Restaurants: What can you learn from The Football Club of the Future?

Restaurants: What can you learn from The Football Club of the Future?

By Anita Liu Harvey, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation
Fri Sep 08 2017

It’s game day.

You arrive at the stadium, queue at the turnstile, get your ticket checked, queue for a drink, find your seat and watch the first half. The first half finishes and you, along with 37,420i other people flood out of the stands and into queues for toilets, food and drink. Queues, queues, queues.

Not an awful experience, but it could be a lot better. While we, as a nation, might be famous for our orderly queues, let’s be honest, we’d rather not spend more time in them than we absolutely have to. That’s true for consumers from retail to restaurants to stadiums.

Football clubs are changing the fan experience. Read on to find out what this forward-looking industry is doing and what restaurateurs can learn.

Experiences win out over physical goods

As with restaurants and retail, the football industry has latched on to the notion that the desire for experiences is stronger than the desire for physical things. And rightly so, this is not just a hunch. From May to June, consumer spending growth overall slowed to 2.5% (a 15-month low), but spend in restaurants grew 11.4% and in pubs by 13.6%ii.

Did you know, for example, that 78% of millennials would choose to spend money on an experience or event, rather than buying something desirable? Or that 55% of millennials are spending more on live experiences and events than ever beforeiii

Not really that surprising, in my opinion. When the news is less than cheery, people will be more inclined to spend on life-affirming experiences, not more jeans.

So it’s time to optimise the fan experience

Premier League football clubs are largely split into three main areas:

  1. Stadiums and ticketing
  2. The retail shop
  3. Catering

In order to deliver the optimum fan experience, all three areas need to work together. That means ticketless entry to the stadium, ideally with a contactless card or Smartphone app. Goodbye single-use paper ticket, hello app or wearable that can be used in the retail shop and catering sections of a stadium, too.

Consumers are all about efficiency and simple propositions

Did you know that the average acceptable queue time for food and drink at a festival is just nine minutesiv? But that the average queue time is actually 19 minutesv? Or that 62% of consumers would pay more for a simple brand experiencevi? By giving football fans or consumers an easy way to find and pay for tickets, food, drinks and merchandise, they’re more likely to consider the purchase than if the process is difficult.

And this can be done by putting innovative epos systems in front of consumers and a single payments system behind the scenes. That single system needs to accept payments regardless of device, currency, payment type, location and purchase preferences (i.e. pay in app, collect in restaurant). Things like contactless card payments as part of omnichannel retailing strategies can help any consumer-facing businesses speed up all payments.

Join the cashless club

A recent survey showed that ‘more than a third of Europeans and Americans would be happy to go without cash and rely on electronic forms of payment if they could’, and ‘at least 20% already pretty much do so’vii. And the idea of a cashless society isn’t a new one. Sweden, India and South Korea are leading the way in becoming cashless countriesviii. One source stated that in 2016, South Korea reportedly spent approximately KRW53.7bn won (approx. £36.7m) on producing coinsix. Cashless football clubs make business sense then.

One app, many uses

One app, many uses


Mobile is playing a key role in payments. One global coffee chain reported that mobile ‘order and pay’ purchases on mobile accounts for more than 25% of all coffee sales in the USx.

So if football clubs can develop an app that allows fans to:

  • enter the stadium
  • find their seat and their way around
  • place food and drink orders from their seat to collect at peak times (thus avoiding lengthy queues), and
  • pay for goods from the retail shop

…that’s got to be the winning goal when it comes to frictionless payments journeys. In-app browsing, ordering and purchasing capabilities will improve the overall fan experience, and it’s smart business. By doing everything you can to make queues move faster, you’re serving more fans, taking more money, offering a better experience and giving yourself the best chance of repeat custom.

This omnichannel set up – where the payment system for the stadium, retail shop and catering facilities all go through the same acquirer – is great for a seamless fan experience and a better business plan for football clubs. And by picking the right online payment gateway partner, there’s an opportunity not only to create a joined-up experience for fans, regardless of device, purchase, location and time of day, but also to deliver richer customer interactions.

For football clubs, the benefits of such an omnichannel set up, include:

  • Access to encrypted, cross-channel payment data that can be used to deliver: 
    • A single view of each customer
    • Happy, engaged fans:
      •  Next generation loyalty programmes
      •  Geo-targeting for marketing offers
      •  Personalised offers for future meals
      •  Electronic receipts
    • Efficient stock and staff management.

Add to that high quality food and drink, catering for dietary requirements and the consumer demand for choice, and you’re playing the smart game. This is an area where football clubs could learn a thing or two from restaurants. I feel some smart partnerships coming on…

Diversification is key

It’s no longer enough to offer just cheap and cheerful. The vendors we spoke to at this year’s Barclaycard presents British Summer Time festival, all said the same thing: quality ingredients and catering for changing needs are crucial to the success of their food businesses. That means knowing things like:

  • the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 360% in the last ten yearsxi
  • It’s estimated that 8.5m people in the UK have now gone gluten freexii.

Based on those stats, if you’re looking to serve 40,000 people on game day, there’s a chance some will have a dietary requirement or preference.

Don’t forget that your fans and consumers will be experiencing the best of all sectors, so it’s crucial to benchmark yourself against the best venues in the world. Consumers will always come to expect the best level of service they get, regardless of sector or sport.

Taking fans on the whole journey

And with this in mind, London clubs in particular have a duty to continue the quick, seamless, cash-free experience that fans travelling to games on TfL services (bus and London Underground) get. Contactless payment technology is 10 years old this year (see how we celebrated), which means we’ve been able to get on the bus or tube using just a contactless-enabled bank card since 2007.

It makes sense then, that we expect to be able to pay for entry, food, drink and merchandise with that same bank card, wherever we go in the capital. And even if we can’t yet get to games across the country using contactless cards, we can already buy pre-game snacks in corner stores with this technology and book cabs through apps and pay invisibly.

So it makes sense that consumers will expect to be able to use contactless in restaurants and football clubs up and down the country.



i
Average capacity figure of a Premier League football club for the 2016/17 season, based on capacity figures here: https://talksport.com/football/premier-league-stadium-capacities-201617-smallest-largest-160906208956?p=19 (Sept 2016)
ii https://www.home.barclaycard/media-centre/press-releases/consumer-spending-growth-slows-for-second-consecutive-month-in-june-2017.html (July 2017)
iii http://hillsbalfour.com/blog/millennials-driving-the-experience-economy/ (April 2017)
iv https://www.home.barclaycard/media-centre/press-releases/festivals-offer-new-opportunities-for-merchants-as-pop-up-commerce-grows.html (July 2017)
v https://www.home.barclaycard/media-centre/press-releases/festivals-offer-new-opportunities-for-merchants-as-pop-up-commerce-grows.html (July 2017)
vi https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/02/03/consumers-spend-more-simple-brand-experiences/ (Feb 2017)
vii http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-global-economy-cash-idUKKBN17S001 (April 2017)
viii http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/south-korea-coinless-society-cash-tender-stores-prepaid-cards-trial-banks-a7694736.html (April 2017)
ix http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/south-korea-coinless-society-cash-tender-stores-prepaid-cards-trial-banks-a7694736.html (April 2017)
x http://uk.businessinsider.com/heres-how-mobile-order-and-pay-could-lift-starbucks-2016-11 (Nov 2017)
xi http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/news/number-of-vegans-in-britain-rises-by-360-in-10-years/ (May 2017)
xii http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37292174 (Sept 2017)

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