A customer pays a beer vendor using Square at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy Square)
Payment tech company is POS vendor for food, retail at Chase Center
Square, the technology firm many consumers are familiar with from paying cabbies and food trucks with credit cards, is expanding its mobile payment system into sports venues. Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ new $1.6 billion arena, has Square as its point-of-sale vendor for all food and retail outlets, including outdoor bars and food stands next to the facility.
For Square, whose headquarters are two miles northwest of Chase Center, it’s the first full-scale activation at an arena, confirmed Jonathan Ghio, Square’s enterprise account executive.
In addition to the arena, Square’s point-of-sale equipment has been in place for Coachella, Goldenvoice’s annual music festival in the California desert, for the past five years, and the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays used Square for beer hawkers at their respective ballparks. Levy is the concessionaire for both Major League Baseball teams. (Bon Appétit runs the food at Chase Center with support from Levy.)
The Nationals brought Square into the ballpark for the 2019 season to test payment options other than cash to buy food and drink in the seating bowl. In an email, Jonathan Stahl, the team’s vice president of ballpark operations and guest experience, said the technology helped their fans remain in their seats and stay connected to the game.
The Rays switched to Square mid-season after having issues with another system, said Bill Walsh, the team’s vice president of strategy and development. This year, the Rays went cashless for all stadium operations, including parking lots outside the venue.
Square also partners with multiple teams that run their merchandise in-house and its system was used at concession stands for the 2019 Indianapolis 500, Ghio said.
In San Francisco, Square won Chase Center’s business through a formal bid process, according to Warriors officials. It helped that the company is in the NBA team’s backyard and could provide support quickly and efficiently, Warriors President Rick Welts said.
Jack Dorsey, founder of both Square and Twitter, reached out to the Warriors multiple times to express his commitment and personal involvement to ensure the system works to the team’s satisfaction, Welts said.
“We chose Square for the technology of today and to collectively work on the experience for tomorrow, with us being a lab and innovation hub, working together to try new things,” he said. “It gives us a chance to (develop) the point-of-sale system of the future.”
Chase Center opened Sept. 6 with the Metallica/San Francisco Symphony event, one of 20 shows, soft openings and private events leading up to the Warriors’ first preseason game Oct. 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Kim Stone, Chase Center’s general manager, said Square’s system has been working as expected with no major issues.
“It has been stable, reliable and the user experience is intuitive and smooth,” Stone said. “We haven’t received complaints from guests.”
Stone is familiar with Square from her tenure at AmericanAirlines Arena, where she had served as general manager since 2006 before taking the job at Chase Center in April. In Miami, the Heat went through an extensive eight-month review of POS systems to upgrade their system and examined Square as part of their research.
“I remember thinking, ‘You’re not quite ready yet,’” Stone said.
At Chase Center, “it was a risk to go with a company that’s never done point-of-sale on this scale, but they have far exceeded our expectations,” she said. “They have a small army on site, the interface is beautiful and the ease of flow is just like their restaurant systems. I really like it.”
Square officials tout the simplicity of their system that streamlines the transaction process for both consumers and operational staff, in addition to supplying clients with multiple data points and the ability to respond quickly to customer-related issues, Ghio said.
“It’s really about delivering that experience that’s fast and easy, to get digital receipts sent to their phones and, if they don’t like something, provide instant feedback,” he said.
In Greater Phoenix, Craft Culinary Concepts, the Arizona Cardinals’ in-house food provider, has used Square over the past year at a few venues it serves, said Reggie Davis, the company’s senior vice president. It does not use the technology at State Farm Stadium, where the Cardinals play.
It’s in place at Casino Arizona Field, the 6,200-seat home of the United Soccer League’s Phoenix Rising, and Cactus Yards, a local recreational sports complex. In early November, Evans plans to integrate Square at the Mesa Amphitheatre, a 5,000-seat outdoor concert venue.
Elsewhere, Craft Culinary Concepts is competing for the food contract at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, and its proposal includes Square as the point-of-sale vendor, Davis said.
Over the course of his 30-year career, Davis has experience with most POS systems, including Micros and NCR, and he’s a big proponent of Square’s reliability when wireless infrastructure crashes at sports and entertainment venues.
“The beauty of Square is even if you lose connectivity, you don’t lose a beat; it continues with the transaction,” he said. “You can set up the system on your own with little help other than going on their support site, compared with getting on the phone with other vendors.”