Broncos fans get technology to help speed up concessions at Mile High

A fan uses the visual-recognition system to purchase concessions at Empower Field at Mile High earlier this fall. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

Can technology finally help improve one of the biggest pain points in the game-day experience, namely waiting in line for concessions? At the Denver Broncos’ Empower Field at Mile High, a number of new technology initiatives debuted this year, all designed to improve the fan experience around concession purchases by providing more choice and streamlined checkout procedures.

While there are no hard numbers yet on the experiments, a Mobile Sports Report visit to Mile High earlier this year saw heavy use of the new technologies, which mainly include touch-screen ordering and payment systems as well as an innovative visual-recognition device to tabulate items in grab-and-go scenarios. A few quick interviews with fans at the stands got mixed reactions on whether or not the new technology actually speeded up the processes, but some stopwatch clocking showed speedy checkouts, especially those using the visual-recognition technology, where items are placed on a scanner bed which then quickly recognizes and tabulates the total on an attached payment screen.

For those of us who are now (maybe unwillingly) becoming accustomed to checking out our own items at supermarket self-checkout terminals, the Broncos’ stands that utilize the visual-recognition devices (from a company called Mashgin) are far easier to use than trying to scan a barcode for each item. At Mile High, the scanners are the perfect endpoint for a series of stands called “Drink MKT,” which are basically spaces with coolers filled with multiple beverage choices, from bottled water through multiple types of beer and other alcoholic drinks, including $100 bottles of John Elway Cabernet. At those stands fans simply walk in, choose what they want from a cooler and queue up for the scanners. When items are placed on the scanner beds the system’s cameras detect the items and generate a total bill, which is paid for by credit card on an attached terminal. Human-staff intervention is only needed to check IDs and to help fans open up the beverages before they leave the stand.

Fans line up to order fried chicken via a digital-screen kiosk.

While one fully jammed Drink MKT stand on the main concourse level didn’t seem to be moving any more quickly than traditional concessions windows (“It’s not faster, but there are way more choices,” said one fan), on the top-level concourse a stream of fans grabbed beverages just after the game’s start, with each transaction taking only a minute or less from setting the items on the scanner to leaving the stand. “It’s fun!” said two fans leaving the Drink MKT stand on the top-level concourse. “And it’s way faster.”

The Mashgin scanners were also in use at another stand clearly designed to speed up the food-getting process, a walk-through type arrangement where fans could grab from a limited selection of food and beverage items (pizza, popcorn, hot dogs, plus beer and soft drinks) before paying at a Mashgin scanner. Again, the only human interaction from a staffing point was to check IDs, help customers with the payment system, and ensure all beverages were opened before the fans left the stands. Truly, the interaction that took the longest was the can opening process, which is tricky to do yourself if you are carrying several items (there are no bags to carry the concessions from the stands). The Mashgin systems are showing up in other sports venues, including this report of it being combined with the Clear system to speed up payments even more.

Display ordering and payment systems also emerge

Another self-service technology (which many have probably seen in fast-food restaurants or other venues like airports) in use at Mile High is the use of digital display screens to let fans order from on-screen menus and pay with a credit card at the same terminal. At Mile High, like other systems used at some stadiums and at many fast-food restaurants, the digital terminals spit out a paper slip with an order number that fans use to pick up their items at a separate window.

Fans with club-level seats can order drinks and food for delivery to their seats via the team app.

On the main lower-level concourse at Mile High, such a system was in heavy use at a fried-chicken food stand, with many fans clearly comfortable with the ordering, payment and pickup process. MSR saw some similar systems in use at Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ new home, on a recent visit there this fall.

The Broncos also have another type of digital-screen ordering system in one of their premium club areas, where fans can order items from several different “stands,” each with a different entree or dessert item. Again, a paper ticket is generated that the fans then take to the food-preparation stands to pick up their orders.

