Self-serve concession kiosks seem set to arrive in more stadiums

Appetize self-serve concession kiosks at LSU. Credit: Appetize (click on any picture for a larger image)

In what might seem like an overdue no-brainer strategy shift, it’s a good bet that more stadiums are going to start adding self-serve concession stand kiosks, where fans can use digital display systems to order and pay for food more quickly than standing in a human-powered line.

Some recent news and analysis from two of the top operators in the venue concessions point-of-sale systems arena — Oracle Food and Beverage and Appetize — offers some positive proof points in concession kiosk use, with Appetize reporting higher and bigger sales at some of its customer sites for kiosks vs. human stands, while Oracle F&B (the new name for the company formerly known as Micros) has released a fan survey showing that 71 percent of interviewed fans said they’d use a self-service kiosk while at the game.

From where we sit here at Mobile Sports Report, more self-serve kiosks can’t arrive fast enough. While it’s interesting to sift through some of the replies to the Oracle survey, it doesn’t take any research to guess that if you offer fans a faster way to get concessions and get back to their seats, they’re going to be in favor of it. Likewise, while the sample size of results offered by Appetize is somewhat small (its percentage gains are based on install numbers of just a few stations in each of the venues it mentions), the hard data does show that kiosks can produce double-digit gains in per-order sizes, a goal appealing to any concession operation.

“There’s no stadium that doesn’t want more food and beverage money,” said Jeff Pinc, AVP of sales for Oracle’s Food and Beverage division, in a recent phone interview. Adding self-service kiosks, he said, is an easy decision for many venues since fans are “sort of demanding it.

“Fans see these systems already in use everywhere else, and they’re asking ‘how come they’re not here?’ ” Pinc said. For the stadium owner and operator, Pinc said the self-service systems have already established their worth in many fast-casual dining establishments, and the benefits should pass over to the sports venue world.

“Fast-casual has been doing this [self-service kiosks] for some time now and it’s known that the basket size (per order) gets bigger,” Pinc said. Digital kiosks, he added, can also be more efficient at upselling customers, something that human employees may forget to do.

LSU, AT&T Center see kiosk gains

Appetize’s news announcement said that the eight kiosks installed at LSU’s basketball arena, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, produced a 16% increase in average order size and 25% more items per order compared to human-operated terminals at point of sale counters. At the San Antonio Spurs’ AT&T Center, an initial test in the stadium’s Rock & Brews location was positive and led to the installation of six of the Appetize “Interact” kiosks, where the stadium saw an 18 percent increase in order size.

Self-serve kiosks in the Denver Broncos’ club-area food court. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

“The Appetize Interact platform offers a modern and dynamic digital experience for guests while driving increased share of wallet for the business,” said Max Roper, co-founder and CEO at Appetize, in a prepared statement. “In the past six months, over 45% of our deployments have included self-service kiosks, and we expect this trend to continue as businesses require more automation and consumers desire a more frictionless experience.”

Oracle’s Pinc, whose company uses its Simphony POS system to help enable all operations including kiosk support, said that small, proof-of-concept deployments are a good start for any stadium interested in kiosks, since there are real-world details that need to go along with the automated systems.

“There’s a lot of thought that needs to go into a kiosk install, from educating the customer to where you put it, to where you go to pick up the food,” Pinc said. “There’s a lot of trial and error.”

Last fall MSR did a profile on how the Seattle Seahawks were using the Clear system to speed up beer-line payments, and also did some hands-on driving at a self-service POS terminal at the Denver Broncos’ Bronco Stadium at Mile High, where a system developed by Centerplate and PingHD was used to let fans order from individual chef stations in the club-level food court. Though Centerplate is no longer the concessionaire at Mile High, it’s just another sign that self-service is increasing inside stadiums, which is good news for fans tired of waiting behind the guy ordering 20 different things.

Eagles sign Appetize for new point-of-sale system at Lincoln Financial Field

Self-serve kiosks from Appetize allow fans to order and pay for their own food for nearby pickup. Credit all photos: Appetize

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed a deal with Appetize to bring its technology-centric point of sale system into Lincoln Financial Field, a deal designed in part to help speed up concessions transactions for home fans of the new Super Bowl champions.

According to a press release out today, Appetize will install “more than 500” iOS- and Android-based terminals inside the Linc, including some touch-screen fan-facing checkout displays as well as self-service concession kiosks that are meant to function much like the terminals found at airports for checking in to flights.

Kevin Anderson, co-founder and chief strategy officer for Appetize, said in a phone interview that internal company tests have shown that the self-service kiosks can speed up a concessions transaction by as much as 20 percent, good news for fans who are tired of spending lost minutes standing in line waiting for a cheesesteak. For teams and venue owners, the 10-inch screens being installed at other, regular concession stands in the Linc can help with upsell, as Anderson said that the screen space allows the operator to program in add-on options (like adding a drink or fries to a sandwich order) via a side-of-screen advertisement that makes it easy to add to the order with a click.

In addition to the new customer-facing technology, Appetize is also gaining entree to venues for its cloud-based back-end systems, which Anderson said cuts out the need for teams to have localized infrastructure to buy and manage. Though he won’t name them all yet, in addition to the Eagles win Anderson said Appetize has claimed three other NFL contracts that were out for bid this summer, perhaps proof that the company’s mantra of having “enterprise and modern” facets in their systems is finding receptive ears.

