Understanding The Radical Changes At Midway

July 10, 2017

May 20th, 2017, was a big day at Midway Airport. Gone were some of the favorite eateries of passengers, including McDonald’s, Potbelly’s, and Harry Caray’s. Surviving restaurants and bars, such as Reilly’s Daughter, were left as little more than a skeleton of its past self- as the name was bought by a third-party, rumored to be Midway Partnership, the entire staff was replaced, and drink prices were nearly doubled. Regulars have declared it dead through its corporate washing.

Why did this all happen?

Let’s let the city explain in its own words:

Midway Partnership was selected as the master concessionaire for Midway following a thorough Request for Proposals (RFP) process that began in the fall of 2015 and was approved by the Chicago City Council earlier this year. Under the agreement, Midway Partnership will invest $75 million to renovate and expand concessions at Midway. Phase 1 includes an overhaul of the existing concessions areas, stores and restaurants, to be followed by a major renovation to increase the concessions area by 26,000-square-feet for Phase 2, yielding a total of nearly 70,000-square-feet of concessions space at Midway.

Through increased concessions space and a greater variety of offerings, sales per enplanement are projected to double after the project is completed. In all, this new program is expected to increase annual sales tax revenue to the City by $10 million annually once the project is complete in 2020.

The Concessions Redevelopment Program is a critical part of the largest investment plan for Midway International Airport. The Midway Modernization Program, announced by Mayor Emanuel in 2015, directs a $323 million investment into the airport, including expansions to both the passenger security checkpoint area and terminal parking garage, and a complete renovation and expansion of Midway’s concessions by 2020.

Source: City of Chicago

According to the Midway Partnership, the project will yield these results:

  • Double the number of permanent concession jobs to 1,400
  • Contribute an additional $10 million in sales tax revenue to City of Chicago
  • Secure ACDBE participation above City’s target to 41% – one of the highest in the United States
  • Provide more opportunities for local brands and operators
  • Enhance the passenger experience

ACDBE is The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Disadvantaged Business Enterprise” (DBE) program which apparently is a way to funnel federal tax dollars to local projects.

By my reading, the city leased the airport’s concessions to this private party – Midway Partnership – in return for their investment in new facilities at the airport. The goal was mainly to increase jobs, tax revenues, and passenger facilities. I use “facilities” and not their word “experience” as many of the revenue-producing changes in the airport have disappointed passengers.

Who exactly is Midway Partnership? It consists of three corporations: Vantage Airport Group, SSP America, and Hudson Group. All are big players in the airport industry, in financing, food service, and retail, respectively.

How long will Midway Partnership reign over airport concessions? Through 2032. Just 15 years.

So, the next time you pass through Midway Airport and you wish you had different food options or better deals, keep in mind that by being a good consumer at the airport that you are doing your part in contributing to its enhancement. Think of it as indirect yet necessary taxation.

Not sure where to eat or drink in the airport? We’ve outlined all Midway Airport restaurant options and where to get great coffee in Midway Airport. Read them- an educated consumer is a happy consumer.

See the new latest Midway Concessions Map here.

Keep in mind, many travelers still prefer Midway Airport to O’Hare for solid reasons.


The above article was written for this Chicago blog hosted by the Carlton Inn MidwayMidway Airport’s Best Value Hotel. The blog is meant to educate and entertain. Management does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information on this website. Carlton Inn Midway may make changes to the content or policies at any time without prior notice. That which was written above does not represent the voice of hotel management. Rather, it is the lone voice of the writer.