The UberEats-like app serves hungry and hurried fliers. By Sharyn Jackson Star Tribune April 26, 2019 — 9:03am
MSP Airport has no shortage of dining options, but travelers racing to make it to the gate hardly have time to partake in a coal-fired pizza before boarding. A new food delivery service may help.
AtYourGate launched quietly at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in December, first as a service for airport staffers who can’t always make it from, say, Customs & Border Patrol to Red Cow and back with enough time to enjoy their burgers.
Now, travelers can use the service, too. Download an app, pay a $2.99 fee, and a delivery person will bring food from a handful of restaurants to your gate in 30 minutes or less. It’s like UberEats or DoorDash, but indoors and on foot. Users can pre-order meals for a specific time and location up to a day in advance.
Participating restaurants at MSP include Holy Land Deli, Red Cow, Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza, Camden Food Co., Roasting Plant, Panda Express, McDonald’s and Qdoba. More restaurants could follow.
McDonald’s is the biggest seller, with Holy Land at No. 2, said AtYourGate founder and CEO P.J. Mastracchio.
A native New Yorker, Mastracchio was a frequent business traveler working in health care. He began consulting for companies that handed out samples in airports, when his mind turned to food delivery.
“I looked at the airport and realized it’s a fascinating amount of people,” he said. “The idea was to go to travelers.”
What he didn’t realize was how many airport employees needed food delivered, too. When he first launched AtYourGate in San Diego, staffers dominated the ordering.
Mastracchio says half of AtYourGate orders come from airport staff, with some offices using the service to cater meetings.
“I can’t believe somebody didn’t think of it earlier,” said Liz Grzechowiak, assistant director of concessions for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
Grzechowiak uses the service herself, being in meetings “nine hours a day, chronically known for grabbing a handful of almonds here and moving on to the next.”
For now, deliveries are done on foot, with AtYourGate employees walking 10 to 15 miles a day, Mastracchio said. They know the ins and outs of the airport and can make quick connections between concourses.
A series of text messages alert the user to the order’s progress, and gate agents will call out for passengers if the delivery person needs help finding the recipient.
The goal in bringing AtYourGate initially to MSP was to reduce “hardships” for the airport’s 20,000 employees, Grzechowiak said.
“People are looking for affordable, quick access to hot meals and when people only have a 30-minute shift break and have to travel to the other side of the airport and wait in line, that was a hardship,” she said.
But the app could also benefit the 100,000 travelers who pass through MSP every day, particularly “a nervous traveler who wants to hug that gate hold,” parents or people running late, she said.
“It’s applicable to both [travelers and employees] in very profound ways.”