GLOBAL APPEAL: Texas Rangers fans celebrate after Adolis Garcia hit the game-winning home run in extra innings against Arizona in Game 1 of the 2023 World Series. (Getty Images)
Self-serve popcorn, cotton candy, RFID retail tags
Delaware North Sportservice capitalized on innovation, boosting points of sale and deploying local brands to generate strong sales for a pair of 2023 World Series games at Globe Life Field.
For Game 1, the total per cap for food, drink and retail was $96.46, according to officials with Sportservice, which runs both operations at the ballpark. Game 2 numbers were slightly lower, they said.
For food and beverage alone, the $56.46 per cap for Game 1 came about $2 short of Sportservice’s record number of $58.66, posted for three 2021 World Series at Truist Field in Atlanta.
Regardless, in Arlington, Texas, those were robust figures at the home of the Texas Rangers.
Overall, the strategy was to mesh technology with adding 56 new points of sale for food and drink, which helped increase per caps, said Casey Rapp, Sportservice’s on-site general manager.
The Rangers went 11-0 on the road during the postseason, which reduced the number of potential home games at Globe Life Field. Sportservice also had to contend with competition from Texas Live!, the entertainment district with several restaurants next to the ballpark, in which the Rangers are a partner with Baltimore developer The Cornish Cos.
“We’re proud of those numbers, knowing that we have to share business for fans eating before the game,” Rapp said. “We purchased a special smoker, rented some tents and had an outdoor space connected to The Market area on the main level. We cooked brisket overnight, taking it directly off the smoker and chopping it up in front of fans to make sandwiches.”
The Sportservice crew, led by Rapp and Executive Chef Cris Vazquez, debuted multiple concepts by expanding technology across food and retail, increasing speed of service and generating excitement along the way with new systems such as the self-serve popcorn and cotton candy machines and RFID tags to sell merchandise at a retrofit of an old portable location, Rapp said.
Most of those new concepts, which joined two existing Amazon Just Walk out markets and a pair of Mashgin checkout stands using artificial intelligence, will return for the 2024 regular season, he said.
For the World Series, placement was key, with beta testing of new systems showcased in high traffic areas on the main concourse. On so many occasions across the sports venue landscape, specialty items, for whatever reason, are set up in a space that can be difficult to find, Rapp said.
“When we introduce new items, we’re all about making sure everybody can get to them,” he said. “Most end up on the main concourse, so whether you’re headed to the suites, the club level or the upper deck, you’re going to pass by these locations.”
Souvenir soda ($12) and beer ($18) cups especially drove the average spend, Rapp said, which is typically the case for championship events.
Easy Out, a new retail location situated near home plate by Section 116, was the first in Major League Baseball to use RFID technology to reduce lines and quickly get fans back to their seats, Rapp said.
Sportservice partnered with Amazon to create the self-checkout system using RFID tags embedded in the item’s price tag. Fans grabbed their items and tapped their credit card or their palm print after registering their form of payment with Amazon 1 technology.
Transaction times on average were a scant 10 seconds at Easy Out, a fraction of the time it typically takes to purchase caps, jerseys, T-shirts and novelties at a traditional team store. At checkout, the RFID system scans every item at once, whether a fan has 50 pieces or one piece of merchandise in their hands, Rapp said.
He said the system works best for retail compared with Just Walk Out for food and drink, which operates with overhead cameras tracking items as they’re removed from shelves and coolers. For merchandise, it’s difficult for those cameras to scan different sizes and brands that fluctuate in pricing.
Easy Out, with 275 square feet of space, will return next season.
The popcorn and cotton candy machines, supplied by Gold Medal and Nashville Vending, respectively, were effective and provided entertainment for kids and their parents operating the units.
For popcorn, 500 units were sold per gam. Fans inserted their credit cards and chose between two sizes, a regular bag or souvenir bucket. They stuck the bag or the bucket underneath the dispenser to fill with color-coded kernel corn matching the Rangers’ red, white and blue colors. Buckets filled with popcorn cost $20.
Gold Medal first came up with self-serve popcorn for movie theaters during the pandemic, Rapp said.
Between 150 and 165 units of cotton candy were sold per game. The process for purchasing cotton candy takes about 90 seconds to complete, a little longer than poporn, he said. Patrons touch a screen to select the color and design of the cotton candy they desire.
Sportservice expanded its popular “Boomstick” menu theme, connected to family-style offerings for hot dogs and burgers measuring two feet in length, to include the Three Strike Lobster Roll. Those who purchased the lobster roll for $250 got the Boomstick dog and burger as a bonus.
“It’s really six feet of sandwich,” Rapp said. “We made 10 per (lobster rolls) per game and sold nine for both games. I’m not ashamed to say, for one of the games I ate the extra one.”
Hurtado Barbecue, Cartel Taco Bar and Prince Lebanese Grill were among the local restaurants Sportservice brought on board to serve their dishes as part of Arlington Eats, a destination exclusive to the city’s eateries. Sportservice launched the concept for weekends during the 2022 season and expanded its operation for every home game in 2023, Rapp said.
For premium dining, the Lexus Club, the ballpark’s most exclusive hospitality space, featured a custom tomahawk steak hanger made by the M&M BBQ Company, the same outfit that supplied the smoker. The hanger contained 10 steaks hovering over roasted potatoes, with seasoning and beef fat dripping into the starch selection. Vazquez came up that creation, Rapp said.