SBJ/Sept. 2-8, 2013/Facilities

Aramark installs tablets as part of Soldier Field improvements

Don Muret
Aramark has installed new point-of-sale technology at Soldier Field so that its employees can use tablets to process all food and drink transactions at Chicago Bears games, concerts and other events.

The new system is part of the first phase of Aramark’s three-year plan to upgrade general concessions and premium dining at the stadium, said Carl Mittleman, its Denver-based regional vice president. The company took over the facility’s food service in mid-July.
The concessionaire replaced the stadium’s old countertop registers with more than 500 tablets throughout the stadium. The engine driving the technology, Micros’ Simphony point-of-sale network, was up and running for the Taylor Swift concert Aug. 10, Mittleman said.

“We got rid of all the registers,” Mittleman said. “The tablet sits in a cradle, tied to a cash drawer underneath the counter.”

Micros tablets are replacing cash registers at Soldier Field concessions stands.
Photo by: MICROS
The Micros technology enables Aramark to send real-time information to its managers’ mobile phones every 15 minutes so they can replenish concession stands and make other adjustments, said Amy Cross, Aramark’s chief information officer.

It also has a kitchen display system for specialty stands with monitors tracking the progress of an order. The displays have built-in alerts to notify Aramark officials of any breakdowns in the preparation of a food item. The monitors are also visible to the patron, Cross said.

For the Bears, the technology extends to data analytics tied to a loyalty program that the NFL team can activate in the future with a points system to reward fans for purchasing food and drink.

The Bears and Aramark have had initial talks about incorporating the loyalty program into the point-of-sale system, Cross said. At this point, though, the system is restricted to the tablet function, given that the vendor had only six weeks to get ready for football season, she said.

“Putting the point-of-sale system in quickly was the first step,” said Chris Hibbs, the Bears’ vice president of sales and marketing. “But just seeing [Aramark general manager] Brad Pernaw walk around the stadium looking at an app on his phone to find out how things are selling is a gigantic step forward on how to understand the technology and where it fits in with food and beverage.”

Aramark officials say the tablets’ flexibility carries value. A stand worker can remove the Micros-made tablet from its cradle and take orders from people standing further back in line. The tablets are also sturdy enough to withstand colder temperatures during late-season games, Cross said.

Next year, Aramark plans to make tablets available for fans to place their own orders at Soldier Field stands, she said.

The system positions Aramark as mobile technology evolves toward fans ordering food and drink on their smartphones. “Wherever the industry goes, this goes with it,” Mittleman said.

Aramark is not the first vendor to use tablets as a key component of point-of-sale systems. Last year, Centerplate launched a cloud-based system at University of South Carolina sports facilities that company officials said at the time was the first entirely mobile point-of-sale network.

> CHICAGO 365: Aramark has branded its Soldier Field operation as Chicago365 Hospitality to reflect the deals it has signed with local restaurateurs Linda Bacin, Michael Kornick and David Morton of the Morton’s The Steakhouse family.

The brand’s emphasis on the local market follows deals Aramark signed with the Cleveland Browns and Houston Astros for premium food operations, showcasing signature recipes from celebrity chefs such as Michael Symon and Bryan Caswell, respectively.

The Soldier Field deal stands out because it is the first time the vendor has folded general concessions under a brand name separate from Aramark. As a result, Bears fans will not see the Aramark logo on display inside the stadium, which is fine with Mittleman.

DMK Burger Bar will be among the local brands coming to Soldier Field concourses.
Image: ARAMARK
The Chicago365 Hospitality brand was designed to deliver authentic Chicago cuisine year-round, and it reflects Aramark’s plan to drive more non-game-day revenue in addition to supporting the Bears’ game-day experience, he said.

Initially, Bacino’s meatballs will be served on the club level for $9. The plan is to expand the item to general concessions for the 2014 season, Mittleman said.

Kornick and Morton co-own the DMK Burger Bar’s two locations in Greater Chicago. At Soldier Field, the DMK Experience stand will serve four to five burgers, priced at $12, as well as craft beers. It replaces an old grill stand on the main concourse on the stadium’s southeast corner.

> RENAMING NASSAU: Don’t expect Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to keep its original name after Forest City Ratner Cos. won the job to redevelop the arena and surrounding property.

Over the next two months, Brett Yormark, Barclays Center’s CEO and Forest City’s front man for the Nassau project, will hit the streets with a plan to sell naming rights for the entire complex, including the arena and the proposed mixed-use components tied to the developer’s partners.

The idea is to create an overall brand identity for the entire destination with the individual venues listed below the complex’s official name, Yormark said. Taking that angle provides greater value and visibility for the property than just selling the arena’s naming rights alone, he said.

Forest City’s partners include concert promoter Live Nation and food provider Legends Hospitality, co-owned by the New York Yankees.

“We’ve always wanted to partner with the Yankees and think highly of the Yankees’ brand,” Yormark said.
Live Nation would program the proposed Fillmore nightclub, similar to its role at nearby Jones Beach Theater, Yormark said.

Forest City has not made a decision regarding who would run the renovated Nassau Coliseum. The arena, pending NHL approval, will book six New York Islanders games a year after the team moves to Brooklyn in 2015. The Islanders now run Nassau in conjunction with SMG.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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