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Q&A with Rapid Retail’s Managing Director, Nick Daffern

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Nick Daffern, Managing Director of Rapid Retail, answers questions about his firm’s involvement with international stadia and how operations managers can increase revenue and offer fans and spectators a better experience.

Q: Nick, how would you describe your business?

A: We have worked with stadia since 2007, so we have had plenty of time to develop the way in which we work. Firstly, we are not just a supplier that builds and drops a retail unit or kiosk – we are problem solvers. Secondly, the types of relationships that work well are those where we have a relationship not only with the retail manager, but also the facilities people and the food and beverage guys, so the whole retail/queuing/food and beverage needs are examined.

Q: You work with stadia overseas, what element of this work differs from working with personnel at UK stadia?

A: Actually the requirements are very similar across the globe. What does differ is the business culture, and it is imperative that before you work with a client in a new country, you get to know the cultures, their likes, dislikes, and technical things, such as how they might settle their invoices. This is best done beforehand so there are no nasty shocks, for either party.

Q: What have you seen change positively since you launched Rapid Retail in 2007?

A: Worldwide we are seeing bigger and bigger stadia and those that are used for a wider range of activities, not just sport. It is not unusual now to see a political gathering at a stadium one day, a concert the next and then sport at the weekend. This has meant that stadia managers have to think smart to ensure they deliver an excellent experience to a diverse range of fans and spectators, while developing broader revenue opportunities.

Q: This must be a challenge for you, working with these differing requirements?

A: Any business needs to be flexible; we have had to adapt our products and services to meet these changes. It is not just revenue that is at the top of the list, safety is key, too. While we can’t divulge specific figures, we know that by spreading programme-selling kiosks around a ground for example, fans queue for less time and there is not a ‘crush’ at key points, something we are all keen to avoid. This applies to any type of stadium event.

Q: You have been working with French soccer club Paris St. Germain for many years, what do you supply there?

A: We started off developing one bespoke retail unit. It soon became clear that this was very successful and further units were needed, yet at the same time the units had to be more manoeuvrable. So my co-founder Andy Moss designed a kiosk concourse shop that can be easily transported, is strongly-branded and can be quickly opened up and then closed again at the end of the match. Paris St. Germain now has several of these (see below), they reflect the high end of the brand while being practical to use.

Q: Food and beverage is a key area for a stadium operator in terms of delivery to the spectators and revenue. What is your advice to improve both areas?

A: Frankly, operators need to  stop thinking  ‘traditional’ in terms of maintaining just one or two areas to eat and drink. It is far better to spread the load to several areas around the stadium. This not only reduces the queues, but reduces the numbers being served at each outlet, so the fan receives better-quality food and drink as the F&B operator is not so pressurised. One of my bugbears is quality; there are still some stadia where the food and drink service can  be improved hugely. Fans deserve to be treated well. I suggest that directors occasionally come out of the directors’ box and sit in with the crowd to experience the event at grassroots level; then make positive changes. Spectators have to be encouraged back and they will only do that if the offering is good as they become more discerning – there is a lot of competition out there!

Q: Surely, though, stadium operators have to keep a tight rein on budgets?

A: As with any business that is true and when you are dealing with such huge figures as a lot of operators are, it is easy to lose track of what is being spent and where. We have tried to help out customers by offering units to rent, not just purchase. This immediately negates the need for upfront investment, which is often a stumbling block, especially for the smaller stadia. On top of the flexibility with funding, we will take back a unit at the end of its life and replace it.

Q: How do you address environmental policies that are becoming a greater part of contract requirements now?

A: Our units can have lights powered by solar technology, so this not only addresses contractual requirements, but also keeps power bills down. Plus we recycle units where we can; it is something that is always at the forefront of our future developments.

Q: Finally, how do you envisage stadia will develop in the future in terms of retail?

A: As mentioned earlier, stadia are ever-increasing in capacity, so the need for operators to become even more flexible and forward-thinking is key. Why not put merchandising units outside the ground, so people can buy before they go through the turnstiles, for example? We are also seeing the growth of ‘community’ stadia and their needs to bring in revenue, in ratio terms, will be even greater; these operators need to look upstream to see what is working and then adapt a model to suit them. Whichever type or size of development, I am sure that we can help with advice.

 

Nick Daffern is Managing Director of Rapid Retail. He can be contacted via email at: nick@rapidretail.co.uk

For further information, visit: http://rapidretail.co.uk/

T Concourse Retail Unit M Paris St kiosks

 

Levy Restaurants UK and RFU renew hospitality and catering contract at Twickenham Stadium

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The Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Levy Restaurants UK – the sports, leisure and hospitality sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland – have announced the renewal of contracts to continue their joint venture, Twickenham Experience Ltd (TEL). The partnership provides all match day catering, hospitality and bar services, as well as non-match day catering, conference and event management at Twickenham Stadium and has been in existence since 2000. 

 

The ten-year contract extension is worth over GBP£30m in annual revenues to the RFU Group; the profits from which facilitates investment back into the game at all levels. The renewed venture will deliver all match day retail and hospitality food and beverage operations for the 82,000-capacity stadium, as well as continuing to grow the non match day conference and events business at the venue.

 

The operational functions of TEL will continue to be supported by Levy Restaurants UK’s sales specialists, Lime Venue Portfolio, the UK’s largest collection of unique, unusual, cultural and sporting venues. Lime Venue will work with the partnership to deliver non match day events and Keith Prowse will continue to promote the match day hospitality sales function.

