Phillies, MLBAM unveil app-etizing food concept
Fans can order concessions via At Bat app at Citizens Bank Park
As the Phillies streak toward the postseason, fans at Citizens Bank Park won't have to miss a minute of the action -- even to sample specialty ballpark fare.
With a new partnership between the Phils, Aramark and MLB Advanced Media, fans can now order food from their iPhone or iPod Touch and have it delivered to their seats, without missing a single pitch.
The pilot program will be integrated into the "At the Ballpark" section of MLB Advanced Media's all-inclusive iPhone application, At Bat. "At the Ballpark" currently offers a variety of interactive tools to allow fans to check in from the ballgame and integrate their experience with technology. This latest innovation carries that a step further.
"It's our hope that we're taking a cool real-time data app and enhancing it for fans at the game," said Adam Ritter, VP of wireless at MLBAM. "It's really just one more component."
The food-ordering technology, which is being used at a Major League ballpark for the first time, allows the application to verify a fan is within the stadium and then choose from a number of pre-selected meals in the pilot program. Fans can make their purchase with a credit card, and after providing their seat information, their food order will be delivered. The plan is for delivery in 30 minutes or less. But in limited tests, the actual time has been closer to half that, according to Phillies director of marketing and special projects Mike Harris.
For Aramark, joining with the Phillies and MLBAM to add to the ballpark experience was an easy choice.
"It's a natural extension of customer service and fan experience," said Brian Hastings, regional director of operations for Aramark. "We're always looking for that next new way to enhance our customers' experience. We think this is a great way, with the new technology that everybody is using these days."
The food selections for the earliest version of the product will be some of Citizens Bank Park's specialty items -- such as Philadelphia cheesesteak, Tony Luke's roasted pork, Bull's BBQ's turkey sandwich, Planet Hoagie's Italian hoagie and the Eastern Shore crab cake sandwich. Each sandwich is served with chips and a brownie and is priced from $12-$19. Water and soda are also available.
"We wanted to offer a menu that represented the uniqueness of the food offerings at the park," Harris said. "These aren't your traditional hot dogs."
Once again, even down to the selections, the choices were made with the fan experience in mind -- as many of the choices are only sold in one location that wouldn't be central to fans all over the ballpark.
"It's convenient, it's cool and it's quick," Harris said. "Our fans are going to have the opportunity to have more at their seats. ... They are primarily specialty items that are not available in all areas."
Eventually, though -- with success -- the program will offer a more complete variety of offerings from all the ballpark's vendors. That will all come after an evaluation period, according to Harris. The evaluation will also determine if the program will continue into the postseason. For now, it's slated to run through the end of the regular season.
Citizens Bank Park, with its daily sellouts and passionate fans, seemed an ideal place to place to try the new technology.
"The Phillies are always very receptive to new technologies," Ritter said. "So we had a club that said, 'If you've got anything like this, we'd love to try it.' ... Then we got introduced to Aramark, who has been a fantastic, motivated partner, and they have a very modern point-of-sale system. It was a great combination."
In addition, the Phillies' successful implementation of a loaded ticket and ballpark text-messaging programs gave all the parties confidence to move forward with the program in Philly.
"It's the historical success that Aramark, the Phillies and MLBAM have found in the past," Harris said. "Aramark is willing to try anything to enhance our fans' experience, as are we. We are selling the ballpark out each night. We have won numerous food awards. I think the totality of all those factors make us a great place to test such a program."
The Phillies have already gotten a taste of the reaction to the new program, which some fans discovered while they were quietly testing the product. That reaction has everyone excited about the possibilities.
"Some people found out just [by] watching At Bat," Harris said. "They started calling our customer service people and asking when it started. There's already a little bit of subtle buzz."
Next season, Ritter hopes the technology will be ready and waiting for any team that wishes to implement it in their ballpark.
"It was important to get the application rolled out and get some real-world experience," he said. "Find out, 'How does it operate?' ... Next season, it should be available for any interested team."
Never fear, though. No matter the success of the new technology, no one intends to put an end to one of baseball's best traditions -- seat vendors' calls to "Get your hot dog here."
"This isn't meant for everybody," Hastings said. "There will always be a place for the hot dog and peanut vendors."
And this just takes it one step further.
"We're looking forward to pushing the envelope," Harris said. "It's a fantastic way to further enhance our fans' experience."
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.