Club-level fans also have the opportunity at Mile High to order food and drink to be delivered to their seats, via the team app. The food ordering and delivery function is powered by Tap.in2, a company we’ve profiled before.

We’ll circle back with the Broncos after this season to try to get some stats on whether or not the new stands and technologies won over fans and improved the service, but it’s heartening to see stadiums and teams push the envelope a bit to help fans get back to their seats more quickly. More photos below!

A look at the entry to one of the Drink MKT stands

The grab-and-go format of the Drink MKT stands offers fans a lot of choice

Technology can help, but the just-before-kickoff crush will always produce a line

The order-and-pay kiosks at a fried chicken stand are familiar to anyone who’s done fast food recently

A club-level kiosk system allows fans to pick from several different food stands

Most kiosk systems seemed to have a good amount of customization available

The club-level stands offer flexible choices

The Mashgin checkout systems were also used at a grab-and-go food/beverage stand

Tailgating at Mile High can still be classy and old-school

In case you hadn’t heard, the place has a new name

Hard to beat a sunny Sunday at Mile High

Tap.in2 scores food-delivery deal for Cincinnati Bengals’ club seats; could more YinzCam deals follow?

Screenshot of Tap.in2's food ordering and delivery service embedded in the Cincinnati Bengals' team app. (Click on any photo for a larger image) Credit: Tap.in2

Screenshot of Tap.in2’s food ordering and delivery service embedded in the Cincinnati Bengals’ team app. (Click on any photo for a larger image) Credit: Tap.in2

Startup Tap.in2 has signed up the Cincinnati Bengals as its second big-league client for its mobile-app service that enables in-seat food and beverage service in stadiums, with a deal to bring app-based deliveries to 8,000 club-level seats at Paul Brown Stadium this season.

Expected to be formally announced today, the deal has actually been in place all season, according to Tap.in2 representatives. The deal follows Tap.in2’s breakout contract with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to bring similar services to the lower bowl of Quicken Loans Arena. A product of a Cleveland-area startup incubator, Tap.in2 partnered for the second time with Aramark to facilitate the delivery service, which offers a full menu of stadium food and beverage for in-seat delivery.

And while the Bengals are no longer undefeated (losing 10-6 to the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football) select fans at Paul Brown can at least enjoy in-seat concession delivery for the remaining games this year by ordering directly from the team’s stadium app. To our knowledge it’s only the second NFL team to offer app-based food and beverage delivery services, following the San Francisco 49ers and their VenueNext-powered app which supports in-seat delivery to every seat in the 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium.

Let the food-delivery app battles begin

beng1What’s interesting about the Bengals deal is that it has Tap.in2 melding its services with an app built by sports-app giant YinzCam, which does not offer a food-delivery option in the current version of its app used by many NFL teams. However, YinzCam did just sign a big deal with the NBA to re-do 22 NBA team apps, with the option of adding concession delivery services mentioned in the press release; however, YinzCam has not yet stated publicly how it would add such services to its core stadium-app product. Could more deals with Tap.in2 be on the YinzCam horizon?

The well-funded VenueNext, meanwhile, has signed new deals with the NBA’s Orlando Magic as well as the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, to bring more VenueNext features (possibly including food delivery) to those teams’ stadium apps. While some VenueNext features have already crept into the AT&T Stadium app for this season, food ordering and delivery to seats is not yet available at that venue. VenueNext will also provide the app for Super Bowl 50, which will be held at Levi’s Stadium in February.

Though Tap.in2 has not released any actual figures about how many orders were actually taken at games this season, it does claim to have positive feedback from the fans who have used the service, and did claim that orders were being delivered in less than 5 minutes, on average. VenueNext, which did release some food-delivery numbers from Levi’s Stadium last season, is no longer making those statistics available. However the company did say that its app brought in nearly $800,000 in revenue last season, which may give you some idea why this service is hotter than a hot dog when it comes to increasing revenue inside stadiums.