Strange: Newark Airport Opens An Invitation Only Steakhouse

Filed Under: United

United is sending out emails to select MileagePlus members offering them an invitation to a new “invitation-only, contemporary restaurant” at Newark Airport, called CLASSIFIED. It’s described as follows:

We’re pleased to welcome you to dine at CLASSIFIED, an invitation-only, contemporary restaurant at Newark Airport.

The creators of CLASSIFIED have created a bright and airy dining space that’s hidden away for those lucky enough to get an invitation. On the cutting edge of airport dining, CLASSIFIED offers a menu that’s inspired by upscale American cuisine with seasonal ingredients and tableside service. We’re offering reservations to select UnitedĀ® customers only, and we want to make sure you’re at the top of the list. Reserve a table today to experience this unique, new restaurant that’s the first of its kind.

This seems to be very closely targeted, as most on FlyerTalk report not being invited. You can log-in here to see if you’re eligible. Here are the pictures that FlyerTalk member limey1K shared of the website, which has pictures of the restaurant. The restaurant is being run by OTG, the same company that has improved many of the other concessions at Newark Airport.

When I first heard about this restaurant I assumed “ah, United is delayed in opening the Polaris Lounge, so they’ll invite select top tier elite and full fare business class passengers into a pop-up restaurant in the meantime, where they enjoy pre-flight dining at no extra cost.”

Nope, instead this is a restaurant as expensive as the top steakhouses out there — a steak costs ~$45 without any sides. You can find the full menu here.

So this basically has top steakhouse pricing, minus the service, because instead you can order off screens.

I’d question the viability of this business model to begin with, let alone trying to restrict it even further by only inviting certain flyers. But perhaps that’s exactly the goal — by making it exclusive they’re probably hoping to create interest that might not otherwise be there. Heck, clearly that’s the goal, based on the fact that they’re calling it “CLASSIFIED.”

Personally I tend to think the high end airport restaurant scene has very limited potential:

  • Most business travelers get to the airport last minute, without enough time for a sit-down steak dinner
  • Most business travelers have access to lounges; while not necessarily nice, being able to send off a few emails before boarding is often more important than having a good meal
  • When the Polaris Lounge opens it will have sit down dining as well

I’d be very curious to see how full this restaurant gets. If anything, I think the demand will be there because of the curiosity surrounding this being an “invitation only” place. Otherwise this whole concept just seems like a stretch to me.

What do you think about the concept of an invitation only airport steakhouse?

(Tip of the hat to Live and Let’s Fly)

  1. “Most business travelers have access to lounges”

    Well, as long they aren’t flying domestic on United and aren’t United Club members šŸ˜‰

    I have a friend who flew last year for the first time ever in United First (not just on United, her first premium cabin trip ever), from ORD to IAD and back. She isn’t a United Club member. Needless to say, she was a bit surprised that she didn’t get complimentary access to the lounges in either ORD or IAD…

    The quality of the food might be good, but who is willing to pay those prices at the airport?

  2. Limiting invitations is simply a marketing ploy that’s been used by others as well. The goal is to make it feel exclusive and special, therefore having people clamor to get in. This is no different. For an example of this type of marketing, check out the “Please Don’t Tell” bar in NYC. That said, this experiment seems doomed for failure.

  3. Lucky- i disagree with your generalization of business flyers at Newark.

    Most need to arrive early- from traffic – particularly NYC tunnel related issues by road or rail, to occasionally long lines. Then factor in that the airport is in one of the most congested airspace regions with many delayed flights. If you arrive at the airport at 5pm for a 6pm flight to see that i’ts delayed to 7pm and you have budget in your expense account. Are you going to eat snacks from a United Club tower or a steakhouse? I’d say the exclusivity is a neat marketing ploy to build up buzz for a new location.

    JFK has a version of the Palm steakhouse in Terminal 4 with similar pricing, but open to the public.

    There are already several fine dining options at Newark, and perhaps the exclusivity convinces people to choose this venue. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it’ll flop.

    Sure – a 1K on a Polaris ticket would certainly expect a Polaris lounge with a sit down food like they would see at JFK with BA/AA/DL/VS – but they might end up on UA for one reason or another and having a choice for a nice meal would certainly be appreciated. I’m shocked that UA is promoting it and likely receiving a fee while ignoring an opportunity to win over high value fliers while they build a Polaris lounge. Certainly a system where you can choose a meal on the ground vs the air similar to BA can be done in a cost effective way.

  4. Interesting. Marketing from the position of scarcity. Limit the number of seats, limit the full service, maximize profit. Could actually work at Newark, though I would have expected this concept to have been first tested elsewhere. Wondering what their busiest time of day will be. I do hate the screen ordering at that OTG property in the JetBlue terminal at JFK — talking to the servers it makes them feel awkward and yet you’re also feeling awkward not giving a full tip on very limited service.

  5. Newark already has a couple of places with expensive steak. They’re ok-ish…I had a New York strip at Saison recently. But I had to abandon my $10 order of macarons after waiting 20 minutes.

