Appetize sees more contact-free concessions for venues going forward

Fans at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium use Appetize-powered kiosks to order and pay for food. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

While the timeline for fans returning to large public venues for sports and events is still uncertain, one thing that does seem inevitable is that the future of stadium concessions will see more ways for fans to get food and beverages without human interactions.

That’s certainly the view from Appetize, one of the top players in the venue point-of-sale technology business. In a recent call with Appetize chief strategy officer Kevin Anderson, he said the last few weeks have been among the busiest in company history, as teams, schools and venues seek ways to make concessions operations more touch-free going forward. Though there are no government mandates yet making such technologies a necessity to open venues, it makes sense that when events come back fans might be feel safer using technology-aided methods like ordering and paying online, or paying with touchless device systems (like Apple Pay), as opposed to traditional human-based counter interactions.

“Most of our customers, including venues and managed-service food companies, are realizing that if their venues are not able to accept [contactless] payments today they will have to — and if they don’t have mobile or online ordering, they will need to do that as well,” Anderson said.

App- or web-based ordering should increase

Appetize, which sells a wide range of software and hardware for stadium and other point-of-sale systems, has also recently added support for web-based ordering in venues, something that other vendors like VenueNext have also rolled out. While stadium and team apps with support for in-venue food ordering (with either delivery or pick-up options) have been around in various forms for several years, the idea of a web-based “app” with similar functionality is a newer and growing idea, one that could gain even more traction whenever venues open again.

An Appetize screenshot of what a mobile payment screen could look like.

What web-based systems have in their favor is that they can be used by fans almost instantly, without having to go through the process of downloading an app.

A web-ordering system, Anderson said, “is very well positioned for a post-Covid world” since it could give venues the flexibility of a walk-up encounter without the human interaction. In one scenario Anderson said fans could use their device’s camera to scan a sign or display with a QR code, which would bring up a menu for the concession stand close to the sign. Fans can then order and pay without having to stand in a line, and get an alert to pick up their order when it is ready.

“Venues are not going to bulldoze concession stands, but they will have to figure out how to space out people in lines and how to incentivize people to pay with contactless systems,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be the future.”

Still bullish on touch-screen kiosks

Anderson also thinks that touch-screen kiosks will still be popular going forward, even if some people feel less safe touching a payment or ordering screen.

“We’re still bullish on kiosks,” said Anderson, who said 90 percent of Appetize’s venue deployments included some kind of touch-screen system. For many of its systems, Anderson said Appetize uses antimicrobial screen protectors, and going forward they foresee having sanitization stations near any touch-screen device.

“If you just use one finger to touch the screen and then you sanitize it after you’re done, that’s still better than being two feet away from someone speaking to you,” Anderson said.

Other less-human-contact ideas for venue concessions include more vending machines and grab-and-go type windows, where prepared, boxed items will help keep fans safer. Appetize is also already working on systems where food and beverages can be placed inside lockers that fans can access with a mobile device.

“I think you’ll see more concession stands flipped inside out, where you can just grab a sandwich in a package with a bar code and go,” Anderson said.

Google’s Latest Nexus 7 Raises the Bar on Tablets


Google has introduced its next generation Nexus 7 tablet this week and has incorporated a host of enhanced features as it seeks to maintain the popularity of its top selling 7-inch tablet, which already has a 10% Android market share.

The tablet, built by Google partner Asus, weighs in at slightly more than half a pound (0.64lbs with Wi-Fi, 0.66 lbs with LTE) and runs the Jelly Bean 4.3 operating system. Among the features in the latest Jelly Bean release is parental control features as well as support for the newest energy efficient Bluetooth technology.

The screen is a standout item on the latest Nexus 7 with support for 1080p high definition video that equates to 1920 x 1200 resolution and includes new stereo speakers. The tablet is powered by a Qualcomm snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB of memory and the company said that you get 9 hours with active use from its battery.

The tablet has a pair of cameras with a 1.2 megapixel fixed focus front facing one and a 5MP auto focus rear facing camera. It sports dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 with 4G LTE available as an option.

The Nexus 7 comes with two basic storage capacities, a 16GB model and a 32GB version. The company said that the tablet will be shipping in the US by July 30 with an entry level price of $229 and $269 for the high end model without 4G LTE, and then will start a global rollout.

The company has also delivered a product called Chromecast, a $35 USB dongle that enables you to stream video over Wi-Fi to smartphones, laptops and tablets. It plugs into a television’s HDMI port, you then load an app onto the receiving device and then chose what to watch. Initially Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music and Google Play Movies are all supported.

It will be interesting to see what Apple and Samsung have in store to combat Google in terms of pricing and features when their next generation 7-inch products hit the market.

Topps Uses Technology to Reach Out to Fans


Do you remember baseball cards? Many of my friends collected them when younger but as it became overly commercialized with too many companies selling too many versions, so that what was once a childhood rite of passage slowly became an overly complex market that collapsed in on itself.

According to the piece that ran in Bleacher Report a few years ago the market topped out at $1.2 billion in 1991 and then collapsed to its current position of under $300 million. It has been trying to reinvent itself ever since.

Well credit Topps, one of the original powers in this category to adopting new technology to help promote a very non-technology offering, pieces of cardboard with baseball players stats on one side and their picture on the other.

The company has incorporated two short range communications technologies in a display at the 2013 MLB All-Star Fanfest with QR (quick response) codes and NFC (near field communications) incorporated into huge cards of the games All=-Stars that were on display at the event.

The first of the technologies, QR codes, for those of you that do not know are those boxes that look like an overgrown bar code, could be scanned by fans attending the event with mobile devices equipped with a scanner, and in doing so put themselves in the running for prizes such as card sets, Topps’ new Big League Minis and autographed memorabilia. Alternately a fan could use the NFC function of their mobile device, if so equipped.

The interactive effort, spearheaded by partner Scanbuy, is part of a larger effort by the card company to appeal to younger fans that are tech savvy. It will be interesting to see if the company publishes the final results and if we will see a new generation of cards with embedded technology.