weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Businessman’s fortunes rise, fall with air travel changes

Want to check the pulse of air travel into Las Vegas?

Add Michael Ty’s bottom line to those monthly enplanement statistics from McCarran International Airport.

Ty runs Hospitality Culinaire, a concession company with three airport food-and-beverage operations. The company operates a combined TCBY/Pretzel Maker location in the A and B gates, and a Jamba Juice store in the C gates.

Ty launched Hospitality Culinaire in 1993. He continued for the better part of a decade to work day jobs on and around the Strip, putting in 85 hours a week between both sides until his airport business became steady.

It’s been a sometimes-turbulent ride for Ty, who emigrated from the Philippines to Connecticut with his family in 1966. Hospitality Culinaire has had to find its way around the realities of post-9-11 air travel, as well as maneuver almost constant change at a growing McCarran.

Question: What drew you into airport hospitality?

Answer: I’d be my own boss. When management changes, you don’t know if you have a secure job. At the time, I was raising a young family. I didn’t want to have to worry about how to put food on the table.

Question: How did you choose your concepts?

Answer: My initial concept was TCBY. It was doing well in 1994, and we almost tripled our business. But then in the late 1990s, yogurt went down. People wanted ice cream. We would tell them we have yogurt, and they would walk away. I told my landlord, HMS Host, that I wanted to build my business. They said we could go to TCBY’s brand owner, Mrs. Field’s, and if Mrs. Field’s had something available for us to cobrand, we could do it. Pretzel Maker was the one we chose, and HMS Host approved it. We expanded in 2004 and 2005.

Jamba Juice opened in 2012. With the opening of the D Gates and Terminal 3, some of the airlines moved away from the A and B gates, where we were. My business was not sustaining. HMS Host offered me a spot in the C gates, and asked me to do some research and tell them what I wanted to put in.

Question: Does a captive audience mean steady sales?

Answer: It’s all about traffic. If you have traffic coming through your front, you can capture business pretty well.

When the only gates were the A and B gates, every single airline was on this side. When the D gates opened, almost all of the airlines went there. The only airline that stayed was America West/US Air. Once upon a time, the A and B gates had more than 160 enplanements a day. Over time, that came down to 30 to 36 a day. Each flight averages 150 to 200 passengers each. Multiply that by 130 lost flights. Also, we’re on the A side, so people going through the B side don’t see us. Before the shift, between the cobrands, we were in their top five in the country.

Question: How did you survive the drop in business?

Answer: It was challenging. Overhead had to be adjusted. At the time, I was working two jobs still. You don’t take anything out of the business. You have to make sure all of your bills are paid, and your employees are paid. Those are the important things when you own a business. If you don’t pay your bills, your credibility goes down, and maybe people don’t want to work with you. It was tough until 2012, when Jamba Juice came into play. The day we opened our doors at Jamba Juice, we were bursting out of the seams with volume business-wise. Our store is the brand’s No. 2 store in the world in revenue. No. 1 is at the Downtown Disney District in Anaheim, Calif.

Question: Do you expect the A and B traffic to come back?

Answer: Yes. Planes are full going out, and some airlines have increased flights. It won’t ever come back to 160 flights, but it will come back to where it can be profitable to be there. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think we’re talking about two years down the line.

Question: How did 9-11 change things?

Answer: 9-11 changed the whole world in airport travel and concessions. Before 9-11 came, family and guests could walk with passengers to the gates, so we had additional traffic. We were concerned the business would not be there. But then they banned passengers from bringing in outside liquids. My beverage business grew from 15 percent of my business to 25 percent.

Also, airlines were not profitable, so they started to cut services. They cut food. People had to eat before they got on the plane. They would also come two hours ahead of time because of the security lines. We prospered because people were here, and they didn’t have any food.

Question: What’s the biggest difference in doing business at an airport?

Answer: Hiring employees — and for the right reason.The TSA has rules and regulations. They fingerprint your employees and, depending on the level of work, they do background checks.

My employees have gone through the proper checking, so I know it’s a safe environment. But sometimes it takes three, four or five weeks until we can hire someone. By the time that happens, we may lose that employee, because they find somewhere else to go. I need at least two or three more full-time employees, but the time to do a check is very challenging.

Question: What are your growth plans?

Answer: I hope to buy an existing operation here that is not a national brand, and turn it into a Jamba Juice with name recognition, which would be able to do much better than the business currently operated there.

Then I’m looking to venture out of the airport, somewhere onto the Strip. There is a food court in a mall that I am looking to expand to. I’m also looking at going to food festivals to set up a concession stand and prepare smoothies. I’m going to work with my son, who’s more technology-savvy, to look at online ordering at the airport, because sometimes people have only 15 or 20 minutes to get something to eat, and they might not come to us if we have a huge line. We’re looking to work with some of the other companies at the airport to do catering — to set up a smoothie station for employees because they want to give them a treat, for example. Last but not least, I want to get into the Las Vegas Convention Center or maybe into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when they have big events to promote.

Contact Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Find @J_Robison1 on Twitter

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
More companies handing over tech for China access, report says

The number of foreign companies that feel compelled to hand over technology in exchange for Chinese market access — an issue that sparked President Trump’s tariff fight — has doubled since two years ago, says a report.

Lucky Dragon’s foreign investors demand refund

The Lucky Dragon’s developers and prior management are facing lawsuits from Chinese investors, the project’s main lender and a Canadian high-roller who paid a $400,000 deposit to lease the casino just one month before it abruptly closed.