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Campanile and other local restaurants hope for rebirth at LAX

The Bradley International Terminal at LAX under construction.
The Bradley International Terminal at LAX under construction.
Shereen Marisol Meraji/KPCC

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If you’ve flown American Airlines out of LAX's Terminal 4, then you may have wolfed down a meal at Chili’s. Staffers says the airport Chili’s  – with its cheesesteak sandwiches, combo Fajitas and baby back ribs –  is the most popular of its U.S. franchises.

But in a few months, Chili’s won’t be in Terminal 4. Neither will Burger King. And eventually, the old Starbucks will go away.

Chili’s will soon be replaced by Campanile. It's one of 15 local eateries that will be opening in the Bradley Terminal and Terminal 4. It will be a rebirth of sorts for the historic LA restaurant known for its prime rib and sautéed halibut. Last October, Campanile closed the doors at its home of more than 20 years, on La Brea Avenue near Hancock Park.

RELATED: Campanile regulars reminisce as restaurant prepares for move

Renowned chef Mark Peel owns the business. He says he started planning to relocate to LAX more than two years ago. Peel says first the epicenter for food moved away from his location on La Brea, and then hard times hit.

“Business softened up during the recession," he says. "There are certain standards we maintain, and we can’t maintain them if we’re not making money, so it became essential that we try something else.”

Peel looks forward to a turnaround at LAX, even though his new place will be only a quarter the size of his old one.
“Campanile is projected to do $8 million a year (at LAX). I want to beat that," Peel says. His goal is to make $10 million a year.

Kimberly Ritter-Martinez is an economist with the LA Economic Development Corporation. She believes that more travelers are looking for higher quality food at the airport – and local options.

“Los Angeles did a very good job of developing the L.A. brand," she says. "So bringing in local businesses, [these] are very attractive offerings.”

Airport authorities say that’s why they sought out iconic Southland businesses such as Campanile, Real Food Daily, La Provence and Cole’s.  They’re among the six opening in Terminal 4. Nine more are coming to the Bradley Terminal.

Officials say all of the incoming restaurants are working to keep their prices at the same level as if they were operating outside of the airport.

Peel says that some of the staff from the restaurants that are closing will end up working at Campanile and other new establishments.

“They’ve rotated people off jobs, kept them on the payroll, partnered with Trade Tech downtown," he says. Those workers have entered a 9-week cooking school taught by L.A. Trade Tech instructors to put them in line for jobs at the new restaurants.

In the meantime, Peel is preparing for Campanile’s grand opening at LAX,  sizing up his space, researching ingredients, and working up a list of suppliers. 

He’s focused on reaching that annual $10 million dollar goal.

“Think about it as $30,000 a day – this is seven days a week and its going to be open 16 hours a day if not a little bit more," he says. "Breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s absolutely doable.”

Construction begins this month. The plan is to have the new Campanile and the other new restaurants at LAX up and running by May.