Elisha Chauhan looks at start-up Q App, founded by the former head of strategy at PERFORM, and promising to completely eradicate queuing for food and beverages at sports events.
As the whistle blows to start the second-half of a football match, it’s common to see the stands partially empty whilst fans still queue to buy a much-needed beer and burger.
However, queues at catering outlets could be a thing of the past if Serge Taborin has anything to do with it; the former BBC mobile TV business development manager’s mobile ordering platform Q App is free-to-download for the smartphone and tablet and allows matchday goers to pre-order any product on a club’s catering menu from their seat – both at home and in the stadium.
Once products are ordered and paid for – straight to the venue owner in advance via credit card – the catering staff can prepare the products and send the customer a unique code when it’s ready to collect pre-match or at half-time. Customers collect their order at a dedicated Q App kiosk.
Q App isn’t unique – platforms such as Bypass, Yorder and Snagmobile provide a similar service for sports clubs in the United States – but with Taborin’s experience and contacts through his director position at digital sports specialists PERFORM, Q App is targeting the widely untapped European, and specifically UK, market.
Currently, English Premier League fans are benefitting from fast-track catering through Q App at West Bromwich Albion (WBA), which is trialling the platform in the East Stand of its Hawthorns stadium before planning to enrol the app in all stands next season.
“Everything is pre-prepared and pre-paid, which is an important aspect of the solution, because in a football stadium what tends to happen is bar staff sit there twiddling their thumbs for 45 minutes, and at half-time 10,000 people suddenly want their drinks,” Taborin told SportBusiness International.
“Our fulfilment part of the process is somewhere between five to eight seconds per customer, so we are cutting an enormous chunk out of inefficiency, and I am comfortable to say that our process takes 25 per cent of the time that normal queuing does.”
Q App’s contract with WBA materialised through Alex Chesterman, one of its financial backers and founder of online estate agents Zoopla, shirt sponsors of the club. Other interested parties in Q App are Paul Ettinger, co-founder of coffee chain Caffè Nero, and Ed and Tom Martin, founders of award-winning London pub and bar chain ETM Group.
Zoopla is ending its sponsorship at the end of the season following Nicolas Anelka’s ‘quenelle’ gesture earlier this year, however Q App has maintained a good relationship with the club, which Taborin says has been “delighted” with the streamlined catering service and its popularity with fans in the East Stand, who are for the large part season-ticket holders.
“What’s really encouraging from our perspective is that it has a 100 per cent repeated use,” Taborin says. “The usage is rapidly growing – at the first game, when no-one really knew about the app, we only had 15 orders. But as we’ve progressed through multiple matches, we now have several hundred orders every match and it is continuing to grow exponentially.
“We do see a lot of people in the longer queues looking jealously over at our kiosk, because they wonder why these people are just walking in and getting drinks straight away – and that’s a good promotional aspect for us.”
The app has also sparked interest with fans that would not otherwise purchase food and drink on gamedays purely because of the long wait, according to Taborin.
“We’ve been contacted by a lot of Q App users who have been going to The Hawthorns for a number of years and have never bought anything at half-time,” he adds. “Even when they want a beer, they look at the queues and turn back because it would take 10 minutes just to get one.
“We’re actually tapping into the customers and fans that would never normally transact, so venues don’t mind paying commission because they are now getting 95 per cent or so of revenues that they wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
Venues using Q App pay the platform for each customer order. The commission varies between Q App clients depending on the venue size, but remains a low single-digit percentage of each order across the board.
Q App also provides a delivery service for customer orders, however this has so far been limited to events outside football, such as at The Royal Albert Hall in London where the company provides food and drinks to theatre-goers sitting in executive boxes.
“The reason we haven’t done this in football is because WBA thought the whole process of delivering drinks to seats is too American, and people quite like to stand up and stretch their legs at half-time,” says Taborin.
“However, for a sport like cricket when play goes on for most of the day, it makes more sense for us to potentially deliver customer orders.”
Another venue that Q App has secured is Queen’s Club in London, which hosts tennis’ annual AEGON Championships, used by many players as a warm-up event for Wimbledon. More deals with football clubs in the UK will be announced soon, says Taborin, but not further afield quite yet.
“For just about any start-up business, you always have a constant conflict of wanting to grow as fast as you can, but still wanting to focus on what you already have,” he adds. “We have made a very conscious decision to concentrate on the UK for the next three to six months.
“But we are in conversations with a lot of English-speaking areas such as Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, Canada and South Africa. We’ve also begun discussions in some European markets…if we have enough leverage in the UK and get the Premier League wrapped up, then we will definitely be going to the US to see what we can do there.”