SBJ/Jan. 13-19, 2014/In Depth

Mobile tech still no windfall for concessions sales

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The use of mobile technology to drive concession sales at sports facilities remains spotty with low adoption rates across many major league markets, according to teams, food providers and technology firms.

More teams and concessionaires are testing mobile payment systems, both through self-ordering on fans’ smartphones and tablets operated by concession hawkers and waitstaff, but they’re getting mixed messages about whether the convenience is worth the investment.

This season, Delaware North Sportservice has conducted weekly fan surveys at five NHL arenas for feedback on the technology. To this point, it is difficult to say whether hockey diehards fully approve of those systems, said Todd Merry, Delaware North’s chief marketing officer.

Despite sluggish adoption rates in sports, vendors such as Bypass are reporting rapid growth.
Photo by: Bypass
“What we’re hearing is, ‘Yeah, I love the idea of ordering from my phone and delivery to my seat,’ [but] in the same breath, they say, ‘I don’t want delivery people standing in front of me while I’m trying to watch the game,’” Merry said.

“It’s a real conundrum with this whole thing,” he said. “In the places we’ve tested it, we’re not seeing a huge amount of traction.”

Aramark continues to test different mobile technologies to improve the fan experience, including iPads for club box holders to self-order food for Flyers and Sixers games at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, said Andrew Shipe, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Across the street at Lincoln Financial Field, Aramark has seen less than 1 percent participation among the 9,000 club seat holders using the Eagles’ mobile application integrated with an ordering system supplied by tech vendor Bypass.

“It’s something we continue to try and make people aware of but they’re not really gravitating to it,” Shipe said.
Aramark’s surveys indicate that fans are still adjusting to providing credit card information when ordering from their mobile devices. It’s not an everyday occurrence compared with shopping at retail, Shipe said.

In addition, especially during a three-hour baseball game, fans like to get up and stretch their legs, and “other than grabbing a beer or a hot dog and peanuts that are vended, getting more bulky meal items is something they would rather go get,” he said.

“We’ve gone to the extent of putting [messages] on the Jumbotron and in cupholders to make them aware of it,” Shipe said. “It just hasn’t caught on as much as we thought. If you’re not getting the revenue, the labor model and everything else does not justify the actual technology.”

It could be as simple as this: Veteran concessions executives such as Delaware North’s Jim Houser believe as long as people still have to go to the bathroom, they’re also going to visit the concession stand, eliminating the need to order food by phone for in-seat delivery.

Despite the resistance in some markets, mobile concessions systems continue to grow at a rapid pace in sports.
As of January 2014, Austin-based Bypass had 69 deployments — 29 in pro sports — and 99 percent of its total transactions processed last year were by fans using credit cards tied to mobile devices, said Brandon Lloyd, the firm’s president. In 2013, Bypass revenue grew by more than 700 percent while averaging four new installations a month, Lloyd said.

Adoption rates vary significantly, ranging from the Eagles’ miniscule percentage to 13 percent of the 6,200 club seat holders at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, Lloyd said.

At Arrowhead Stadium, another Bypass installation, the Kansas City Chiefs and Levy Restaurants, their premium dining partner, tested several pieces of mobile technology this season, including credit card payments processed by beer vendors working the stands.

The Chiefs did not have hard numbers for the total number of fans using mobile payments, but average transactions were up 60 percent for vendors using Samsung Galaxy S3 handhelds to accept credit cards, compared with those not using them, said David Young, the team’s vice president of stadium operations. In the club lounges, cocktail revenue per server using larger Samsung tablets customized by Bypass increased by 25 percent over waitstaff that did not use the technology, Young said.

Kansas City plans to continue using mobile technology in 2014 and could expand to other parts of the stadium, he said.

“As ticketing moves [to] mobile and venues improve connectivity, and the relevance of game-day applications to the fan experience improve, self-service volume is likely to increase,” Lloyd said.

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