New Additions and Improvements Coming to RDU Airport

RDU Airport is taking off, thanks to a slew of star-powered concepts.

We’re back! … Well, almost. International flights are rapidly resuming at RDU Airport, with Icelandair launching in May, London and Montreal flights going wheels up in June, and flights to Paris poised to return in August. Airport parking lots are teeming with cars. And the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Board received a $1.3 million grant to fund the ongoing environmental assessment for the relocation and expansion of RDU’s primary 10,000-foot runway. Add to that RDU is at 89% of 2019 passenger traffic numbers—compared to a near nil 4% at the lowest point in 2020, according to RDU CEO Mike Landguth. 

To feed the frenzy, the Airport Authority is elevating Terminal 2 to a world-class experience via a host of new hot spots. For starters, RDU landed celeb chef Scott Crawford for not one, but two new concepts, slated to drop in 2023: Crawford’s Genuine and Carolina Craft, in partnership with Miami’s Grove Bay Hospitality Group

Opening in the now-occupied 42nd Street Oyster location, Crawford’s Genuine will transform the already uberpopular terminal destination into an elevated bar and grill concept featuring a top-notch cocktail and local beer program to sip on while you savor all-day selects—anything from a sandwich to a breakfast bowl with grits and eggs to a steak cooked over wood with seasonal vegetables. For those chasing the gate, grab-and-go options will also be on offer. 

Complementing the local lean of Crawford’s Genuine, Carolina Craft will be heavily focused on all things NC, with locally sourced tapas-style food, wine and NC craft beers. “We do recognize that, at the airport, we are feeding a lot of people and a very diverse range of people,” says Crawford, “and we need to make sure the menu has items that are pleasing to just about anyone. I think [these concepts] represent the whole Triangle very well, which is really important as a first impression,” adding: “You know the saying, you get one chance at a first impression.”  

In another power move, RDU is opening a ghost kitchen this year, which will make it one of only two in the nation. Operated by REEF Kitchens and featuring nine local and national concepts, the REEF Virtual Food Hall will allow you to place an order via an app or at a kiosk and retrieve your food hot and ready from a temperature-controlled locker… or get your food delivered to your seat!

Rounding out the RDU upgrades is what is replacing the now-defunct Starbucks situated at the bottom of the post-TSA checkpoint escalators. The ubiquitous Seattle roaster will give way to local caffeine fix Black & White Coffee Roasters, which houses current locations in DTR, Wake Forest and Rolesville. Adding to the buzz factor, Durham-based Beyu Caffe will percolate in pre-security outposts in Terminals 1 and 2, hopefully before the holiday season, says RDU Chief Revenue Officer David Freedman. 

“Historically when an airport has brought in things that are more reflective of the local community, people tend to recognize it and spend a little bit more there,” Freedman maintains. “I think it’s also a great way to highlight the great things that are going on in our community to folks who are traveling here for the first time—and they can get a sense of our food scene and the great offerings we have here.”

And, surely, the new F&B concepts—plus the airport’s other improvements—will help increase traffic both to and through RDU. 

“When we look at our long-term infrastructure plan, we call it Vision 2040, we have to make sure that we have the infrastructure in place—the runways, the taxiways, the terminals, the concessions,” says Landguth. “All these amenities make sure we can continue to serve our customers, as not only do we [hope to] reach recovery and our 2019 numbers, but we believe overtime we will exceed those numbers.” 

Ready to fly now?

Susan Holt Photography
Star chef Scott Crawford’s highly anticipated Crawford’s Genuine will open in the current 42nd Street Oyster Bar location in Terminal 2 in late 2023, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner—plus to-go options.

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.