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After 20 Years Anchoring Dining at Hobby Airport, Pappas Has Been Voted Out

Its restaurants will be replaced by a Spanish company over the next two years

An airport restaurant with bars lining the outside and interior seating and a bar inside. A sign out front says: Pappasito’s Cantina.
Pappasito’s Cantina in Hobby Airport.
Pappas Restaurants
Courtney E. Smith is the editor of Eater Dallas. She's a journalist of 20 years who was born and raised in Texas, with bylines in Pitchfork, Wired, Esquire, Yahoo!, Salon, Refinery29, and more. When she's not writing about food, she co-hosts the podcast Songs My Ex Ruined.

For over two decades, since 2002, Houstonians and travelers through Hobby Airport have grown accustomed to eating at various Pappa’s brand restaurants, including Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Pappa’s Bar-B-Q, and Pappasito’s Cantina. But after a controversial city council vote this week, that’s all going to change.

In an 11-6 decision, council members decided to award a 10-year and $470 million contract to Areas USA, which houses brands from Aunt Annie’s pretzels to Wendy’s to Tony Roma, the Houston Chronicle reports. The change will happen over the next two years.

The decision is about money, CultureMap Houston asserts, noting that the deal with Areas will give the city of Houston a bigger percentage of its revenue. It was reportedly 22.2 percent to Pappa’s 15.5 percent. The change is projected to bring in over $10 million in revenue for Houston-area airports.

Pappa’s fought the decision during the procurement process, including launching a social media campaign in February with the hashtag #SaveOurPappas, posting signs at its Hobby restaurants bringing attention to the vote, asking diners to sign a petition that ultimately gathered some 50,000 signatures, and hiring lobbyists.

In a statement, Chris and Harris Pappas said, “We are disappointed in the City of Houston’s decision. Houstonians deserve a fair and transparent procurement process that supports local businesses. We did not get that from our leaders.” They also promised to transfer to all Hobby Pappas employees at other restaurants, at the same pay rate and with the same benefits.

This follows a January decision to award a 10-year agreement to LaTrelle’s Management, which will result in the popular burger spot HubCap Grill popping up in the Pappa’s Burger spot in Terminal A as a limited-time dining option that will be replaced by an outpost of the Rustic, per the Houston Chronicle.

Both of these deals mean Hobby Airport will generate more money for the city, but that diners will have no local to Houston dining options. Though Pappas Restaurants is a national chain with over 100 restaurants, it is also a Houston-based company with several brands that are synonymous with the city.

Update: March 10, 2023, 10:47 a.m.: This article has been updated to include a statement from the leadership at Pappas Restaurants.

William P Hobby Airport (HOU)

7800 Airport Blvd, Houston, TX 77061 (877) 716-2520 Visit Website

Pappas Burger

5815 Westheimer Road, , TX 77057 (713) 975-6082 Visit Website