Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. This isn’t the first time we have looked at our friends across the pond for catering inspiration within stadia.
Across the NFL (National Football League) SLC magazine has looked at new-fangled F&B grab-and-go lockers where guests can make an order, download a code and pick up their consumables, while we have also visited the Miami Dolphins’ stadium to see how they have taken hospitality to new levels with armchair call services and pitch-side beer fridges. But this is the first time technology and tradition have merged together seamlessly to offer a beverage solution worth its weight in (liquid) gold.
International caterer Aramark implemented its fleet of ‘BeerCycles’ across 10 NFL stadiums during the 2018/19 season, offering a three-wheeled, mobile and interactive drinks service aimed at smashing queues.
The bikes are outfitted with one or two types of draft beer and are being branded as ‘Tour de Taps’ with each cycle decorated in home team colours and branded with the stadium’s malt beverage sponsor.
Mobile ‘beer bugs’ have been implemented across a number of events venues in the UK and hawkers have been in use for many years. However, being on foot and serving with a hose adds to the length of time fans wait to be served. And once a keg is finished, it can be a slow trudge to the stock room for the hawker to retrieve another.
The BeerCycles vending concept was part of a new food and beverage directive for the stadia, according to Aramark senior director of corporate communications David Freireich.
“We believe this is the first time BeerCycles have been deployed inside a sports venue,” he said. “The introduction of the BeerCycles is keeping in line with our effort to create more portable stations that can go where the fans are.”
The bikes were used to alleviate congestion at permanent concession stands on the concourses and follow on from Aramark’s Freireich Tuk-Tuk (a motorised rickshaw) that sold edible Jane Dough Cookie Dough at stadiums.
“At the end of the day, it’s about finding new and innovative ways to not only reach fans but deliver an enjoyable service experience,” he said.
Aramark deployed the BeerCycles as part of its F&B work for the Eagles, Texans, Buccaneers, Steelers, Vikings, Bears, Chiefs, Browns, Bengals and Ravens.
Created in-house by Aramark’s design and development group, each bike carries three half-kegs in a large box attached to the vehicle. Two concessions workers will operate the bikes to ride them, pour beer and accept payment on a point-of-sale tablet. On game days, depending on the market, some bikes will start outside the stadiums and work their way into the venues.
Danielle Lazor, vice president of design and development for Aramark Sports and Entertainment, explains that each venue has a predetermined route, with the bikes remaining stationary during peak periods such as half-time.
“The idea is to get to the nooks and crannies that are underserved,” says Lazor. “As fans become more social, they’re migrating to different places in the venue. We’re trying to address that and serve those needs.”
Social media has also been vital for the beer bike programme activation, with Aramark creating the Tour de Taps competition encouraging fans to take pictures of themselves with the beer cycles and post them on social media channels with the appropriate hashtags.
“It’s about getting smart about piloting innovation and scaling it from the start,” says Lazor. “That’s why we wanted to do the whole fleet so we can really get some good feedback and messaging around it.”
Aramark first tested the BeerCycles concept outside the Field Museum in Chicago, close to the Bears’ home Soldier Field. Positive feedback was “off the charts”, which resulted in the roll-out to its NFL clients, with more beer bikes due for use at NBA and NHL arenas in the future.
“We’re continuing to adapt the model to meet the ever-changing demand,” adds Lazor. “From Aramark, you’ll see a big surge in mobile innovation.”