If Uber Eats has its way, you may never miss a minute of the action again. The ridesharing platform turned logistics juggernaut has outlined plans to introduce a new ‘in-seat’ delivery component for stadiums, sporting venues and concert halls, bridging the gap between food vendor and fan. Under the program, users will be able to order beers, hot dogs, pies and other food and beverage offerings, with the products delivered directly to their seat, alleviating queue times and reducing bottlenecks at existing stalls.
For years, lengthy wait times have been a thorn in the side of many sporting and music fans, particularly at high-density events like the recent AFL finals and sold-out Midnight Oil tour. The challenge of timing your beer run correctly has become an all-too-familiar predicament, more often than not finding you stuck in a queue while your favourite song plays on stage. According to Uber Eats, head of global partnership marketing, Molly Spychalski, the in-stadium offering could put an end to the pesky pale ale pilgrimage.
“What we’re trying to do is create an opportunity for the fan to experience more of what they came for,” Spychalski tells Man of Many. “We know that if you’re going to a sporting event or a concert, the last thing that you want to do is to actually sit and wait in line…So really it is about spending as little time as possible on the concourses and as much time as possible in your seat watching the action.”
Fans in the US have already had a chance to experience the new technology, with Uber Eats rolling out in-stadium ordering at close to 10 venues, including sporting arenas like New York’s Yankee Stadium and Houston’s Minute Maid Park, along with iconic music venues such as the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The new feature was also rolled out at a series of music festivals in Europe and has since been launched in Japan and France.
Importantly, Spychalski confirmed that this first phase of the in-stadium offering is yet to include a fully-fledged delivery component, however, it does see the introduction of a new ordering and pick-up application. At Angels Stadium in Los Angeles, for instance, users can currently order and pay for small ticket items such as beers and hot dogs through the Uber Eats app. When the products are ready for pickup, users are sent a notification that tells them to head to a pre-determined vendor and collect their order.
In its current form, the service isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it does represent a welcomed focus on fan experience. Apps such as Hey You (originally known as Beat the Q) and Skip have been offering order ahead options for years now, however, both have focused primarily on inner-city office workers looking to bypass the morning coffee rush. In Uber Eats’ case, the in-stadium offering works to improve the viewing experience by working alongside partner vendors, which could represent an enticing option for Australian operators.
In the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown, stadium patronage and concert attendance have dramatically increased, prompting venues to elevate their food and beverage offerings. In Sydney, for example, premium operator Merivale has taken the reins of the Sydney Cricket Ground, providing meals from some of the hospitality group’s most iconic restaurants, such as Queen Chow, El Loco, Vinnie’s Pizza, Coogee Pavilion, and Jimmy’s Falafel.
Head of global partnership marketing for Uber Eats, Spychalski confirmed that the plans to bring the project Down Under are well underway, with the implementation likely to kick off in Melbourne
“We are having very advanced conversations specifically in Melbourne,” she says. “I think it’s a really natural fit. We do see, regardless of what sport and event you are watching, that food and drink are endemic to that. Really, it’s something that we think is for everyone and we would love to see it in Australia.”
With major international acts like Kendrick Lamar and Justin Bieber on their way back to Australia for the first time in years, the events calendar is looking up. Should the implementation go ahead smoothly, we could soon be seeing queues stifled and beers free-flowing. As for in-seat delivery, however, that could be a while away. Spychalski revealed that while the plans are being developed, it’s likely to be some time before you can sit back, drink and gorge yourself without leaving your seat.
“With in-seat delivery, it’s something that we are thinking about,” she says. “If you think about how you use Uber Eats at home, it is being delivered to your house. Right now we have a pickup product, but as we think about trying to bring that magic to game day, it obviously makes sense that there would be an in-seat delivery component at some point. It’s something that we are actively talking about.”
The author of this article, Nick Hall, was invited to attend the Los Angeles press briefing as a guest of Uber.