Concessionaires turn to mobile apps to fill spots on short notice

Big league concessionaires have turned to mobile technology to help fill positions at sports venues.

As arenas and stadiums reopen with limited capacity during the pandemic, food vendors are rebuilding their workforce. In some cases, teams get approval to expand capacity on short notice, and mobile applications such as Instawork have the flexibility to meet the surge in demand. 

Mike Tully, a Chicago-based food service veteran with more than 30 years of experience with concessionaires, is Instawork’s director of strategic partnerships. Tully’s job is to grow business by signing deals across the hospitality sector with arenas, stadiums, convention centers and hotels.

Instawork’s clients have included the Oakland Athletics and New England Patriots, plus the Forum in Los Angeles and Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl LV. Most recently, Instawork worked with concessions firm Proof of the Pudding to provide hundreds of workers for The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass, a course outside Jacksonville, Florida.

Instawork was co-founded by Sumir Meghani in 2015 in San Francisco. Meghani, a former Groupon and Yahoo! executive, is the company’s CEO. He recently posted an item on social media about Instawork helping Centerplate staff positions at T-Mobile Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners.

Tully has been part of the Instawork sales team for about a year. He worked in business development for the old Ogden Entertainment, as well as Delaware North Sportservice, Aramark, Legends and Sodexo.

Instawork has a network of 600,000 vetted individuals across 24 U.S. markets. In the food service space, those individuals are employed as cashiers, bartenders, banquet servers, dishwashers, bus staff, line cooks, runners and other help for kitchens, commissaries and warehouses.

The registration format on Instawork is similar to a LinkedIn profile, Tully said. People upload their personal information, photographs, job qualifications, experience and references. 

In turn, Instawork officials research all individuals before putting their information into the company’s database. 

It’s essentially a two-way platform. The concessionaires get access to images of worker profiles when posting open positions. The workers themselves see posts of available shifts. After they accept a position, they’re sent an image of the venue location with a map, job description and the dress attire required for the service.

“If the (Chicago) White Sox, for example, need bartenders,  they post that message and have access to all the folks that are already in our system that have been vetted and have the proper training for serving alcohol and food handling certifications,” Tully said.

Instawork takes care of paperwork, staffing and payment to match the right person for the appropriate job role. The firm has the ability to track workers through its system. They’re ranked on a five-star system similar to drivers for  ride-hailing services. That data is integrated into Instawork’s algorithm formula to match the best worker available for the job.

If the workers aren’t headed to the venue as expected (the app uses location services to help them find the venue, though the workers  can turn that feature off), Tully said, Instawork can remove them from the system and find a replacement to ensure the team and vendor can fill the position for that particular event. 

“A lot of vendors are getting decent recalls but they’re not really sure how consistent it will be after opening day and the first homestand,” he said. “The question is how many will come back and how many folks do the teams need?”

Instawork also works with subcontractors that have deals with concessionaires to serve their branded products at sports events, Tully said. 

Mobile temp agencies are popular with college students working part time. Some are looking for jobs at the ballpark, said food consultant Chris Bigelow. 

“I would think those (companies) are going to get a lot of calls from the concessionaires,” Bigelow said.


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