In the not-too-distant future, fans might never have to miss another key live sports moment to grab another beer or snag a second hot dog. At least that’s the plan for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Aramark, who launched mobile ordering at Quicken Loans Arena this month through Apple Business Chat.
Fans in the lower bowl at Quicken Loans can scan a QR code on seat backs and follow message prompts to order beer or water before completing the transaction with Apple Pay. From there, all they have to do is stay in their seat and wait for delivery.
“We’re continually searching for innovative ways to incorporate digital technology into the food and beverage experience,” said Kevin Kearney, district manager of Aramark’s sports & entertainment division. “The integration of Apple Business Chat with the ordering process is not only fan-friendly and easily accessible, it’s reflective of fans’ changing expectations and behaviors, and we’re looking forward to Cavs and Monsters fans giving it a try.”
Aramark conducted a proof of concept last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, but the 1,728 seats tested in that run is a far cry from the 7,250 the Cavs are piloting through the end of the NBA and American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters seasons. Cavs Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mike Conley said the team would probably scale up one more time before the end of the season.
“We wanted to test and understand where our fanbase was and get a feel for it,” Conley said. “We want to have the kinks ironed out before we roll out to the whole venue. We want to deliver on a need without investing too much capital, time or effort on something that isn’t widely adopted.
“It’s a crawl-walk-run with continuous feedback.”
Assuming the pilot program at Quicken Loans Arena goes well, Aramark could roll it out across its portfolio of client venues in the near future. The Cavs also expect to do a large scale up next season following a massive $140 million renovation to the arena.
This mobile ordering pilot is not the first time the Cavs have tried experimented with the technology. Two seasons ago, they attempted the roll-out of a quick in-seat service of prepackaged snacks and beverages, only to find the arena wasn’t optimized for the service.
“Modern-day stadiums, the last five or 10 years, have accounted for this delivery concept,” Conley said. “Our venue, built in 1994, didn’t have the foresight that we would have this technology. Our kitchens weren’t prepared to handle the load and logistics to provide the service.”
Without quick adoption, the Cavs killed the beta experiment and have since cleaned up the logistical issues for this roll-out with Aramark. The mobile ordering is done through a virtual back-end and uses hawkers already in a seating area to deliver the beer or water.
Expect technology to remain a crucial piece of live sports experiments moving forward, said Don White, the CEO of Satisfi Labs, which focuses on digital customer service at live events. He believes services like the mobile ordering at Quicken Loans Arena could eventually spill over from concessions into merchandise, ticketing and parking.
“This is a great movement to get customers on their mobile devices providing a real value-added service,” White said. “This move has gotten everyone’s attention and now there’s a huge demand of ‘what else can we do and give fans right away?’”
The search for answers will remain essential so long as television broadcasts, augmented reality and virtual reality experiences lag behind the live-event experience. For the time being, the best solution may only be found in one arena in the country. But at least fans in Cleveland won’t have to miss a basket or a goal to quench their thirst.