The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

DC-3 is not grounded: Matchbox is relaunching it as an airport concept

In reporting this week's $20 Diner on Haute Dogs & Fries in Alexandria, I spoke with Andrew Kim, co-founder of the Matchbox Food Group, which recently closed its wiener-centric DC-3 on Barracks Row. Matchbox has decided the hot dog concept will work better in airports, which cater to captive travelers, than on the streets of Washington, where locals can grab a dog for spare change.

"There's just more room for success in airports," Kim told me. "There are more people walking by at DC-3 in airports than on Eighth Street" on Barracks Row.

Matchbox has signed a contract with OHM Concession Group to open DC-3s in airports around the country. The first opened about a month ago at Dulles International Airport, and OHM is planning to open a second location at BWI, Kim says.

"I think it's going to be a good partnership," Kim says. "I still get to make all the decisions for the brand."

Matchbox had to retool the menu to cater to its new market. No more cotton candy and ice cream. The airport menu also features breakfast sandwiches for those early-morning travelers, including a breakfast sausage on hot dog bun, breakfast burritos and other items.

[Don’t fly hangry. Here’s your guide to food at the D.C. area’s three airports.]

OHM operates a variety of major concepts at airports, where restaurant employees must pass painstaking background checks to work in post-security areas. Matchbox trained OHM workers in the ways of DC-3 on Capitol Hill and sent some staff members to Dulles to oversee operations during its rollout. But after that, Matchbox must trust that OHM will be a responsible steward of DC-3, just as Chick-fil-A, Dunkin' Donuts, Good Stuff Eatery and other chains must trust OHM when they license their brands.

"That's the dice you have to roll," Kim says about airport licensing deals. "When you give your keys to somebody whom you may not know, you hope [your car] comes back in one piece, with no scratches."

Right now, OHM has carte blanche to open more DC-3s in airports, Kim says. The sky is apparently the limit in terms of future locations.

"There is no endgame," Kim says. "I think right now it's just about building a brand. It's not that much skin off of our back."

Further reading:

Haute Dogs & Fries review: What a good dog!

Don’t fly hangry. Here’s your guide to food at the D.C. area’s three airports.