Subway shop in airport to rebound from rocky start, manager says

Subway Cafe lost $14,000 in its first three months of operation at Grand Junction Regional Airport, but airport officials expect the eatery to turn a profit regularly as soon as employee turnover rate settles down.

Between June 1 and Aug. 31, the cafe reported $120,000 in revenue and $134,000 in expenses, Airport Manager Rex Tippetts said.

“We’re actually right about where we expected to be,” he said. “We projected net daily sales of around $1,000 a day. We have hit that mark every day.”

Tippetts attributed the deficit to high labor costs. He said the cafe hired extra employees when it first opened and placed four workers on each shift, which he said is twice the ideal amount.

“We really wanted to make sure we were taking care of the customers,” Tippetts said, noting that the number of labor hours logged has dropped from nearly 400 in the first week of operation to 250 last week.

He said the cafe also struggled with a lot of turnover. He said five employees quit when college classes started in late August but that he believes he’s now found a core group of employees.

With that core group in place, Tippetts said the cafe has turned a profit the past five weeks, and he expects it to be running in the black in another three months.

The late-May opening of the cafe marked the first time in three years that a restaurant was operating in the airport.

The lack of hot food service was consistently airport customers’ top complaint.

The airport Subway features the sub chain’s traditional fare and coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee. It also sells beer by the bottle and Two Rivers Winery wine by the glass.

The airport spent $350,000 to build the cafe. Tippets has said he expects it to bring in a net income of $120,000 annually.

Meanwhile, commercial passenger traffic in August dropped 14 percent over the same time last year, although that could be largely because of the loss of Frontier Airlines.

A total of 19,921 passengers flew out of the airport in August compared to 23,142 during the same month in 2009.

Frontier abandoned its Grand Junction to Denver route in September 2009.

Through the first eight months of the year, 140,104 passengers boarded commercial planes at the airport. A record 227,946 passengers boarded commercial carriers last year.


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