MLB Ballparks Add Artificial Intelligence to Sell Beer Faster Than Ever Before
Concession company Aramark says its Walk Thru Bru system sells beer up to 40 percent faster.
Allow me to explain how baseball works: You sit in your seat for extended periods of time while nothing happens, then you get up to grab a beer and miss the most exciting play of the game. (Keep in mind, I say this as a huge baseball fan.) Aramark — one of the MLB’s largest concession providers — understands your pain, and they’re trying to use artificial intelligence to do something about it.
As part of a partnership with the Palo Alto, California-based tech company Mashgin, Aramark has expanded its use of Mashgin’s express self-checkout machines in MLB ballparks. These Mashgin units, which look a bit like large heat lamps, are able to scan multiple items at once, no barcode necessary. For example, grab a beer and a soda from the nearby cooler, put them under the scanner, and then the kiosk uses A.I. technology to recognize that you’ve got a can of Corona and a bottle of Sierra Mist and charges you accordingly. Pay with your credit card, an attendant checks your ID, and you’re on your way.
Aramark calls this new service “Walk Thru Bru,” and after looking at its early season results, they say the Mashgin Express Self-Checkout has made beer sales up to 40 percent faster, not to mention increased sales up to 25 percent. (It wouldn’t be baseball without some stats!) Granted, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be back in your seat in time to see that leadoff dinger — that’s just bad luck — but it won’t hurt your chances.
An Aramark spokesperson told me the new system is currently available at Fenway Park, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Kauffman Stadium, Citi Field, Oakland Coliseum, Citizens Bank Park, and PNC Park. Additionally, at three of those ballparks (the Oakland Coliseum, Kauffman Stadium, and Minute Maid Park), the Mashgin units are used for grab-and-go food as well. Yes, A.I. knows what a hot dog looks like.
Meanwhile, Mike Giresi, Aramark’s senior vice president and chief digital information officer, says that the more fans use Walk Thru Bru, the faster it can get. “Every application we build, based on AI, feeds data back into itself and provides us insights to be smarter not only about our operations, but also the needs and preferences of our clients and consumers,” he said. “Mashgin technology continually learns food and beverage items and their prices offered at various locations, so a consumer can quickly pay and get on their way.”
Of course, another option is to have beer delivered right to your seat, but — come on — taking a risk by going to get a beer is half the fun of baseball.