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Atlanta Bread emphasizes customer service at airport locations

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

It was close to noon, and Atlanta Bread, located in the Atrium of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, was full of customers who were either in line, or already enjoying their lunch.

A.J. Sussman, of Athens, Ga., was waiting for his order number to be called, and noticed something positively different about the café's customer service, so much so, that he gave a comment to the manager.

When asked why he was so impressed with the service, Sussman responded, "I had a great greeting when I went to the cash register. She [cashier] made great suggestions about the menu ... then, I noticed the manager was not only [distributing orders], but was helping customers to their table."

Sussman said he is a frequent flier and has eaten at Atlanta Bread several times, and has had a positive customer service experience each time. "I thought this one [service] stood out, [however]," he added.

As Valentina Hamer-Ironstone was concentrating on her hot bowl of soup, she commented on the great experiences she's had at the café. She added that she is a customer service supervisor for TBI Airport Management at Hartsfield-Jackson, and has been working for the company for 12 years. She explained that the café has two locations at the airport –– in the Atrium and on Concourse C.

"It [Atlanta Bread] has a pleasant attitude, the best service and very good food ... Every time I get a chance to be at the airport's Atrium, or Concourse C, I come to Atlanta Bread," said Hamer-Ironstone.

Hartsfield-Jackson passenger, Jimbo Song, of South Carolina, said this is his fifth time this year eating at the café, because he enjoys the menu. "I like their breakfast and also their coffee," said Song, while eating brunch with his family.

"Every time we [family] come here [Hartsfield-Jackson], we come to eat at this restaurant, because we like this restaurant," he added.

According to Jerry Couvaras, president of Atlanta Bread, the Atrium café opened in 1999, and the Concourse C location began operations in 2003. Concessions International is the operator for both eateries, he added.

Couvaras said there are several differences in operating the café in an airport, versus other locations. One of those differences is space.

His younger brother, Basil Couvaras, senior vice president of Atlanta Bread, said the Atrium café is about 2,600 square feet, and the Concourse C location is a little smaller, with about 2,200 square feet of space. "Obviously, they are a little smaller than what we typically use," said Jerry. "We serve everything a regular café would serve. Obviously, it is a tighter space."

"We've designed our system to operate as efficiently in this square footage," said Basil, in a thick South-African accent, much like his brother's.

The senior vice president said that because of space constraints at Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta Bread provides its customers with 98 percent of the overall food and beverage items, on the eatery's overall menu.

"We try to keep our menu at almost 100 percent, as what you would get on the street at Atlanta Bread," said Basil. "Almost everything you can get at a regular Atlanta Bread, you can get here [airport], which, again, is more challenging ... We try to make it work."

Basil Couvaras said these are the only two Atlanta Bread locations that are housed in an airport, and are the only cafés open 24 hours a day. Atlanta Bread has café locations in 23 states, throughout the nation, he added.

"This store and the Concourse C store are open 24 hours; we do not close ...We do that as a service for the employees, for the flights that come in late," said Basil, while sipping coffee. He said that between the two operations at Hartsfield-Jackson, there are about 150 employees, compared to about 40 staff members at a regular Atlanta Bread location. This is due to the 24-hour service they provide, he added.

Though Atlanta Bread runs its own employee background checks at regular stores, it is taken up a notch at Hartsfield-Jackson, Basil said. Employees must get security checks through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he explained.

Jerry Couvaras said Atlanta Bread's airport locations are the only cafés that offer customers a director of hospitality, who assists them with café-related issues and concerns. One person serves as director of hospitality for both locations, providing service in a variety of areas, including feeding a person who needs that assistance, to walking lost customers to their departure gates.

"He does anything and everything ... We've got a good ear of what the travelers are looking for, and what they want," said Jerry.

"Because Atlanta is in our name ... we want to be good stewards of our brand and of our city," added Basil.

Jerry Couvaras said deliveries to the company's cafés at the airport are handled differently than at regular locations. Deliveries come between 1 a.m., and 5 a.m., every other day, added Basil. Those who deliver products, he said, must obtain clearance, through the airport, to access the docking areas.

"In a regular store, you would open your back door and they will be there," he said. "In this instance, they have to be brought from somewhere else, maybe an elavator."

Basil said he and his brother were born in South Africa, to Greek parents. From 1991 to 1992, the brothers ventured outside of South Africa and visited Greece, the United Kingdom and Portugal, for business opportunities, and a place to settle down, he said.

"Those were countries we lived in, but we've traveled all over the world," he said.

In 1992, he said, they arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson and were impressed with the airport, and doubly impressed with the City of Atlanta, and moved to the city a year later. They became interested in Atlanta Bread that year, and worked with the former owners, who had only two locations operating in Atlanta. Basil said the company was bought from its original owners in 1997.

According to Katena Carvajales, media relations manager for Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta Bread recently received the the Department of Aviation's "Food and Beverage ‘Shop of the Month,'" award for its Concourse C location.

The award is presented each month to the food and beverage location that received the highest scores in facility inspection, food safety and mystery shopper results, said Carvajales.