Reflecting on 25 Years of Partnership with Delaware North

Delaware North team members pose for a group photo in the kitchen.

For decades, the City of Austin was a diamond in the rough. Up until after the pandemic, Austin's vivacious food scene brought by the rich local diversity went unnoticed by most of the nation. Today, Austin is renowned for not only its live music but its terrific Tex-Mex tacos, barbeque festivities, and exceptional local breweries.

As we celebrate the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport’s (AUS) 25th Anniversary this month, we applaud the company that recognized Austin as a hidden gem over a quarter-century ago. Delaware North (DNC) is one of the largest entertainment and food service companies in the world and played a key role in setting the tone for the Austin Airport. Delaware North's Regional Manager Terry Mahlum has managed the majority of AUS’s concessions since the start. We interviewed Mahlum to uncover the unseen work behind giving travelers enjoyable experiences in the terminal.

How long has DNC been at AUS? Can you tell me about what you do to help manage DNC operations at AUS?

I’ve been here since the first year of operation. Delaware North transferred me to Austin in September of 1999, just about four months after it opened up, and I have stayed ever since. I’m the regional manager, so I oversee the state of Texas where we're in airports, as well as the Los Angeles International Airport. So, I travel back and forth from Texas (AUS) and Los Angeles (LAX) often. It's been fun to see the changes. I mean, it was pretty small back then but it's remarkable how much this airport has transformed into what it is today.

What goes into the behind-the-scenes of being the largest airport concession company?

It’s finding the best of Austin from a brand standpoint. In terms of community involvement, we're involved with Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), SIMS Foundation, Clifford Antone’s Foundation, and Feed Austin. We do a lot of sponsorships, donations, and, I mean, we have a good team in place here.

Presenting a check at HAAM benefit event

There’s a lot of moving pieces. Because of the growth of the airport, we had to move our commissary to be offsite. We have a full production kitchen at our offsite location, so everything is made over there and then shipped to the airport. We also have a full HR team, a finance team, and a full commissary team over there that works to get things ready for the next day. I start my day off there early and then spend a few hours here at the airport.

What was the first concession or concessions to be opened in the terminal?

Salt Lick Barbecue has been here since Day One, such a staple. Amy's Ice Cream, Austin City Limits, and Book People are other local concepts that started here in 1999. Actually, DNC started with eight or nine concepts in 1999 and is now up to 25 as of 2024. Twenty-five local concepts for 25 years.

Looking back at the past 25 years, do any noteworthy moments or periods stand out to you?

I mean, we started the live music program. Before the Saxon Pub, we had a Schlotzsky's coffee and pastries, with a sidebar and a large main stage. We had one live music performance a week. Michael Pennock is in charge of coordinating music now, doing phenomenal at running and booking all the music. There's also Nancy Coplin, who did it before Michael. Nancy and I worked together to start the whole concept of live music in the airport. Delaware North takes credit for live music in airports; it's in Nashville now, New Orleans, and so many other airports. It changes the overall customer experience.

Is the DNC crew planning anything special to celebrate AUS’s 25th Anniversary?

We know the airport is currently trying to raise $25,000 for the Central Texas Food Bank, and we want to be involved in that by donating. We're also going to do special drinks in the Saxon Pub, but what type of special drink is to be determined.

Just for fun: What is your favorite food concession and what do you normally order there?

Salt Lick Barbeque; it’s my favorite, especially the chopped brisket sandwich. You need to try it.

Terry Mahlum of Delaware North preparing to enjoy a barbecue sandwich.

What do you think is the best part about Delaware North’s partnership with AUS?

It's a sense of place, and that's what we created here. With local concepts and live music, I mean, people know they're coming to Austin. That's the point of traveling, right? You want to see what makes Austin special.

Visit our Shop and Dine at AUS webpage to locate some staple mouthwatering flavors from the city, as well as locally owned retail stores that sell one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Learn more about Delaware North and potential career opportunities to join their team here. Huge thanks to Terry Mahlum for letting us get a glimpse of the history behind AUS’s concession program, Beats, Bites, and Flights.