For at least the next three years, UNC-Chapel football and basketball fans won’t have to miss a game’s biggest moments because they’re waiting in line at the concession stand.
UNC signed a new deal with FanFood so that Tar Heel fans can order their food from their phones on an app and have it delivered to their seats. That might include beer and wine later this season with UNC’s new alcohol policy.
“You pay to go to these events to watch the game and for every second you’re waiting in line it’s essentially reducing the value of the ticket,” said Will Anderson co-founder of FanFood, a Chicago-based startup. “The best benefit from FanFood is the convenience, but also enabling fans to watch every second of the game and not miss a moment.”
With FanFood, fans can typically buy alcohol through the app, but that won’t happen at Kenan Memorial Stadium or the Dean Dome yet. Assistant Athletic Director Michael Beale said UNC will “re-evaluate on a game-by-game basis” to determine if alcohol will be sold through the app and delivered to fans during athletic events.
UNC ran a one-year trial with the app in its football and basketball stadiums last season. This new contract with Aramark at UNC extends that deal for three more years.
How does the FanFood app work?
Fans can pay for their orders online and get the items at the “express pick-up windows” at the concession stands or have it delivered to wherever they are in the stadium or arena. There will be six FanFood concessions stands at Kenan Stadium and six stands at the Dean Smith Center this season.
The entire menu is available on the app and the prices are the same as if you wait in line and order from the traditional vendors. There is a 5% convenience fee to order through the app and a $1 delivery charge.
If alcohol sales through the app are approved for other games, fans would check a box in the app to confirm they’re at least 21 years old and then show their IDs at the pick-up window or when the delivery runner arrives. Each order would likely be restricted to one alcoholic beverage, per UNC’s policy.
Many of the vendors and delivery runners at those concessions stands are staffed by EATS2SEATs, an LLC started by UNC junior Mary Laci Motley. They operate the FanFood App on campus and run the concessions using volunteers from local nonprofits or student organizations looking to raise money.
“We’re here to enhance concession-stand efficiency, improve fan and game experience and then invest back into the community,” said Motley. “We see this business model as a great way to generate profits with a great purpose.”
About 60 people work each game and they’ve come from more than 20 local nonprofits and student organizations, UNC club sports teams, Greek Life philanthropies and ROTC. The groups earn money for their cause by getting a share of the revenue from the stands, plus tips.
What are the benefits for the venues?
Fans might recognize the app if they’ve been to a Durham Bulls baseball game. They implemented FanFood in 2017 and have seen revenue per capita increase and fan experience improve, according to Dave Levey, food and beverage director at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Across all venues that use the app, the size and overall cost of orders placed through the app are 25% to 30% higher than at the walk-up concession stand, Anderson said. There’s more incentive to buy food and drinks if people don’t have to wait in line, he said. That ultimately means more revenue.
The option to order via the app also reduces the lines at the concession stands. So when fans are walking through the concourse they might be more likely to buy a snack or merchandise.
FanFood had 20,000 downloads within the first year at UNC, Anderson said. UNC surveys showed fans were “raving about the product and wanted it to be scaled into more stands” and 60% of all the fans who place an order used it more than once, he said.
The app is so popular because of the “on-demand economy” we live in, Anderson said, where everything is about convenience and being mobile-friendly.
“We’re very fortunate that UNC continues to be more of a forward-thinking and innovative university,” Anderson said. “They’re certainly reaping the benefits from that.”
Now, UNC fans can witness that unexpected game-winning touchdown pass from Sam Howell and won’t have to see a ridiculous Cole Anthony dunk on SportsCenter later. Parents won’t have to wrangle their kids through the stands or balance trays of food and drinks for their entire family.
“We are hyper-focused on enhancing fan experience,” Beale said. “It’s an amenity that our fans will appreciate when they’re on our campus and in our venues watching our teams play.”
FanFood is currently available in the football stadium and basketball arena, but the company is looking to expand into the UNC baseball stadium.