By Mike Sunnucks
Concessionaires are using data and analytics to better distribute staffing and supplies, as well as adjust pricing on the fly.
Providing the best fan experience has come down to a numbers game. From the parking lot to the seating bowl, venues, teams and vendors are expanding the use of real-time, detailed analytics to keep operations running smoothly and to quickly address any problems.
“It’s really a dynamic data capture of everything that happens around the stadium. There are
hundreds of thousands of things going on for inventory and food service and merchandise and fan interaction” said Ed Mullen, vice president of Stadium 1 Software. The Florida tech firm provides analytical software and dashboards that minor league baseball teams use to react to game-day situations and trends.
Points of sale, inventory, staffing, ticketing, security systems and fan apps are all being linked by
“Now there are all these different systems that allow us to capture data in the event whether it’s
ongoing survey information, or whether it’s camera technology that we are using with some of our
clients that scan the concourses so we can know where points of congestion’s are,” said Jaime
Faulkner, CEO of E15, Levy Restaurants’ analytics arm.
That allows for on-the-spot adjustments to inventories and staffing, and for rolling out special
promotions for concessions and merchandise.
“We’re able now to take it to the next level so they can absolutely understand their inventory, what
they’re selling and how they’re selling it — but in real time,” Mullen said.
Concessions and Retail
Food, beverage and merchandise sales are on the front lines of the real-time analytics wave. The
goals are to be able to swiftly move staff and inventory to busy stands; react faster to customer
complaints or broken equipment; reduce wait times; and craft flash sales and special in-game
Kevin Pelegrin, vice president of data science at Aramark Sports & Entertainment, said concessions
managers at venues get alerts throughout games with a focus on speed of service, how things are
going during peak times, and pinpointing strengths and weaknesses. The bulk of the information
comes from transaction data.
“What managers see is exceptions-based reporting. Where to focus. Where are their strengths,”
Pelegrin said of the data that flows back and forth between venues and Aramark’s Philadelphia
headquarters. Aramark managers also can access dashboards on their smartphones.
Real-time data can better move staffing chess pieces around as needed, increase staffing at busy
stands and close others toward the end of games.
“They can now look at a stand and say here’s my payroll and here’s my sales. Let’s say it goes 20
minutes where the payroll is going up, the sales haven’t gone up, let’s close it,” Mullen said.
“Maybe you have $300, $400 of payroll — times that by 70 games, that’s $28,000. That’s a lot in
the minor leagues per year.”
As fans download and use more team apps to buy tickets, merchandise, food and drinks, that gives
teams, vendors and sponsors the ability to track purchasing trends and send individual fans alerts
“This allows teams to figure out who is purchasing what, where and when,” said Michael Longe, principal and co-founder of Pronto CX, a Washington, D.C.-area technology company that provides smart applications to LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium. Promotions could include flash sales or other special deals, Mullen said, based on what’s been selling well or simply as a way to reduce excess inventory, which is especially important at the end of games.
Mullen points to the example of the Class AA Tennessee Smokies having 100 hamburgers left
toward the end of a recent game. The team reduced the combo price from $8 to $4, Mullen said. “Out of
the 100 they sold 90.”
Multiply that across a season or incorporate the technology at larger venues and the revenue
benefits are obvious, he said.
Majors and Minors
Size doesn’t matter with real-time analytics being used by teams and buildings. At the top of the food chain, the San Francisco 49ers this past season rolled out an analytics war room at Levi’s Stadium via software and applications from SAP. Point of sale, ticketing, parking, stadium entry, customer service and other systems are linked with a control center fashioned out of a luxury suite where data can be monitored on game day. The 49ers also have 175 HappyOrNot kiosks around the stadium that ask fans whether they are pleased with the service, their wait times and their experiences.
The overall effort has helped adjust parking flows, clean and repair restrooms, and make sure food
and beverage resources are properly distributed, according to Moon Javaid, 49ers vice president of
strategy and analytics. Andy Shea, president and CEO of the Class A Lexington Legends, said the team this season will start using ticketing analytics from StellarAlgo to analyze walk-up and pregame purchases. Staffers also will use analytics to monitor marketing campaigns. “Did we get 50,000 likes but only sold two tickets? If so, that’s not great,” Shea said.
LAFC is rolling out a new fan app for the upcoming second season at Banc of California Stadium. In
addition to offering insight on key revenue streams such as ticketing and concessions, the app will
offer insights for team sponsors wanting to reach out to consumers. Teams including the San Francisco 49ers use apps from LiveSafe for fans to report security problems.
“At the end of the day you have partners who live outside the stadium,” said Christian Lau, LAFC
vice president of information technology.
Security and Fan Interactions
Real-time technology is also being used to address security problems and unruly fans. Security
systems and apps can help venue managers spot ingress/egress, maintenance or other problems.
The Honda Center in Anaheim, Levi’s Stadium and a host of college campuses use apps and
analytical dashboards from Virginia-based LiveSafe. Fans and staff can report safety and security
problems via LiveSafe or team apps on their phones.
The app essentially creates a real-time focus group for reporting boorish behavior, security
concerns and other issues such as spills that need to be cleaned up or problems at entrances and
exits. “Now you’ve got a much faster way to respond,” said LiveSafe CEO Carolyn Parent. “You’ve got
this amazing network of employees, vendors and fans. You tap into their eyes and ears on the
ground.” Venues, teams and sponsors are even using interactive fan experiences to gauge fan flows and
James Giglio, CEO and founder at MVP Interactive, has installed interactive and virtual reality fan
experiences at FedEx Field, Madison Square Garden, U.S. Bank Stadium and Wells Fargo Center.
Giglio said the exhibits can be outfitted with cameras to track customer traffic and facial
technology to gauge fans’ moods and demographics. That can allow for actions to improve
experiences and gauge fan flows.
“We will track a face, impressions, how long they are dwelling there, attention time, demographics,
age, gender,” Giglio said.
Analytics software and technology pricing is structured in a variety of ways. Pronto CX charges an upfront licensing fee and a monthly subscription, Longe said. Similar deals with other vendors involve annual software subscriptions.
The 49ers bought software licenses from SAP and the two worked together to implement the
system at Levi’s Stadium. Stadium 1 allows clients to buy or lease their software and then pay licensing fees. They can also lease any accompanying hardware. Mullen said more clients are favoring another option that pays Stadium 1 a percentage of game day sales in exchange for its software, hardware and services.
The key for the various operating systems is to be able to communicate with each other on game
day. E-15’s Faulkner said that’s becoming less of an issue because the technology culture within
teams and venues has increased data sharing and moved away from isolated, proprietary
“There is more information being shared right now in collaboration between the teams, venues and
us as partners than ever before,” she said. “We have data scientists, they have data scientists. We
speak the same language.”