Hayden airport restaurant loses money in 1st winter | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden airport restaurant loses money in 1st winter

The new Three Wire Bar & Grill at Yampa Valley Regional Airport operated at a loss during the six ski season months of 2011-12. The restaurant was created during the last phase of improvements to the terminal at the Hayden airport.

— The new Three Wire Bar & Grill operated by Routt County at Yampa Valley Regional Airport lost about $30,000 during the six ski season months if one-time startup costs and county overhead charges aren't considered, Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said Tuesday.

"It would be great to have operated at a profit, but it's really not realistic for a startup restaurant," Ruppel told the Routt County Board of Commissioners. "I feel very positive about what we were able to do. It's frustrating to not be able to operate at a profit, but we will."

The new restaurant was created near the passenger security line between baggage check-in and retrieval during the last phase of improvements to the terminal at YVRA. The county put out requests for proposals in June 2011 to 50 restaurant operators and received no interest, leading the airport administration to enter the restaurant business and hire a staff before ski season.

"The bottom line is this year, we had no choice," Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

Commissioner Doug Monger pointed out that YVRA is fiscally self-sufficient and losses do not come out of the county's general fund.

Ruppel said the restaurant wasn't the only aspect of airport operations that didn't operate in the black this year.

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"We have other operations that don't pay for themselves, like snowplowing, for example," he said.

Ruppel presented five years of gross revenue numbers for airport food service — including Paradise Bar & Grill and Charlie's Chuck Wagon, which were run by previous operators — showing that Three Wire and a related snack bar in the passenger holding area succeeded this season in realizing the second-best sales volume month after month when compared with ski seasons from 2007 to 2011. Despite disappointing passenger traffic at the airport this winter, Ruppel said, he thought it was a good start that needs to be improved on.

After a slow start in December, the restaurant grossed $113,751 in January, $122,870 in February and $125,038 in March. Paradise Bar & Grill did more than $130,000 in monthly business in January, February and March of 2008, when the airport had more arriving ski season airplane seats.

However, Three Wire's balance sheet looks worse when one-time startup costs of $76,000 are factored into the mix. And because the county finance department also uses a formula to assign a prorated share of county overhead and administrative costs to each of its departments, add another $71,000 to Three Wire's loss on paper.

The financials for Three Wire show operators spent substantially more on personnel than on the food and alcohol that was sold.

Of the $444,335 in gross revenue, $398,346 was attributable to food and $39,652 to alcohol sales with the balance made up by incidentals and tax service fees.

The costs of goods and services for the ski season were $173,136, and personnel costs were $247,930.

"Our personnel costs were too high," Ruppel said. "We staffed on the high side, not being sure of what we'd need. We now have a better idea with what we need."

He added that he thinks the restaurant comfortably can raise prices in the coming season.

Ruppel acknowledged that the airport restaurant now is in the quiet time of its annual cycle, and Stahoviak asked him whether he envisions a time when he would return to the private sector to find a restaurant operator.

"I prefer to keep it in house," Ruppel said. "It gives us a much greater opportunity to make revenue off it in the future. The other thing is we can control the product, and we found this year that's really important. We received a lot of compliments, and I don't want to give that up. You can't control what (concessionaires) are providing or not providing. If they cut way back on customer service, we're stuck. We live with it. We need to be able to provide people with that service."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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