No one, it seems, has really solved the challenge of seamless and efficient mobile ordering at sports venues, even after a decade of efforts. The latest: Aramark and the Philadelphia Phillies are making yet another run at mobile ordering.
There have been plenty of attempts at mobile ordering at sports venues, amusement parks and the like. The earliest efforts featured ordering from a smartphone, with the fan picking up the order at a designated stand. (That’s basically what Disney has implemented across many Disney World locations, a process made simpler by theme-park WiFi and a standardized app for most visitors.) For venue managers, standardizing on an app makes sense—but the minute you demand users download yet another app to enable mobile ordering, you make people calculate that it’s easier just to head to the concession stand and grab the beer and hot dogs. And then there’s the whole issue of staffing up the delivery crew: personnel costs on a slow night will take serious slices of any incremental revenue generated by mobile ordering. Are you actually generating new sales with mobile ordering, or just adding overhead to delivering a beer to a fan who would have walked up to the beer stand or ordered a brew from a hawker?
Aramark and the Philadelphia Phillies are making another run at mobile ordering, this time using Apple Pay as the back-end payment system. No app, no dedicated payment system: the new Aramark plan at Citizens Bank Park uses Apple Business Chat to take orders via the Apple iPhone iMessage chat application. Apple Business Chat is a relatively new offering from Apple, pushed as a solution for businesses to interact with customers via chat. This is not an obscure technology, with firms like Four Seasons, Harry & David, and American Express pledging to bring customer service to the Apple Business Chat platform.
For Aramark, the use of Apple Business Chat at Citizens Bank Park is charmingly retro. Remember QR codes, which have never been embraced by any large part of the populace? The Aramark plan is to order beverages by Internet messaging: you send a iMessage text to the Brew2You chat account, and the automated script handles the rest.
Here’s the process, deemed “simple” by Aramark. Hint: any process involving four to five steps, including one that moves you between three separate iPhone apps, is not simple.
- Open the iPhone Camera app
- Scan the QR code on the seat back
- Follow the prompts on the Messages text screen to place order
- Complete transaction with Apple Pay
- Enjoy the game while order is delivered to seat location
We’re in the midst of Aramark’s experiment with mobile ordering, limited to sections 142, 143, 144 and 145 at Citizens Bank Park. The trial is also limited to select beverages (beer and water), not anything remotely close to a full menu. The pilot program will be conducted over the course of ten games (July 20-25, August 2-5).
“We’re excited to be working with the Phillies and Apple to pilot this food and beverage delivery service. As fans’ expectations and behaviors change, Aramark continues to be on the forefront of introducing innovative, fan-friendly offerings to help transform the ballpark dining experience,” said Carl Mittleman, President of Aramark’s Sports & Entertainment Division, in a press release. “Utilizing Apple Business Chat as an ordering option is a logical next step. By doing so, we’re able to integrate an easily accessible digital technology that enables fans to seamlessly order from their mobile devices while continuing to watch the game or socialize with friends.”
“We look forward to joining Aramark in testing this mobile delivery service, an innovative use of Apple Business Chat that further enhances the food and beverage experience at Citizens Bank Park,” said David Buck, Phillies Executive Vice President, in a press release. “With this new pilot program, food ordering and delivery is as easy as a text message, and we are excited to be the first sports facility in the country to try out this new technology.”
The goal here is to automate the ordering process, but it’s hard to see that a three-app process limited to an iPhone running iOS 11.3 or higher with an Apple Pay account (sorry, Android users!) in a small section of a large ballpark will generate any form of useful data or meaningful sales, though Apple Business Chat does show promise in facilitating automated transactions. Mobile ordering and fulfilment is still a challenge for many venue managers, but this seems to be a really complicated approach to what should be a simple transaction.
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