In the past week, Priority Pass added two restaurants to the Portland Airport to the Priority Pass network.
Digging a little deeper, it looks like they also added a few restaurants to the network in the London, Brisbane, and Sydney airports. There are three restaurants in Brisbane and seven in Sydney.
These restaurants were all added in early 2017. Our prediction is that a lot of restaurants will slowly be added to the network. The reason might be because lounges realize they're running into capacity issues. Lounges are already addressing this issue by restricting access to Priority Pass cardholders.
A prime example of this is lounges like Alaska Airlines. Their priority is not to keep Priority Pass members happy; it's to keep their business/first class and frequent flier members happy.
Lounges sell passes via Priority Pass at a discounted rate to credit card issuers to fill up empty spaces, similar to the Groupon business model. With the popularity of cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, this means that a lot more people have Priority Pass, leading to more crowded lounges.
The fact that Priority Pass is adding restaurants may indicate that lounges are trying to leave the network. It can be complicated because they might have contracts in place.
I do think some lounges will stay with the Priority Pass program - those that can't attract foot traffic on their own. The lounges that are likely to leave are the ones catering to the business/first class passengers.
I'm happy about the additions to restaurants because that means I'll have access to better quality food. From my experience, the food at Priority Pass lounges is not appetizing. There's usually instant noodles and snacks.
Given the choices, would you rather have instant noodles at a lounge or real food at a restaurant?
With the current restaurant roll out, you receive an amount to spend per guest. At the Capers Cafe in Portland, you can receive $28 off the bill per person, per visit. The discount includes the card member, plus guests.
At the House Spirits Distillery, you receive $28 off the final bill, per person. The discount is valid towards any drink or tasting, but not bottle sales.
Depending on the contract your credit card issuer has with Priority Pass, the number of free guests varies. As of now, there doesn't seem to be a rule about the specific number of guest for restaurants.
Looking through the comments section of some travel blogs, it doesn't look like there's a cap based on the rules of the specific Priority Pass you have. It also sounds like there's not a limit on how many of these restaurants you can visit on a trip. This means you can restaurant hop at the airport.
Given how easy this is to abuse, I'm expecting them to enforce the guest rules sooner rather than later. Maybe they'll also limit the number of visits and reimbursements you can make within a 24 hour period, that way you can't visit multiple restaurants in the same leg of a trip.
One thing to be wary of is to double check with the restaurant that they accept Priority Pass before sitting down. Reading the fine print on the Priority Pass, you will not be reimbursed for credit if the restaurant doesn't honor the Priority Pass discount.
Something else to keep in mind is the credit you receive cannot be applied to the tip. For example, if your meal was $25 and you have a $28 credit, you can't apply the excess to the tip. Have some cash on hand to tip your server!
I haven't visited the Portland restaurants, but they seem bad based on Yelp ratings. Reading through some of the reviews, it sounds like the service isn't the greatest, but I'm not one to turn down free food.
If Priority Pass does keep adding restaurants, it will most likely be ones that are struggling. It's similar to the Groupon and Living Social business model to acquire more customers.