Yingling Aviation opens a Subway in hangar

08/26/2014 3:36 PM

08/26/2014 10:04 PM

The aviation-themed Subway restaurant now open at Yingling Aviation offers more than the typical sandwich shop.

It’s a Subway Cafe – and besides the normal array of sandwiches, it offers gourmet coffees and teas, cinnamon rolls, biscuits and gravy, brownies and other breakfast fare.

Large windows allow customers to watch planes taxi by or see the planes inside the adjacent hangar.

Part of the hangar, 14,000 square feet, was converted into the modern, brightly lit restaurant, where propellers and historic aviation photos decorate the walls.

It’s the second Subway Cafe in Kansas. The first opened recently in Topeka.

But it’s the only Subway anywhere to be located inside a hangar, said Yingling Aviation CEO Lynn Nichols. Subway researched its records.

“How many times do you taxi down a runway and see a Subway sign?” Nichols said.

The Subway Cafe opened quietly in June. Its grand opening is Thursday.

The next step is to put in more parking directly across from Yingling. Work to add 60 more parking spaces should start in the next 30 days, Nichols said.

Nichols has wanted to open a restaurant inside the Yingling facility at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport since he bought the company 14 years ago.

He considered a “home grown” restaurant with a variety of offerings or a barbecue or hamburger establishment.

Nichols began exploring various franchises and talked with Yingling customers.

He was drawn to Subway because the food is fresh and healthy.

That appeals to a variety of customers, including international ones.

“We have a lot of international customers,” especially with FlightSafety, Bombardier Learjet and Textron Aviation nearby, Nichols said.

Subway has more restaurants outside the U.S. than any other franchise, including McDonald’s, Nichols said.

So he contacted Subway about putting a store inside a hangar.

“Subway was on board in 24 hours,” he said.

Besides converting hangar space, Yingling also remodeled its restrooms and added a TV and fireplace to its lobby areas. And it added glass hangar doors to the hangar.

Lynn’s son-in-law, Zach Theademan, is the franchise owner.

Yingling wooed him away from a management training program with a rental car company to run the restaurant. He attended classes held by Subway for two weeks before the store opened.

“It’s going well,” Theademan said of the business. “It’s growing.”

Lunch is the busiest part of the day.

Catering is expected to be a strong part of the store’s business. By noon Tuesday, Theademan had delivered the store’s third catering order of the day, its busiest for catering since it opened.

Companies doing business on the airport’s campus together employ about 3,000 people, Nichols said.

If they stay on the airport property, their choices for lunch are the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Wichita Airport or the terminal building.

Now, they have a third and convenient spot for lunch, Nichols said.

“Our neighbors here have just been terrific,” he said. “It’s starting to become a social gathering place at noon.”

The Subway has what Nichols calls a “communal table,” a long table that holds eight diners.

It’s a popular spot, especially when Air Force pilots from Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma fly in with their twin-engine T-1 advanced training airplanes.

They eat, conduct post-flight debriefings and work on the next mission at the communal table, Nichols said.

“They just camp out,” Nichols said of the crew. “It has increased the number of Air Force planes that are coming in because they can come in, sit and eat.”

Subway employs 10 people. Its hours are 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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