Restaurant Development & Design

September-October 2017

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S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 7 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 1 5 Vin Room Location: International terminal, Calgary International Airport Concept: Upscale wine bar, tapas restaurant Owner/operator: Phoebe Fung Phoebe Fung, owner of Calgary's popu- lar Vin Room, set her sights on opening what would be her third location in the Calgary International Airport. As an independent operator, the odds were stacked against her, but last November, four years after submitting her proposal to the airport authority, the first corks were popped at the stylish Vin Room in the international terminal. The 2,000-square-foot operation touts scratch cooking and a menu head- lined by tapas. Breakfast, soups, salads and sandwiches — all made in-house with seasonal, local ingredients — are served as well. "One aspect of being in the airport is that it's an 18-hour-a-day operation. So we offer breakfast and lunch items, and we've had to adapt to the fact that not everyone eats tapas," Fung says. "Because we're in the international terminal, we try to accommodate every type of traveler, taste and time zone." And, of course, the Vin Room wine program is a signature attraction. With its original street location touted as Canada's largest wine bar, the new loca- tion may claim that same title among airport wine bars. More than 3,000 bottles are on display, serving as both a design feature and a storage solution. More than 80 wines are served by the glass. "An important aspect of our concept is that you can buy 2-ounce wine pours instead of having to commit to a whole glass or bottle," Fung says. Fung notes that sales at the airport location so far are evenly split between food and liquor, with per-person checks averaging $20 to $30. "We may look like expensive fine dining, but our tapas start from $5 and entrees average $15 to $17," she says. "You're not paying a premium because you're in an upscale setting in the airport." Fung, who previously worked in the oil and gas industry, spent a lot of time in airports before opening her first Vin Room in 2008. As such, she had a vi- sion for creating a uniquely comfortable and well-equipped oasis. "First, I wanted to recreate the experience of our street location. But I also wanted it to have all of the niceties that I would like as a traveler," Fung says. "We have built-in outlets and USB ports at every table and storage space for luggage underneath our custom- designed seating. Our barstools are adjustable to ensure guest comfort. And we have a complimentary business cen- ter with scanner, computer and monitor, fax machine, and printer available to guests. It's on wheels and rolls right up to the table. We're also about to open our pet patio, which is a feature at our street locations as well." Compared with those locations, do- ing business at the airport is costly — Fung estimates 20 to 30 percent more so than in traditional locations. Dealing with security contributes some of the additional costs, but others have to do with the need to build in redundancies. "Airports are 365-day operations, and you can't risk having something break down or impact operations around you," she says. While the added traffic helps to offset those costs, Fung says the satisfaction from representing the lo- cal independent restaurant scene to travelers through Calgary does as well. "It's rewarding to see people on their way to a vacation or stressed-out busi- ness travelers relax and unwind in our restaurant," she says. sible to pull off in an airport setting but is now incorporated as often as possible. The advent of ventless cooking equipment makes doing so easier, but challenges for specific concepts remain. "In many parts of the airport, we're not able to run ventilation," Blatstein notes. "At Ember, we ended up running copper-plated ductwork for more than 40 feet on the upper facade to be able to ventilate outside the terminal. It cost more, but it was important for us to be able to feature a big wood-burning grill as a centerpiece. The result was well worth the expense." Vin Room is a locally owned upscale wine bar and tapas restaurant with custom, traveler-friendly design fea- tures, such as adjustable barstools and under-banquette luggage storage space. Photo courtesy of Vin Room

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