Today in sports, one of the goals for sports teams is to enhance the venue experience for fans. Through the food startup Appetize app, the hungry fan can look up the menu for each game. Because this app now exists, food lines will be shorter, faster, and more time will be spent watching the game. The app also allows teams to gather statistics about fan intentions so that they can leverage the data in a way that they could operate their food service for effectively and efficiently. Both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers have already utilized this kind of technology at Madison Square Garden. In the near future, this app’s popularity should certainly increase as more and more teams will turn towards finding new ways to enhance their fan and venue experience. (Matt Louis)
“Manual, inefficient, archaic, and expensive.”
These are the words that Kevin Anderson, Co-Founder of Appetize, tells SportTechie correspond to the ordering process of food housed in sporting arenas.
If these terms don’t properly denote the current in-venue experience for this transaction, then its summation could be left as the following: “necessary evil.”
Anderson affirms that the digital component for a food delivery service has been non-existent before Appetize’s inception. Outside of decades-old handheld devices and point of sale units, operators have been left with very little recourse. This reality manifests itself through fans circumambulating the concourse looking for shorter food lines–hardly ever the case. The demand surplus has certainly outpaced the way in which it’s offered–let alone in the BYOD era.
Accordingly, sports franchises have started to look for any incremental revenue boost from internal auxiliary sources. Seat upgrading services, naturally, have become an initial and welcomed add-on to ticket sales. Parking startups, like StadiumPark, entrance as a disrupter should gain headway almost in the same vein as the former. Team mobile apps, though, remain rather subpar to a premium experience. The mobilization from external parties tends to be more aggressive than the teams, themselves, just to be a part of the robust potential.
As for food, another notable company in the space is Hungry Fan. They’re an aggregator platform that fans can access prior to attending a game in order to find out the menu. This offering serves virtually as a niche byproduct of Yelp’s supremacy–something that a giant can’t completely or appropriately cover. Gaps in the marketplace, thus, continually exist to be exploited. The key, though, is to separate what’s a mere novelty versus one that sincerely addresses a problem.
Still, all of these ventures, including eating, attempt to directly tackle the division between the home and in-game experience. Conveniency continues to be a simple desire by fans, yet, in many cases, teams don’t accomplish providing it well enough to meet today’s standards. Anderson believes mobile ordering and payment would increase fan engagement at the game. With Appetize, the venue, at its core, would be able to roll out in-seat service to a lot more fans. In effect, this experience could lead to them returning again because they received what they wanted, when they wanted it.
Of course, though, this medium is quite like several others out there, in terms of functionality for the user to perform seat selection, menu items, and checkout–some college dorm rooms across the country will begin activating such features as the new fall semester commences this week.
It’s the technological improvements made on the front and backend, however, that Anderson claims has allowed them to jump ahead of competitors, even while acknowledging its commonality with the aforementioned abilities.
“There isn’t another app that downloads in seconds, allows fans to mix their own cocktail, or beam payment over bluetooth to waiters and vendors on the frontend,” says Anderson.
“Additionally, you will be hard-pressed to find an app that allows venues to push live promo codes, activate mobile ordering sponsors, or while label our ordering in a matter of minutes through our SDK,” he continued.
Powering through Appetize enables operators to register pick-up, delivery, or live bluetooth payment, provided it’s moved to the app store. Their SDK allows them to present branded, native ordering in a simple and swift fashion. When receiving orders, though, it depends on how the arena deploys it. The ones with their POS can receive them sans a second-screen; the ones that have their KDS system can just mobilize its ordering for the time being.
Conversely, listening to their client base and being cognizant of their concerns have helped shaped their current standing. Food vendors and fans’ input plays a role in their app development, including recommendations for its UI and UX.
“Appetize is what it is today because of how much weight we have put on our customer feedback, and encouraging methodical rollouts. We know our users are fans that are already enjoying an event and are likely a couple of beers in–so, we’ve done the opposite of most apps–we made the app simpler. We’ve also iterated the app to display different menu items down to the seat the fan chooses; and included various alcohol controls that customers requested,” Anderson says.
Making such requests possible has, indeed, resulted to be a wise strategy. The experience, in some respects, is comparable to that of credit cards, which makes the user feel like they’re not spending, or as much at least. Also, there’s a tendency by fans to purchase by the bulk here compared to a typical concessions stand transaction. Anderson notes that 71 percent of the time fans order when the game is going on, since there’s less of a line throughout the concourse. And mobile ordering usually garners between 35 to 40 percent higher order sizes on average versus those at the concessions stand.
Both the New York Rangers and New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden were early adopters, so they can be “the most tech-advanced building in the world”–those two mobile food consumption statistics would be hard for any organization to dismiss either. Each of their respective team apps have integrated Appetize seamlessly, while engaging two major sponsors within this feature. They renewed their deals for a second consecutive season due to the sponsors and fans’ positive response for it.
The overarching venue problem stemming from connectivity, however, doesn’t seem to apply for or deter Appetize’s success.
“We’ve created a platform that relies on as little network connection as possible. Our POS products boasts automatic offline mode, printers, and cash drawers based on bluetooth connections,” states Anderson.
“Our app is a native app that requires little bandwidth to download and submit an order, and can submit payment over bluetooth without a network. That said, if venues have Wi-Fi or DAS systems in place, the ordering process will be as quick as possible; and will guarantee an awesome fan experience, as well as live analytics for venues and managers,” Anderson concludes.
Right now, Appetize is focusing on settling new partnerships in the greater entertainment space, be it from concessionaires or entertainment properties. They’re pretty optimistic about their POS and bluetooth payment formats, as the industry locks in for this year’s technological iteration of them. These moves come after completing this summer’s Governor’s Ball Music Festival in New York City, where 175 POS systems were on site, sans any network. The commercialization, thus, has struck accord with the likes of Aloompa, Yinzcam, Neulion, andWilshire Axon Sports, to name a few.
Starving fans everywhere at the game should look no further than to appease their appetite through Appetize–just another attempt that further merges an expedited, simplified experience likened to that of staying at home.