The Refuge Coffee Food & Wine

Many small businesses feel that they have won the lottery, when they win a food and beverage contract at Sky Harbor Airport. But, as has been learned via the checkered history of lottery winners, there is not always a happy ending. The challenges—staffing, cash flow, irregular customer flow and other irregularities of airport life—make contract fulfillment iffy for small businesses, and some fail. But, there are examples, where excellent management and good timing produce great success stories. The Refuge Coffee Food & Wine is one of those successes.

Owning a restaurant probably would have been the last vocation Desert Storm Era Military Veteran Ron Williams could have imagined. He had successfully run 3 different Arizona statewide business development agencies and had been an Equal Opportunity Specialist with the City of Phoenix. After serving as President/CEO of the Grand Canyon Minority Suppliers Development Council until 2010, Ron opened his consulting firm—Contacts to Contracts—began helping businesses compete for contracts. As an Owner of the parent company that operates the restaurant –Performance Management Consulting Services—Ron was able to leverage his relationships to acquire the restaurant, which originally opened for business in July 2012, in Terminal 4, next to Gate B9, and was renamed in 2017.

One of his clients—HMS Host, a corporation, which creates customized food, beverage, and retail programs at airports–was competing for the Terminal 4 Food & Beverage contract, when Williams took the risk of becoming a subcontractor restaurant owner, himself. It seemed an ominous task—replacing a Starbucks in the busiest terminal of the 6th largest airport in the US. But there are several contributors to the restaurant’s success.

Just as in real estate, location is a critical factor. The restaurant is located at the end of Terminal B, the first (or last) concession many travelers encounter before boarding/deboarding popular American Airlines flights.

Finally, and most important, are the restaurant’s employees. “What make us successful are our team and our over-the-top customer service philosophy,” says Williams. We are selective, choosing honest, enthusiastic and hardworking people who love people.

Getting selected for an airport contract is only an opportunity. It takes great organization, design and human resource management skills to turn that opportunity into a successful business.

In addition to the Restaurant, Ron Williams, along with his Partner Ben Fatola, recently launched The National Veterans Opportunity Coalition (TNVOC). TNVOC helps Veteran Owned Businesses (VOBS) connect, grow and success nationwide. The U.S. Air Force, Service Disabled Veteran is proud to play a role in helping his fellow Veterans. You can learn more about TNVOC at:

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