The first test of Aramark’s Brew2You in-seat ordering systems using Apple Business Chat proved a success. Aramark now has plans for additional pilot programs for the system, all with the goal of removing barriers associated with in-seat ordering and delivery at sporting events.

“We see what is happening in the rest of the world and in industries outside of us, and the adoption rate (of mobile ordering) in sports and in-seat sports is much lower,” said Danielle Lazor, Aramark vice president of design, development and retail operations. “We knew people were ready for it. We just didn’t have the right platform.”

Lazor said the largest barrier to mobile ordering centered on the downloading of additional apps. “We have teams figuring out how to make it more frictionless,” she said. “We didn’t have a platform or a way to do it. Then Apple launched their Business Chat. That was the first entree into the idea. We knew chatbots were the way of the future, we just didn’t have a system to easily pilot and test in our venue to even see if our theory was right.”

With this summer’s pilot across 1,728 seats in four sections at Citizens Bank Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies, Aramark found fans will engage, Lazor said.

“The first learning was (that) the downloading of an app or another program is a bit of a barrier and, I think, the second learning was that (the new system) worked. It was making it easy,” she said.

Citizens Bank Park was chosen because of the long-standing partnership between Philadelphia-based Aramark and the Phillies and the team’s desire to continue to innovate. As part of the 10-day pilot in late July and early August in the usually full sections 142 through 145, fans found instructions attached to their seats on how to use the mobile ordering.

To kick-start the service, fans opened the camera app on their iPhone to scan a QR code that activated Apple Business Chat in the Messages app. From there, fans scrolled through the “list picker,” choosing from three beers and bottled water for the order. Fans completed the order via Apple Pay. The order was then sent to the stadium’s hawking station and in-seat delivery happened within minutes, Lazor said.

“It was obviously a very limited testing area, but we saw a pretty high rate of engagement,” Lazor said. “For this particular pilot, they had to have an Apple iPhone with a newer operating system and had to use Apple Pay. Right out of the gate we understood we were going to be isolating specific fans, but we saw a pretty high rate of engagement. It was successful enough that we said we need to figure out how to expand and scale quickly.”

That led to plans for the additional pilots. Aramark hasn’t announced the locations, but Lazor said the concessionaire plans to run in-arena pilots to test additional components. Aramark may expand the menu, offering more beverages or potentially prepackaged snacks such as peanuts.

While the program will retain the Brew2You moniker, Lazor said, they won’t limit themselves just to beverages. “If it works well and there is a path for food,” she said, “we will do it.”

Aramark also wants to include deeper integration into the delivery system. In Philadelphia, the order went straight to the stadium’s hawking station and then a hawker, after returning to the station, delivered to seats. A potential next step integrates the chatbot with the point-of-sale system so that hawkers could receive an order alert on a smart watch no matter where in the venue they were working, further automating the program.

“We have about three more phases we need to prove out and learn from before we think we can go to more of a scaled program across our venues,” Lazor said. “It is automated now. We just think we can improve that automation.”

HOT AND FRESH: 2018 Excellence in Concessions Awards

ALSO: Best New Concept

ALSO: Best New Menu Item

ALSO: Best Sustainability Initiative