A fan uses a VenueNext kiosk at an Amway Center concessions stand. (Courtesy Amway Center)

Concessionaire will put $5M into upgrades as part of 10-year deal

Amway Center has signed a 10-year extension with Levy, the arena’s concessionaire. As part of the deal, Levy is investing $5 million to upgrade food service to include VenueNext, a new mobile point-of-sale system, said Allen Johnson, chief venues officer for the city of Orlando.

Levy has run the food at Amway Center since the NBA facility opened in 2010.

The deal covers Camping World Stadium as well, home of two college football bowl games and the Florida Classic, a matchup between historically Black college teams, among other events. 

The new point-of-sale system, which cost $500,000, takes both buildings one step further to becoming cashless as officials prepare to re-open after the pandemic shut down live entertainment. VenueNext won a competitive bid process and drove the price down compared with the cost of traditional POS systems, Johnson said.

“For the most part we’ll be cashless and contactless,” he said. “We will have two new mobile applications for both venues. You can still pay with cash. If you look at our concert demographics, that part of the market still uses cash. We can go 100% cashless if we desire.”

The functionality should be familiar to Orlando Magic season-ticket holders, many of whom already use the VenueNext platform as part of the NBA team’s mobile application. It’s been in place since 2015 as the Magic folded ticketing, food service, retail, parking, seat upgrades, gaming and video content into one application. (Amway Center previously used Micros for point-of-sale). The Magic have been at the forefront of mobile ordering, pushing fans to use their smartphones to order food and drink for in-seat delivery and express pickup.

“For us, the transition to the new point-of-sale system will bring a complete ecosystem into play,” said Jay Riola, the team’s senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “The other piece is it allows for a (re-creation) of the way traditional concession experiences look like in a sports venue. They’re all accustomed to there being a terminal mounted to a countertop with fans waiting in line to place their order. We can turn a lot of those (points of sale) into more operationally efficient and safer fulfillment.”

Across sports, mobile ordering accounts for 2% to 5% of total transactions. In Orlando, the Magic have seen an uptick in that piece of business, Riola said. The Magic don’t have access to Levy’s transaction data for all events, but they track trends for NBA games on their own through the team’s mobile application. For the 2019-20 season, prior to the shutdown, the Magic had more than 30,000 mobile transactions in-arena, he said.

Over the past four seasons, the team has seen mobile transactions double with 20% year-over-year growth from 2018-19 to 2019-20. All told, this season, more than 75% of Magic season-ticket holders placed mobile food orders. 

For this season, the Magic, together with Levy and Amway Center, installed VenueNext self-ordering kiosks and made it possible for fans to place mobile orders apart from the team’s mobile app. That option resulted in double-digit decreases in cash-based transactions, Riola said.

In the post-COVID world, some in the industry believe kiosks may disappear to provide one less source of potential contamination. In Orlando, fans using VenueNext kiosks touch a screen and scroll through a menu to place items in their cart before payment. For those using mobile wallet technology, there is an option to avoid using the touch screen by scanning a QR code, which brings up the menu. Those codes can be found at kiosks and on promotional inserts placed in cup holders in the bowl.

At Amway Center, officials have not made a decision whether to remove the kiosks, Riola said.

The remainder of Levy’s $5 million commitment covers new equipment such as walk-in freezers, concessions rebranding, signs and furnishings. In addition, a refresh of Jernigan’s, the arena’s sitdown restaurant with views to the event floor, is part of the investment, Johnson said.

Camping World Stadium is in the midst of a $60 million renovation of the north end zone with additional seating and club enclosures, plus exterior and parking lot upgrades, designed by HNTB and built by Barton Malow. 

The development of a new plan to add a mezzanine level inside an existing sideline club will most likely push construction to the new year, Johnson said.

As of this month, the two bowl games, the Cheez-It Bowl (Dec. 19) and Vrbo Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1, 2021) are still scheduled to take place, but Johnson said could change depending on what happens with the 2020 season. This year’s Florida Blue Florida Classic is set for Nov. 21, matching Bethune-Cookman against Florida A&M.

“We’re now postponing rescheduled events,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of our events that have been moved since March and into the fall have rescheduled (for next year). We are getting a few ‘holds’ in 2021 and into 2022.”