Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac) is outsourcing its catering in a public-private partnership.
It could be the first of many such deals for the operator as it seeks to focus on its core business.
The new project means that anyone flying from Al Bateen Airport will have their food provided by Gate Gourmet, the largest independent airline caterer.
"We are looking towards the future, not just for Bateen Airport, but for all our airports," said Mohammed Al Bulooki, the chief commercial officer at Adac, which has five airports under its portfolio. "Any business that relates to services to our customers, we are interested," he added.
The Dh12 million (US$3.27m) facility, converted from an empty plane hangar near the Sheikh Zayed terminal, covers 770 square metres. It has a total capacity of 1,000 meals per day for VIPs - think lobster foie gras and caviar - and 7,000 meals per day for first class passengers - such as grilled salmon or wagyu beef.
Gate Gourmet owns 49 per cent of the catering facility through a joint venture agreement, while the remaining portion is controlled by two local partners - Sultan International Holding and Western Group. The contract, renewable after 10 years, enables Adac to take a portion of revenue and charge rent in return for outsourcing the airport's catering business.
Public-private partnerships have been popular in other parts of the world, but only recently gained interest in the UAE.
Typically under a public-private partnership agreement, a public sector entity outsources agreed services to a private sector entity, which assumes the capital investment and risk.
"Worries over risk remains the biggest cultural challenge," said Hamad bin Brook, the chairman of Western Group, a local investor in the catering joint venture. "There are companies that are not ready for PPP, but it's only a matter of time."
Zurich-based Gate Gourmet was formerly a catering business owned by Swiss Air until it was hived off in 2002 to Texas Pacific Group for $870m. Adac's portfolio comprises of Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Ain Airport, Al Bateen Airport, Delma Island Airport and Sir Bani Yas Island Airport.