International Meal Company is jump-starting plans announced last year to make significant investments in its operations at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, as well as expand its reach outside the facility with the establishment of at least three Carl’s Jr. burger restaurants, company officials confirmed Monday.
As this media outlet reported, in February 2012 IMC unveiled plans to invest $22 million in a 36-month period on improvements and new ventures, vowing to create about 1,200 jobs in the process.
However, those plans were stalled a few months later by a decrease in passenger traffic at LMM, as well as the privatization process that turned over management of the airport facility from the government to Aerostar Airport Holdings this year, said Juan Comulada-Rivera, general manager of IMC Puerto Rico, which entered the local market in 2008 upon acquiring the assets of Empresas Santana, the airport’s largest concessionaire.
“We have already invested about $5 million of the amount we announced, and wrapped up last year with 500 jobs. We hope to finish this year with 720 jobs and reach about 1,100 total by 2015,” said Comulada.
On Monday, Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla called a press conference to announce that IMC will invest $16 million — or what turns out to be the remaining budget — and create 282 jobs in the next two years.
The executive told NIMB that the $5 million invested so far went into LMM’s Terminal A facility, which houses JetBlue’s local hub, to develop the first of three Carl’s Jr. restaurants in Puerto Rico, as well as a food court and bar area at the terminal, which will open in late November.
Furthermore, IMC will spend $600,000 to build a new aviation terminal, known as a fixed-based operator, to cater to high-end travelers arriving to Puerto Rico in private or chartered jets. The area will have a facility for U.S. Customs, so they can inspect the arriving flights and passengers, who would no longer have to go through the main terminal checkpoint, Comulada said.
“We’ve lacked that at LMM and as a result, we’ve lost that type of business to other islands such as Aruba, which has top-class facilities for those travelers,” he said.
For that project, IMC will tap into Aerostar’s expertise in Cancún, where it has a full-service FBO with a long list of amenities and an even longer list of wealthy customers.
Carl’s Jr. headed for Carolina, Bayamón
IMC’s plans also call for expanding beyond the airport facility, by opening at least two more Carl’s Jr. restaurants — possibly in Carolina and Bayamón. Freestanding restaurants entail an investment of between $1.3 million and $1.6 million each, while food court locations require investing in the range of $300,000 to $600,000, Comulada said.
When IMC discussed its ambitious plans last year, it said the first Carl’s Jr. franchise would be located at the LMM’s Aeroparque facility, which has been closed for more than five years, preventing locals and tourists from enjoying the recreational facility that provides a front-seat to airplane traffic.
However, on Monday Comulada said plans now call for evaluating other options to cater to children and adults looking to visit on weekends.
“We’re discussing a concept now and I hope that we can have that set to be ready to re-open the Aeroparque by either the first or second quarter of 2014,” the executive noted. “It has to be a much more innovative concept than just a casual restaurant. It has to be a destination point.”