Technology / 11.16.20
In-Seat Ordering Expected to Become Gold Standard for Concessions, Sports Venues and Events
Contactless has been a popular trend in the live event space, typically affecting areas like access control and concessions. Ticketing platforms have been heavily involved with access control by providing equipment and apps to recognize patrons as they arrive.
Concessions, on the other hand, have not been a traditional focus of ticketing platforms outside of perhaps providing an electronic wallet that can hold both a digital ticket and ability to purchase food and beverages (F&B). Ordering F&B offers another opportunity for ticketing platforms to collaborate with venues and event organizers for the benefit of all.
How can ticketing platforms get involved and help their clients innovate while implementing these processes? Let’s take a closer look into what ticketing combined with ordering means for the industry.
How Frictionless Ordering Enhances the Ticket-Buying Process
Contactless F&B ordering fits nicely into the traditional ticketing purchase flow. It follows a similar upsell process to other items that can be sold alongside tickets, such as merchandise, parking, taxi arrangements, restaurant reservations and much more.
Like any add-on item, APIs enable this level of frictionless ordering during the ticket buying process. As with upselling any product, there are multiple parties involved: the ticketing platform, an order provider like Tacit, and the food vendor or vendors. Ticketing technology expert Softjourn devised workflows to resolve the complexity of connecting these different entities. Tighter integration means more automation and options can be offered. Integrating with a ticketing platform using Tacit’s APIs gives the venue or event organizer the ability to set the menu, prices and even create custom offerings for each event.
On the ticketing side, an event attendee can make their food choices, select a time for delivery and complete the payment for their tickets, F&B and any other add-on items. On the order fulfillment and delivery side, the mobile order provider would be integrated to the food vendor’s point-of-sale (POS) system. When an order is made via the ticketing platform, the order details are sent to the vendor’s POS system via the mobile order, so that inventory, food prep and delivery can be organized. How the kitchen receives the order from the POS service depends on their level of internal automation.
Here’s a high-level look at the integration process among the three main parties involved, as created by Softjourn:
Confirmation for the ticketing purchase would happen in the same way as it happens today. It could be via an email confirmation to the patron, which would provide the list of F&B and any other upsell items purchased. It could include a link to add the ticket to the ticketing platform’s ticket wallet (or Apple or Samsung wallet) or a link to add the ticket to a venue, team or college app. Of course, if the ticketing and F&B purchase was made via the ticketing platform’s mobile app, the ticket would be available in the wallet via that app, and the F&B purchase can be listed in a separate section.
When it comes to delivery, ticketing platforms can capture the patron’s mobile number and send a notification to the patron to confirm delivery. The trigger for sending this notification can be the close of the order in the vendor’s POS system. Patrons also must have a way to contact someone if their order does not arrive, or if they are not receiving notifications. Customer support information should be provided via the emailed ticket confirmation or via the ticketing platform’s mobile app. A patron needs to have multiple places to go to find customer support information.
The Benefits of In-Seat Delivery
Improve the Patron Experience
Venues and event organizers can create a better experience by engaging with patrons from the moment they arrive. When a guest or group of guests is recognized by the ticketing platform’s access control app, venues and food vendors can be notified that the fans are now in the building. This information can be pushed through the Tacit service back to the food vendor’s POS system. Great examples of engagement include welcoming them, identifying the best path to their seat and confirming when their food will arrive.
GPS information can also assist in providing a great experience. Although social distancing is keeping patrons in their seats for the near term, at some point, movement will be possible again. With GPS, there’s no debating that the right person is getting the right order.
Encourage Additional Orders
No matter what a patron orders ahead of time, they always want more! And we want them to want more. In this case, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make F&B ordering as frictionless as possible. When patrons receive confirmation for their ticket purchase, whether via email or notification from the ticketing platforms’ mobile app, there should always be a link to add additional F&B. Patrons should get a confirmation for each new order, the status of said order and the delivery time, the same as any order that was completed at the time of ticket purchase.
Settle Easily Between Multiple Parties
As with settlement between any other merchant whose merchandise the ticketing platform upsells, ticketing platforms need a way to set a commission rate or flat fee earned for selling F&B for the venue or event organizer. This ability would also determine what the venue or event organizer earns. By fully integrating to the Tacit service, everyone involved in the F&B order process will be able to see data on total F&B sales.
They would also see the split on commission between the ticketing platform and the venue and event organizer, also allowing them to settle with the food vendor. Both the Tacit service and ticketing platform can generate reports depending on the type of agreements made between the ticketing platform, the venue or event organizer, and the food vendor. Since everything is digital, the processes are traceable, generating reports on total sales, splits between parties and so forth. That’s a win-win for all parties involved.