 

As part of the RFU’s GBP£76m commitment into creating a state-of-the-art, connected stadium, there has been significant investment in the delivery of catering and hospitality services at Twickenham. In the past year, 17 public bars at the stadium have been upgraded, there has been continued investment into the West Car Park Fan Village facilities, as well as the latest technologies being incorporated, to ultimately enhance customer experience.

 

Stephen Brown, Chief Financial Officer, RFU and Chairman of TEL said:

We are not only committed to delivering a unique and inspiring experience for fans attending Twickenham Stadium on match day, but also creating the same quality of experience for customers attending the many other non-match day events and conferences that occur throughout the year at our venue.  There has been a long and successful partnership over the past 14 years with Compass Group UK & Ireland, who have extensive experience in delivering the very best in catering, hospitality and retail services. This strong relationship has instilled a great deal of confidence in our joint venture and has facilitated the bringing forward of the contract renewal process 12 months to this year. The new ten-year contract will allow us to continue to develop and innovate our match day and conference and events offering as well as to set an ambitious, standard setting long term strategy for the Twickenham Experience Limited business.

 

Colin Bailey, Managing Director, sports, leisure and hospitality, Compass Group UK & Ireland said:

As a partnership we have made a considerable investment to the development of facilities and staff at Twickenham. The contract renewal is testament to the partnership we have with the RFU and the commitment we share to delivering an exceptional experience for visitors to the stadium.

 

Last year, TEL’s public bars and catering units served in excess of 1 million event day guests, at 19 events and over 49,000 hospitality covers catered for on match days. TEL’s non-match day Conference and Events business achieved revenues of GBP£4.5m, with the world-class conferencing facilities being utilised for a range of events from small lunch meetings to international conferences, product launches, weddings and awards dinners for over 800 people.

 

A’s expand Ovations partnership to include newly renovated Hohokam Stadium

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The Oakland Athletics (A’s) will return to Mesa, Arizona, USA, to the newly renovated Hohokam Stadium for their 2015 spring training and will partner with the facility’s current catering and concessions provider, Ovations Food Services. Ovations will also serve as the A’s retail merchandising partner at their new spring home.

 

Ovations currently serves A’s fans at the O.co Coliseum and announced last month the addition of retail merchandise operations as well. A subsidiary of the sports and entertainment firm Comcast-Spectacor, Ovations has provided food and beverage services at Hohokam Stadium since 2006.

 

Jim Leahey, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the A’s said:

We are pleased to be expanding our partnership with Ovations to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Ovations will be a key ingredient to making the spring training experience special for our fans.

 

Jay Satenspiel, Ovations’ Regional Vice President, added:

Oakland Athletics fans can expect a whole new ballgame in the areas of concessions and catering. We are going back into the ballpark with our Everything’s Fresh™ philosophy front-of-mind, which means new equipment, new concepts and new flavors for fans and guests.

 

The A’s open the 2015 spring training slate Tuesday, March 3, against the San Francisco Giants at Hohokam Stadium.

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Images courtesy: Ivan Martinez.

 

Southampton FC implements unique queue-busting smartphone app

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Premier League club Southampton Football Club (Saints) is implementing Qjacker™ from Verteda Ltd (formerly Agilysys Europe Ltd) at St Mary’s Stadium, enabling fans to pre-order food and refreshments from their smartphone or desktop – and so avoid queues at concession stands in the public concourse areas.


Jochen Hartmann, Director of Commercial Operations at the Club, said:

Southampton FC originally chose Verteda as a strategic partner because we wanted to improve customer service, increase sales and have the ability to tailor our offerings. Qjacker is part of our on-going commitment to offer more to fans and ensure we can deliver a consistently excellent customer experience.

With a capacity of more than 32,500, St Mary’s is a UEFA 4-star rated stadium and is the largest football stadium in the south of England outside of London. In addition to busy concession stands in the public concourse areas, St Mary’s has 47 Executive Boxes, serving up to 500 VIPs, plus six dedicated hospitality suites and lounges with a combined capacity of over 1,350 guests.
The unique Qjacker app, downloaded for free in the App stores or at www.qjacker.com, enables people to pre-order in-venue snacks and refreshments online or using their smartphone. With Qjacker, the customer’s smartphone becomes, in effect, another POS terminal: a secure extension of the venue’s food and beverage operations.
Time and motion studies have shown Qjacker enables stadia to better cope with “pinch points” and serve as many fans as possible in limited time frames: in-venue studies showed reductions in serving time from 10 minute’s queuing to only 40 seconds. Stand-a-lone of fully integrated with Verteda’s InfoGenesis POS, Qiacker creates new opportunities for operators to tap into latent revenue within their stadia, arena or entertainment venues, helping generate 5-10% of incremental sales for every event – and 20-30% increase in customer spend.
Saints fans will be able to download and use the Qjacker app on a trial basis.

 

Hartmann said prior to the trial:

We are trialing Qjacker on 18th October, with up to six dedicated Qjacker lanes. By enabling pre-orders, our objective is to better support our serving staff, further increase speed of service and reach more fans in limited time windows.

Verteda Ltd’s Sales Director, Trevor Roberts, added:

We are delighted Southampton FC is extending its investment in Verteda’s innovative technology. One of the biggest frustrations for sports fans and concert goers is queuing for refreshments. We created this smartphone app so fans can pre-order before a match or event, from their desktop or a smartphone. Our surveys have confirmed we are creatures of habit and revealed most orders are placed as far out as 24 hours in advance of the event and whilst en-route to the venue – fans then collect their order with no fuss and no wait. Our primary goal is to help our customers deliver an even better fan experience at their venue and where we are achieving this the commercial returns have looked after themselves.