now the third airport in the country, joining Minneapolis and JFK in New York City, to launch a mobile app that allows passengers to order food from their phone.
The free app is called "B4 You Board" and it allows people to order food and non alcoholic drinks from restaurants in each terminal.
They can either pick it up or get it delivered for free. The idea is to make it easier for travelers in a time crunch to still grab a bite to eat.
"So they can be outside security waiting to go through and come through security, if they know they're 15-20 minutes out, they can place their order and by the time they come through security they can either go to the gate where they're going to depart and their order will be there, or they can go to the designated area and pick it up," Brad Maher, the Food and Beverage Operations Director for HMS Host said. HMS operates 56 restaurants at O’Hare.
Here's how it works. After downloading the app on a smart phone, travelers input their terminal and gate information and then choose from the list of available restaurants. Food orders can be customized and can be purchased from multiple restaurants.
Only four restaurants are participating so far, but more are planned.
In Terminal 1, they include Tuscany Café and Chili's Too. In Terminal 2, Blackhawks Restaurant and Bar, and in Terminal 3 the choices are Wolfgang Puck Café and Chili's Too.
"I think it's great, you can come, put your bags down and stay here without having to get back up and go to the restaurant you like," traveler Terry Burke said.
But business traveler Cliff Perry was a bit more skeptical.
"Perhaps for families it might make more sense, but for somebody like myself who's on a business trip I don't think it's likely to catch on,” Perry said.
Customers use a credit card to pay for their order, which is processed through a central hub in each terminal and then sent to the participating restaurants.
Delivery or pickup is guaranteed in 20 minutes or less. To make that happen, "B 4 You Board" orders are given priority treatment in the kitchens.
Customers receive text messages confirming their order and alerting them when it's complete. They are also notified when their orders are being delivered so they know to be on the lookout for the associates who wear bright yellows aprons and hats to make them easy so spot.
Just to put people at ease, associates have phones, so if a passenger leaves their gate temporarily and the delivery person shows up, the associate will call.
"No one should have the fear that I'm never going to get my order," Maher said, "we're gonna make sure we find you."
Now the company just needs to find ways to whet more travelers' appetites for technology that delivers on the fly.