Teams, venues, and their foodservice partners are increasingly implementing new technologies to improve fans’ food and beverage experience – one of the most impactful drivers of their overall experience at a venue.
Throughout the 2019 MLB season, Aramark tested Mashgin’s AI-based self-checkout system in eight different ballparks as part of a grab-and-go market concept known as Walk Thru Bru. Mashgin’s unique kiosks use artificial intelligence to help patrons check out faster. Fans simply put their food and drink items on a Mashgin unit all at once and multiple cameras immediately identify and scan those items without using barcodes.
“Our charge is to move as quickly as possible to test things.”
– Alicia Woznicki, Aramark
“It’s much faster than a person taking all of your beers and your food and ringing them up individually,” says Alicia Woznicki, Associate Vice President, Design & Development at Aramark. “[The Mashgin technology] does it instantaneously and then prompts you to pay with a credit card.”
Instead of walking up to a typical beer portable, Walk Thru Bru is a drink market with two double-door coolers and a stanchion line in front of it. This design allows fans to self-shop at the coolers and check themselves out at a Mashgin unit.
In addition to shorter wait times, the coolers offer an increased variety of beer options. Compared with traditional beer portables, Walk Thru Bru produced a 40% increase in speed of service and 25% increase in sales.
At all Aramark venues with Mashgin units, staff members are on hand to assist fans and check ID’s when necessary. Two recent examples at Citi Field and Empower Field at Mile High Stadium demonstrate ways in which Aramark is further improving and scaling self-checkout experiences.
CLEAR Integration at Citi Field
Concurrent with testing Walk Thru Bru’s Mashgin checkout, Aramark engaged in conversations with CLEAR about utilizing its biometric technology for secure age verification and payment, an integration further increasing speed of service.
In another test during the Mets final homestand in 2019, Walk Thru Bru became a members-only experience for CLEAR users. For fans without CLEAR memberships, they could sign up for one onsite. With this CLEAR integration in place, fans now made payments and had their ages verified with the tap of a fingerprint.
“Our charge is to move as quickly as possible to test things,” says Woznicki. “That translates well into what we did at Citi Field as a proof of concept at the end of the season to start to learn so that we can influence how it may come to life next season and beyond.”
While the test using CLEAR at Citi Field spanned a limited number of games, Woznicki says it validated the concept operationally. The next task is to decide how it expands at Citi Field or in other venues.
Mashgin Rollout at Mile High
While the CLEAR integration at Citi Field served as a quick test, high fan adoption rates of the Walk Thru Bru concept using Mashgin technology was enough proof of concept to justify a larger scale, single venue rollout of concessions concepts featuring Mashgin units.
When Aramark won the foodservice bid for Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, using technology to enhance the fan experience was an important part of the conversation. Ongoing renovations at the stadium provided Aramark’s design team an opportunity to install 20 Mashgin units in six different locations throughout the venue.
“This was really the culmination of a year and a half of testing we had done beforehand,” says Woznicki. “[Empower Field at Mile High Stadium] was the first place we deployed [Mashgin technology] at so many different locations in such a broad scale. It speaks to the development process and the way we think about how to implement new technology to make sure that when we take this kind of bigger step, we are confident it’s going to be successful.”
All six Mashgin self-checkout locations are on the main concourse, highlighted by five drink markets known as Drink MKT. The sixth location, Favs@MH, features a list of standard concessions, including hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, beer, and soda.
In addition to these locations, 24 additional self-checkout kiosks were installed. Four self-checkout kiosks sit in each of the stadium’s two main club spaces, and the remaining 16 kiosks are in a new chicken tenders and wings concept called Tenders Love and Chicken on the main concourse. In each club space, fans use a single touchscreen kiosk to order food for pick up from any one of multiple action stations.
The Future of AI in Concessions
As the NFL regular season comes to an end, Aramark and the Broncos are evaluating what’s next.
“We’re evaluating how these things have performed in order to help inform phase two of renovations that will be happening next offseason,” says Woznicki. “The things we’re looking at right now are pretty straightforward from a value to the consumer and to our partner’s perspective.”
Early results for Favs@MH indicate fans are completing their transactions 40% faster, while each point of sale is producing 50% more sales on average compared to traditional fan favorite concession stands.
“We’re only scratching the surface of what is able to be done, and I’m excited to continue to test different applications because that’s how we got to this point,” says Woznicki. “Sometimes with technology, we’ve seen adoption issues, but this has been so straightforward and seamless for the guests.”
Plan to attend the ALSD’s 7th Annual Sports Venue Design & Build Forum to learn more best practices for improving your venue's F&B operations, technology, sales, speed of service, and overall guest experience.