Serving Fans at Live Events

KAnderson1-1Ever go to a baseball or basketball game and miss a big play because you’re stuck in line for a hot dog or a beer?  Or endure long lines for libations or fan merchandise at concerts or summer music festivals when you could have been basking in the music?

Or perhaps you market food, beverages or souvenirs at such events and want to make things easier for the fans – and more profitable for yourself?

A couple of years ago, I was one of those fans. Two friends and I were enjoying a Lakers game at Staples Center. It was during the first half and we wanted to get hot dogs.  We didn’t want to miss the action by standing in line at the concession stand, but we figured a waiter or vendor would soon come along.  No luck. Only the odd, swift-walking cotton candy hawker seemed to like our section of the arena.

The half ended, but we really didn’t want to join the now longer lines at the concessions.  Finally, in the middle of the third quarter – while we were on our second beers – a waiter made it to our row.

Like anyone in the iPhone/Android era, the three of us – now that our hunger had subsided – looked at each other and said, “Isn’t there an app for this?”

Well, there wasn’t.  But the problem, once we investigated, was bigger than lack of an app.  Turned out that the whole infrastructure of payments and distribution for concession items at sports and entertainment venues was stuck in the Windows age.  That meant on-site servers, expensive hand-held devices that employees could use for such basic tasks as asking for more soft drinks, and big point-of-sale machines for taking credit card transactions.

With a system that broken, no wonder lines are so long and getting product in your seat is a nightmare.

So my friends (who happened to be fellow entrepreneurs and music and sports fiends) and I set out to develop a system for today’s fans and marketers.  If you’re at an arena, why not be able to use an app for ordering and delivery to your specific seat?  Why not make things easier for you and the hawker by using app payments or Bluetooth to eliminate the need of passing cash and change back and forth down the row? And why does it seem like every concession cashier is typing an essay on grandma’s desktop every time you order a hot dog and beer?

At music festivals, such as the recent Governor’s Ball in New York City, why not give operators fast, easy-to-use payment systems, while allowing fans to more easily pay them?  Bluetooth payments, by the way, can increase purchase amounts by 35% to 40%.

Not only concessionaires, but also venues, teams, leagues, and concert promoters welcome easier payment systems.  They can even be incorporated into their own apps on a white label basis. And they can increase sales of team and artist merchandise, and tickets to future games or concerts.

For food and beverage marketers, meanwhile, the consumer app opens up new branding opportunities – whether through premium positioning, special offers, tie-ins with stadium billboards, and so on.

So perhaps, instead of just flagging down a passing vendor, consumers might actually be willing to spend more by having more control of the concession experience, while redeeming unique promo codes, and without waiting in line or missing any of the action.

Kevin Anderson is one of the three co-founders for Appetize. At Appetize, Anderson leads sales and fundraising efforts, establishing relationships with foodservice, venue management, and entertainment companies, as well as completing a second round of funding.