Increase Opportunities to Connect With Patrons
Collecting more data during the F&B purchase process can be used to help understand what is happening with the patron and within the facility. For example, fans/patrons could post a negative review on the concessions/restaurants’ page or social media account. Using push notifications from across multiple systems, managers could see these reviews, reach out to the guest through contact information provided through the purchase process, and attempt to resolve the problem. In turn, the guest may be more inclined to remove the negative review or commentary from their respective social media accounts or resources.
For More Than Just Sports Venues
While it may seem that in-seat ordering works best for sports venues, that is definitely not the case. Instead of maintaining their own concessions areas, arts and culture venues could take advantage of their locations and make agreements with local restaurants to provide F&B before, during (depending on the type of event) and after an event. All meals could be ordered and paid for at the time tickets are purchased, and the restaurant would manage deliveries. The venue or event can earn a commission, as well as gain insights into their attendees.
In the near term, this type of a relationship can also help solve the problem of how arts and culture venues continue with concessions during these times of social distancing — by turning F&B handling over to other experts. In the long term, working with outside providers can help arts and culture venues differentiate their events and provide the variety that patrons are becoming used to.
Patrons Demand Delivery and Contactless Payments
Take a moment to think about the state of digital ordering. Most associate digital ordering with delivery services from their favorite businesses. Why should inside a venue be any different? It’s the same principle — moving ordering from a preparation area or kitchen to in-seat. Instead of physically driving to a delivery location, servers walk to the seat and make the delivery. If the ticketing platform can add to their repertoire the upselling of merchandise and F&B, they are more likely to retain contracts with event producers and deliver better patron experiences.
Contactless payment methods may sound like an idea based solely on preventing unnecessary contact, especially during the current climate. However, it is the result of several factors — a coin shortage in the U.S., fewer consumers spending money on extra purchases and the obvious need to reduce the risk of pathogen transmission. Perhaps more interestingly, 63% of consumers were highly interested in ordering online or via an app over any in-person experience even before the pandemic. This means it makes perfect sense to include the F&B purchase process up front with the ticket, as well as give patrons the ability to order more via mobile while in-venue.
How Contactless Ordering Streamlines Operations
Receiving orders ahead of an event enables concessions or restaurants to better manage inventory needed for the day of the event, as well as how much to pre-cook for the day. They should also be able to estimate the number of orders that may occur the day of and plan accordingly.
For fully socially distanced events, fans may not be allowed to approach the concession area, at least initially. Employees who had previously been behind the counter may be redeployed to help with deliveries. In the future, more staff may be needed for delivery as more and more patrons demand the luxury of not running around or standing in line to order F&B. It harkens back to the time of more roving vendors in a venue, but in this case with exactly what the patron wants when they want it. We can expect, however, that physical POS systems/concession points won’t disappear overnight.
When an F&B order is taken by a ticketing platform, it needs to be seamlessly shared with multiple systems, such as the concessions/restaurant’s POS system through to the kitchen ticketing system. This could be a printer listing out the orders or the order could be delivered to the kitchen in a way that is low-tech. As a further level of integration, if the concession area/restaurant uses a delivery service, order information can be automatically pushed through to that service. It can be complex, and any miscalculation or failure to share information will result in subsequent problems within the ordering and delivery process.
Delivery times are another concern. When selecting their F&B for an event, patrons also pick a delivery time. However, the food vendor may need to override a delivery time and be assured that they can update the patron with any delivery time changes. Being able to modify delivery times can be critical, especially for socially distanced events, when delivery persons may be limited, and where food and beverage may have to be 100% delivered in order to put on as safe of an event as possible.
In-Seat Ordering and Delivery Is the New Normal for Entertainment Venues
For many entertainment events, concessions form a large share of the revenue generated. For example, statistics have shown that sporting event patrons spend an average of just over $42 in concessions per game. For many venues and events, F&B can significantly add to their top line. Integrating frictionless F&B purchasing with in-seat delivery will likely generate higher average order sizes in the long term and aid in the safety of fans in the near term.
This mirrors a similar trend seen among Tacit clients, who have said, “we’ve experienced up to a 20% gain in the average order size following digital ordering and delivery implementation.” Since in-seat delivery offers the same benefits as delivery to a customers’ home or third-party location, it stands to reason that in-seat ordering will rapidly become the new normal.
And there’s another side to the story: Venues could bring in more vendors and let local restaurants handle the concessions’ aspect of sports and entertainment events — obviously, charging for that opportunity. Regardless, it all leads to better profitability and a more lucrative, enjoyable and convenient experience.
This article was sponsored by Softjourn and Tacit Innovations.
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