    If this place is so exclusive maybe they could ditch those crappy iPads that are popping up like a plague in so many airports…

  6. I hate touching public screens. McDonald’s should provide hand sanitizing wipes next to theirs. I don’t need to be invited to a $$$ steakhouse to touch exclusive germs.

  7. There’s so much that’s seemingly wrong with this:

    – It’s being championed by United.
    – It’s offering airport food at prices reserved for actual steakhouses that know what they’re doing.
    – It’s closing off huge swaths of potential customers hoping to create an air of exclusivity.
    – It’s charging a premium for airport food and providing zero of the ambiance typically associated with fancy steakhouses.
    – It’s presuming people will make EWR a destination airport in which they’d like to spend quality time.

    I fail to see any part of this ploy that’s remotely redeeming. I kind of hope it REALLY fails just because.

  8. It’s Cartmanland! Fiscal genius Eric Cartman came up with this business strategy for his amusement park more than a decade ago. When his park first opened, the public wasn’t allowed in. It drove people crazy. So when Eric did open it to the public, the line for it was around the block.

  9. I wasn’t targeted for this exclusive invitation. So now I don’t get the privilege of paying 45 bucks for a steak in a restaurant that’s destined to fail, based on their ridiculous business model. Now I fell worthless!

  10. Ugh, this looks like a concept that was drawn up in a stuffy boardroom, not by people in the hospitality industry who actually have a passion for food and restaurants.

  11. With those prices a lot of people would have to forego the sausage. They wouldn’t be able to make both ends meat.

  12. As someone who actually got targeted I have to say it kinda worked, felt special to get through the portal after reading this. Also, as someone with an expense account I kind of like the idea – I want the quiet space of the United Club but often I want dinner too, sure its a premium in price but the sandwiches look pretty good and on-part with airport prices. Maybe it doesn’t need to be a steakhouse, but, I love the idea of a private restaurant for frequent business travelers. But, I suppose what I really want is hot food at a United Club.

    One thing on the targeting you don’t mention here that is in the FAQs on the site – the invitation is related to upcoming travels to EWR. Might explain some of the targeting.

  13. Interesting to see how it does. Among airports that have enough HNW travelers to afford this kind of thing, EWR is probably a leading one. The exclusivity just seems a marketing gimmick. I also guessed that this is really a private dining room using the kitchen of another restaurant, and I understand it is Saison.

    But as you note, many business travelers do have lounge access. Outside of the Concorde Room, few are like this, while once a Polaris lounge opens, UA international flyers will prefer that. Sometimes, though, I wonder if it is really just a small proportion of frequent flyers that use lounges, notwithstanding the constant crowding. Interesting comment above about how an infrequent flyer thought that a United domestic first class ticket included lounge access. If I never flew, I would probably have thought so, too. But then, lots of things about airline travel are not intuitive.

  14. I scanned thru the menu and found the price in line with what I expected in a semi-high end airport restaurant. It is close to the standard meal price in NYC or SF bay area.

  15. I recently visited the ORD Polaris Lounge.
    We had about 5 hours.
    Exploited everything, slept, snacked, ate, drank.
    I can’t imagine anything surpassing the a la carte filet steak, best Napa Valley wine, dessert, etc. – and obviously all complimentary.
    Hard to beat!

  16. It just seems like a soft opening and to create some buzz. I expect sales to be soft and not much buzz except on a few sites like this.

  17. There’s nothing high-end about Newark. This is destined to fail, and it should.

    Count me among those who absolutely hate the iPads all over the place at OTG-run facilities. I hardly ever see anyone use them.

  18. All of you bashing Newark obviously haven’t been to JFK or LGA. EWR Terminal C now has really great food options and the iPads are far better than waiting for a server to never show up. The only thing abysmal right now are the United lounges. If it wasn’t for the wifi I would never use them until renovated.

  19. It’s nothing but a ploy to get people to sign up for United emails. When you go to the site it say you can request “consideration to be on the list” by signing up to receive UA marketing materials.

    I’m guessing that anyone who checks the box eventually gets an invite.

  20. I have a little over three hours in Newark on my way back to the US for Xmas. I’ve been invited. I’m willing to take one for the team and make a reservation to review the place if you’d like? Let me know

  21. You can “apply” for consideration if you agree to receive UA marketing emails. I’d try it if I was transiting theough EWR but I’m not going to shed any tears if I’m not found worthy.

  22. You say that a steak “cost $45”. I’ve seen the menu in another post, and it lists a steak for that price without tax and tip. So the steak actually “costs” about $60.

    As a journalist you need to be exact.

  23. I’m convinced with United Airlines fantastic 5 star customer service accommodating passengers worldwide and their exceptional food service on-board this will be the biggest hit in or out of the restaurant word
    I hear it will be amazing with soggy plastic wrapped supermarket dinner rolls partially reheated with real not fake margarine,wilted salad from their flights with peel off salad dressing in plastic cups
    Their food will likely rival the legendary Swanson TV dinners in foil trays from the golden era
    Certainly worth a premium at any cost
    Reason alone to fly out of or visit Newark should you be so lucky to get an invite to this exclusive club

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