As the Greater Toronto Airports Authority stared down the barrel of COVID-19 back in 2020, it realized the pressing need to offer contactless concessions at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

Fortunately, a 2018 gate delivery pilot conducted by HMSHost and Uber Eats was still fresh in the minds of its commercial development team. The three entities reunited for a meeting of the minds to offer customers at YYZ an enhanced option for “frictionless transactions.” Rather than concentrating on delivery as in the 2018 pilot, they took a slightly different angle. Feedback from passengers and airport employees prompted the project team to focus on pickup options instead of delivery.

“For their control, people were really interested more in mobile pickup from a broader-based perspective,” explains Suzanne Merrell, senior manager of Retail Operations and Performance for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. “We decided if we were going to put our energies into one model, that was the route we were going to go.”

Once Uber Eats and the Airports Authority were aligned, HMSHost jumped into the mix. Neil Thompson, vice president of Digital for the concessions management company, says it was strategic for the trio to revisit and refine their previous collaboration.
“As of 2020, Uber was the No. 1 downloaded app for travel in the world. Today, Uber Eats is the No. 1 most downloaded app in food service in the world and the largest food delivery platform outside of China. And we are a food service company that operates in the travel environment,” Thompson explains. “To me, it made perfect sense that this would be a partnership. Although it wasn’t initially clear exactly how this would work and exactly where the benefit to the traveler would come in, I think that path to creating a simpler customer experience starts to become more clear as we continue to work together.”
Emphasis on Pickup
With a focus on mobile ordering and pickup, the project team emerged with a revamped offering anchored by an Uber Eats-hosted platform that has expanded to include 20 HMSHost restaurants and retail concessions throughout YYZ. The guiding objective was providing customers an elevated level of convenience and control within the airport.
Rob Mitchell, director of Airports and Travel Business Development for Uber Technologies, emphasizes that the program is still in its early days, but reports that the project partners are seeing continued growth in use of the platform. “At YYZ, in June 2022 compared to June 2021, we are seeing more than 50 times growth in monthly order volume,” he says.