Food Fight

The Latest on the Unsavory Pappas Restaurant Feud at Hobby Airport

A profitable restaurant contract will soon evict Houston-based Pappas restaurants.

By Shelby Stewart March 14, 2023

Pappas restaurants are fighting to keep their place in Hobby Airport. 

This is an update to our article about the contract discussions between Pappas restaurants and Hobby Airport. Read our original piece below.

Update as of March 13

In an 11-6 decision, Houston City Council members awarded a 10-year, $470 million contract to Areas USA, one of the leading providers of food, beverage, and retail services in the U.S. travel hospitality industry. The decision will officially boot out all Pappas restaurants in Hobby Airport within the next two years. 

Areas USA is slated to bring in restaurants like Auntie Anne’s pretzels, Tony Roma, and Wendy’s, to Bush and Hobby Airports. Reports show that the Areas USA deal grants the City of Houston a significantly larger percentage of its revenue than the Pappas deal did—22.2 percent to 15.5 percent. According to Eater, the changeover is projected to bring in more than $10 million for the Houston-area airports.

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A post shared by Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen (@pappadeaux)

Despite the popularity of Pappas restaurants with airport visitors, and the highly effective online #SaveOurPappas campaign, which accumulated over 46,000 signatures from Houstonians, ultimately, financial interests won the day. “We are disappointed in the City of Houston’s decision,” Chris and Harris Pappas shared in a statement. “Houstonians deserve a fair and transparent procurement process that supports local businesses. We did not get that from our leaders.”

In the interim, Pappas has made a promise that all workers employed at Pappas locations in the airports will transfer to other Houston area locations, at the same pay rate and with the same benefits.

Hobby Airport has undergone a handful of renovations in recent years, including Southwest Airlines’ $250 Million terminal expansion, the addition of a gaming lounge, and a number of art installations throughout the terminal. However, one proposed change is getting some major pushback. 

Housed inside Hobby Airport are a slew of Pappas Family restaurants. They include Pappadeux, Pappasitos Cantina, Pappas Burgers, and Pappas Bar-B-Q, each one a Houston staple popular among frequent fliers looking for a tasty meal. Under the new proposed contract, the Pappas brand restaurants would be pushed out in favor of larger, out-of-town eateries. 

The Houston Chronicle reported that the 10-year $470 million deal would bring an end to the Pappas’ roughly 20-year tenure at Hobby Airport. If the contract gets approval in city council, Areas, the company that operates concessions in airports worldwide will bring national chains like Longhorn Steakhouse and Raising Cane’s, alongside Killen’s Barbecue, SpindleTap Brewery, Thoroughgood Coffee, and The Spot, whose flagship restaurant is located in Galveston.

The contract has garnered plenty of mainstream attention, and the traction led the Pappas Family to create the #SaveOurPappas Twitter campaign, which includes a petition with more than 33,000 signatures and counting. “As Houston natives with a passion for diverse and delicious food, we are eager to keep serving travelers at Hobby,” a statement on the petition website reads. “But the city wants to replace the local restaurants you know and love with a company with no ties to our city and no track record of success in the community.”


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In addition, Pappas shared that they’ve “created over 400 jobs” in the Houston community. Pappas Restaurants CEO, Chris Pappas spoke in front of City Council on Tuesday, ahead of a vote this week, that will determine what’s to come of the hospitality group. According to a KHOU report, Chris Pappas said that the brand has spent more than three years working alongside the City of Houston on the proposal process, and in turn has endured last-minute cancellations, sudden revisions, and a lack of communication.

Another point driving home the crusade to save Pappas in Hobby Airport is the airport’s five-star rating from Skytrax. A designation that, Chris Pappas said occurred when the Skytrax team executives dined at a couple Pappas restaurants during their visit to Hobby Airport. 

The City of Houston released a full statement on the contract, with claims that Pappas has a “blatant misrepresentation” of the contract. Mayor Sylvester Turner says that the contract requires a “competitive procurement process” and that the council is required to follow a procedure.

"The contract under review by the City Council features iconic local concepts and supports small businesses that have deep ties to Houston. Killen’s Barbeque, The Spot, SpindleTap Brewery, Thoroughgood Coffee, and Clutch City Coffee are among the proposed selection of distinct and fun local culinary options that will also celebrate the mouth-watering and signature flavors of Houston."

The renovations at the airport have taken months, even years in the finishing—in January, another 10-year contract was awarded to LaTrelle’s Galley, the Houston-based management company. The new deal will also bring Common Bond Bistro and Bakery, Velvet Taco, Pinks Pizza, and Dish Society to Hobby. 

Will Pappas be a part of the future of Hobby Airport or will they be 86’d?  Stay tuned. A city council meeting is scheduled for this week to determine the future of Pappas restaurants at Hobby Airport.

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