Thanks to Randy Petersen, on Monday evening, I had the honor of attending a special event hosted by United Airlines and OTG at Milk Studios in New York City. The event was designed to showcase the multi-million dollar renovations coming to United’s hub at Terminal C at Newark International Liberty Airport – including restaurants from famous chefs, complimentary Wi-Fi, and iPad stations throughout the terminal. Two key elements of the program include: (1) the ability to order restaurant meals right from an airport iPad by scanning the QR code of the boarding pass on the iPad screen, and (2) the option to pay for food with either dollars or United miles.
Some of the famous chefs represented at the event included Alain Ducasse, Marc Forgione, Paul Liebrandt, Alex Guarnaschelli, Mario Carbone, Josh Capon and chocolatier Jacques Torres.
We were greeted at the entrance and given a boarding pass on our smartphones which we could then use to “check-in” on an iPad, and see the menu and experience what it would be like to order meals on the iPad, as we will soon be able to do at EWR.
There were no formal announcements or speeches. Rather, industry professionals circulated and talked to one another. Stated otherwise, there was a lot of schmoozing. There was a bar, and delicious sampling of foods by the above chefs, who were on hand to discuss their respective plans and menus. The bar was fully stocked. I liked the Ivy Eastside Fizz.
The list of chefs alone is enough to make foodies drool! There were also sample dishes prepared and served by these culinary masters. I made sure to taste most of the creations. My favorites were the crab cake, the grilled shrimp dish and the lobster bisque, but everything was great.
I almost skipped the deserts but then it dawned on me that the man in the chef jacket in front of me was Jacques Torres himself. I tried the dark chocolate almond bark. Incredible. And a little of his signature hot chocolate. Chocolate heaven!
The ability to pay for items or services in points or miles is something that has become more popular, whether for concerts or massages at hotel spas. In my experience, point/mile options are usually not a great use for the points or miles, and that is how I felt about the proposed pricing on these showcased menus. It roughly appears that pricing of items is about 1.3 miles per dollar. I would sooner pay $36 for a steak than use 5,100 United miles. I discussed this with some of the OTG/United reps, and they opined that they imagined that the miles option would be used either by those who had amassed large amounts of miles (perhaps through business travel) or those with only a few thousand miles who might otherwise lose them via mile expiration. I forgot to ask how meals charged in miles would be taxed, and also whether any of these creations would be available for purchase in the Airport Lounges (or would be available for delivery there).
I was most fascinated by the menus (the iPads had sample menus primarily for Saison, not for the other restaurants)- and the prices especially in “miles” so I took a lot of photos. Most items were ala carte – a page would open for other items to order with the main course. What do you think?