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Martin de Zwart: the community builder of Schiphol-East

Who are you?
My name is Martin de Zwart and I'm the owner of WINGS food & drinks in the old Tower in Schiphol-East. I've worked in the area for 20 years. I started via the Glendale Group with Juggle Juice in Schiphol Plaza in 1995. This quickly became a great success, partly because it had longer opening hours than the other catering establishments in the Plaza.

What do you do now?
Together with the Glendale Group, we submitted plans for a restaurant in the Tower back in 1998. But it didn't generate any interest until much later, mainly because earlier initiatives, such as a high-end restaurant and a Chinese, weren't very successful. In 2009, I launched Wings with my then-business partner Loyd Vandenberg, owner of the Glendale Group. It was a year and half before we managed to get the Tower back on the map, but nowadays it's a regular haunt for a close-knit group of employees working in Schiphol-East.

What makes Schiphol so special?
I've worked in the area for a long time now and I've always really enjoyed it. When I worked in the Plaza, I had a lot of contact with people, including ground personnel, through my catering establishments. That's how I got to know my wife, for example.
People were always nice and well mannered and I never found it a chore. I think things would have been quite different if I'd had a café in the centre of Amsterdam, for example. And now I'm seeing the same thing with WINGS. People are very professional and friendly. As many as 75% of our guests come back on a regular basis. They mainly come from Schiphol-East. but we're also increasingly seeing visitors from other areas such as Badhoevedorp, Schiphol-Rijk and even Amstelveen.

What do you think of the idea of a Schiphol community?
Years ago, get-togethers were organised for Schiphol employees (in The Challenge in Hoofddorp) or visitors to the Rembrandt beach volleyball tournament. These events were always really well attended because people like doing things with other people from the area. There was already a kind of community spirit even at that time. After a few years, WINGS' initiatives, such as our winter BBQs and Dutch evenings, also proved extremely popular. On those occasions you definitely can't get a table for lunch unless you book. By about midday, we're completely full.

Is the atmosphere in Schiphol-East different from the rest of the area?
In Schiphol-East, unlike Plaza, I clearly don't have anything to do the passengers. But what you notice is that the staff have the same attitude. They're great people to work for and collaborating with them can really yield quite amazing results. So, I'll be quite happy to stay here until I retire so we can carry on doing lots of great things together.

Who would you like to hand the baton to?
I'd be happy to hand it to Paul Rijkhoff of Paolo Salotto. He's also worked at Plaza since 1995, and has always been very active on the marketing committee and business association at Schiphol Plaza.

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