Making sure the infrastructure is set up for kiosks

While MSR clearly needs to schedule a stadium visit sometime to check out kiosk wait times compared to older concessions systems, Anderson did note that teams can’t just plug the kiosks in and expect them to work with an existing infrastructure. “There is a shift in operations” that is necessary, he said, since kiosks can double or triple the number of orders in a given time to an existing kitchen location. However, having kiosks also means that self-service stands can be staffed with workers who simply put orders together, instead of having to train those workers on payment systems and devices.

New tablet-based POS terminals can entice fans into add-on purchases

One area where Appetize doesn’t see a lot of explosive growth is on the in-seat delivery end, a trend that seems to slowing down and finding its way mostly into premium seating areas at most venues. While Appetize can support mobile-device ordering and delivery (it even started its corporate life with an end-user focus on a mobile/delivery app) Anderson said the infrastructure and human engineering necessary to support a full-stadium delivery scheme is usually found to be unworkable. The San Francisco 49ers, who opened Levi’s Stadium in 2014 with mobile-app delivery of concessions to every seat, scrapped that service last season.

“We’re definitely not seeing [customers] asking us to do full-stadium” in-seat delivery, Anderson said. However, having the ability to place an order via a mobile device does have value in premium seating areas, where stadiums may already have systems like the Appetize-based one currently used at Lincoln Financial Field, where servers with wireless devices roam the seating areas offering in-seat ordering as a white-glove service.

“It’s a nice line-item for the season ticket sales sheet” to offer in-seat delivery services in places where it makes sense, Anderson said. “Venues are being smart [now] about where they are putting it.”

Stadium POS system supplier Appetize gets $20 million in funding

Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 12.14.36 PMAppetize, the company behind a new point-of-sale platform being used by such new stadiums as the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium and the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center, announced it had secured a $20 million funding round led by Shamrock Capital Advisors.

Oak View Group, the new stadium/technology concern from Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff, also participated in the round, which Appetize said it will use to expand the company size and locations, adding New York and Atlanta offices to the Los Angeles-area (Playa Vista, Calif.) headquarters. In addition to supplying stadiums with their own custom point-of-sale equipment, Appetize’s platform acts as a digital middleman of sorts between mobile apps with food-ordering features, like those from VenueNext (which works with Appetize at U.S. Bank Stadium) and back-of-house systems for inventory, ordering and other analytics.

While its list of sports-venue customers is long, Appetize said it will also use the funding round to help it expand to other large public venue verticals, including theme parks, convention centers, and campus installations.

Andy Howard, a partner with Shamrock, said Appetize’s executive team has great relationships with top concession vendors, and a clear idea of how to help venues not only improve the fan experience (with shorter or faster-moving lines) but also to provide instant analytics that can allow teams or stadium operators to track concession purchases and inventory in real time.

Mobile Sports Report saw Appetize’s devices in use during a recent visit to Golden 1 Center (tech report also coming soon!) and from a quick observation it seems like the flip terminals (which rotate vertically between concession staff and customers) really seem to speed up the transaction process time. Appetize’s systems also helped the Sacramento team put together a back of house app that shows concession purchase totals in real time — an amazing tool for venue owners and operators.

Minnesota Vikings pick VenueNext for U.S. Bank Stadium app

Outside view of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Photo: USBankStadium.com.

Outside view of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Photo: USBankStadium.com.

Stadium app developer VenueNext has scored another NFL client, as the Minnesota Vikings announced today that they would use VenueNext technology in the app for the yet-to-open U.S. Bank Stadium.

According to VenueNext and the Vikings, the U.S. Bank Stadium app will support many of the same unique game-day features found in the app VenueNext built for the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, including beacon-based wayfinding, the ability to order food and drinks via the app for express pickup, digital ticketing and game-day upgrade availability, as well as “robust” video content and a loyalty program tied to game-day activity. One feature at Levi’s Stadium, the ability to have food and drink delivered to fans in their seats, is “still being explored” by the Vikings, according to VenueNext.

Due to open this summer ahead of the 2016 NFL season, U.S. Bank Stadium is slated to host Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018. A Wi-Fi network with approximately 1,300 Cisco access points will supply wireless connectivity to the 66,200-seat venue, along with a neutral-host DAS built by Verizon Wireless. Aruba is supplying the 2,000 beacons being used inside the venue, and overall network operations will be run by CenturyLink, which will oversee deployment of some 2,000 digital TV displays inside the stadium.

Screenshot of U.S. Bank Vikings app in development. Image: VenueNext

Screenshot of U.S. Bank Vikings app in development. Image: VenueNext

According to VenueNext, app development partners will include Ticketmaster, Aramark for food, point-of-sale solution Appetize, seat upgrade technology from Experience, fan loyalty programs from Skidata and content app developer Adept. The Vikings are the third NFL team to choose VenueNext technology, behind the Niners and the Dallas Cowboys. VenueNext also has built a stadium app for the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

“We look forward to launching this new, dynamically-upgraded app that not only will give all Vikings fans a better experience when consuming team content on their mobile devices but also will allow seamless access to the numerous amenities at U.S. Bank Stadium,” said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf in a prepared statement. “Our goals are always to provide the best game day experience possible and to continue developing deeper engagement with all Vikings fans, and the VenueNext technology will help achieve both.”

“We’re excited to extend our reach in the NFL through this collaboration with the Vikings,” said John Paul, CEO & Founder of VenueNext, also in a prepared statement. “We want to become the standard for bringing Silicon Valley innovation to fan experiences, and implementing in a state-of-the-art development like U.S. Bank Stadium brings us closer to that goal.”

Interior look at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo: USBankStadium.com

Interior look at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo: USBankStadium.com