Handheld Computers Go To The Ballpark
Seattle's new SAFECO Field makes ordering food faster by using a point of sale solution, which includes taking orders with handheld computers.
What would a baseball game be without a hot dog, beer, and handheld computers? Handheld computers? If you're sitting in the box seats at SAFECO Field (Seattle), you'll understand.
MICROS (Beltsville, MD) recently installed its 8700 Hospitality Management System at 100 point of sale (POS) restaurants, concession stands, and luxury boxes throughout SAFECO Field. This was the largest stadium installation in North America to date - with 305 networked POS terminals and 39 handheld computers in full-service areas. More than 1,000 people were trained on the system before the opening game for the Seattle Mariners' new ballpark, on July 15, 1999.
According to Larry Witherspoon, director of information services at SAFECO Field, the handheld computers allow for elevated service at the club level. When baseball fans take their seats in the club level, they are given a menu to check off their orders. SAFECO concession employees collect the orders and immediately enter them through the handheld computers from Global Data Granite Communications (Amherst, NH). Baseball fans can pay with a credit card and can run a tab if necessary. Receipts are printed as needed with credit card transactions, thanks to an attached thermal printer from Extech (Waltham, MA). The handhelds send the information back to printers in the kitchen.
"Oftentimes, by the time the receipt is printed, an employee is bringing you your food. It's that fast," said Witherspoon.
"The printer connected to the handheld lets us swipe a credit card right through because the printer has a built-in magnetic stripe reader," said Wayne Dugger, director of operations for MICROS' Seattle District office. "The credit card voucher is printed on the spot. The printers are easy to work with since there is no ribbon to change."
The First Pitch
MICROS learned about SAFECO Field's need for a solution through discussions with field management. "SAFECO Field needed a standard networking system that would fit in the stadium," explained Dugger. "The Mariners chose MICROS because we offer a single-vendor solution. We could also run on the existing network without requiring any special cabling."
Discussions between MICROS and SAFECO Field started in December 1998, and an agreement was reached in February 1999. The actual installation process started in March 1999 and finished with the grand opening in July. Training classes were scheduled for about one month prior to opening day. With 1,000 employees, that training continued up until game day.
Witherspoon is pleased with the installation. "Obviously, when dealing with hundreds of menu items, there are tweaks that must take place in the beginning. My staff now supports the system. We look to MICROS for replacements or answers to problems that we can't figure out."
Since the system is brand new, there isn't much talk about future plans or upgrades. "We plan to implement a frequent fan program, since we have the hardware and software to support it," he concludes.
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