The Symbiotic Relationship between Hospitality, Foodservice and Travel

July 20, 2021
Barbara Castiglia

Food is serious business. Now, on The Main Course, host Barbara Castiglia will invite insiders on the front lines of food to share their expertise, strategies, and forecasts for navigating the ever-changing restaurant industry.


These three fields blend together, but they’re often talked about separately. Restaurants, hospitality, and travel all intersect and rely on one another.

On this episode of The Main Course, Host Barbara Castiglia talked with Joe Robert-Thornton, EVP and COO of HMSHost, a world leader in creating dining for travel venues. HMSHost operates locations all over North America and is part of Autogrill Group, the world’s leading provider of food & beverage services for people on the move.

The duo talked about the intersection of restaurants, hospitality, and travel, but first, they traveled through Robert-Thornton’s career.

In his early days, Robert-Thornton worked in fast-food restaurants and retail. He eventually graduated to the big time and got a break at Blockbuster Video, where he spent his “good years.” He landed at Starbucks, then Jamba Juice. He took a role at HMSHost in March of last year. But, you might not recognize the brand.

“We’re not really a brand, and so most people won’t know this because we’re operating other people’s brands,” Robert-Thornton said. “We’ve had relationships, prior to the pandemic, with more than 300 brands.”

With operating a lot of brands, they’ve bid a lot of locations in airports. When folks compared the toll the travel industry took during the pandemic, they made comparisons to 9/11. The lack of travel caused a lot of their brands to take significant hits. Obviously, this was much worse, according to Robert-Thornton. But, now that airports are starting to open back up, these restaurant and hospitality brands are seeing more business.

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