Family Legacy in Cleveland and Beyond
United Concessions Group has been a strong voice and consistent woman-owned ACDBE operator in the airport concessions space for almost 40 years. The company began with one operation in Cleveland International Airport (CLE) and has grown to just under 20 operations in CLE, Washington Dulles International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport. Like so many airport concessionaires, UGC is a family-owned legacy business.
Family matriarch and founder, Hayat Rababy spent her career working in the airport industry. Her six children began working for UCG in their teens and have worked their way through the company into leadership roles. Recently, a third generation of Rababys has joined the business, giving Hayat the opportunity to pass down to her grandchildren the business acumen and customer service philosophies that have earned the company its stellar reputation that has continued to precede them.
When powerhouse brand, Chick-fil-A was expanding their market into the airport space, they selected Cleveland International Airport as a target location and courted UCG to become their licensee. UCG became one of the system’s most proven performers and one of the only airport operators to be invited yearly to attend the CFA Partner Summit.
Known for its “responsible” bids that are realistic and promote the best possible revenue numbers for the company and the airports in which they operate, UCG’s proven service philosophies and sales yield more revenue consistently to their landlords.
Ben Rababy, who plays a primary role in leading business development, was instrumental in bringing culinary legend and Iron Chef, Michael Symon to the airport space. After a social media exchange, the two developed a friendship that led to the openings of Bar Symon at Pittsburgh International, Washington Dulles International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and Cleveland International Airport.
With the pandemic, UCG has seen traffic in its airports decrease by 95%, resulting in almost all of its locations closing. The few locations still open have sales numbers that are a fraction of what they were. The company, ever committed to taking care of its employees, furloughed all but one.
Each week, UCG hosts calls with its manager to encourage them to stay in touch with staff. That’s Ben’s biggest concern: making sure his people come back. With so many people making more money on unemployment than they potentially did before, will they want to come back to work yet?
The UCG team is already making plans for their comeback, including operational changes to seating, adding plexiglass to protect employees and guests, and even determining if terminal space can be used for seating.
“I wouldn’t bet against travel,” Ben says. “We’ve been through a lot and we’ll be a lot stronger coming out of this.”
Ben’s message to regulators: Be fair and uniform within the industry, and help operators take those extra precautions to prepare for a safe opening. He’s ready to get back to what he loves — serving guests.