Self-Service Raked in $800k in Sales at Winter Olympics

The Molson Canadian Hockey House is an 80,000-squarefoot structure that was temporarily erected in Vancouver's Concord Plaza during the 2010 Winter Olympics. In operation February 12-28, the Molson Canadian Hockey House combined a VIP area for Team Canada athletes and their families with a public area featuring live entertainment.
For Vision/Co, a Toronto-based event management company that ran the Molson Canadian Hockey House, the decision to use self-service technology was driven by the nature of the event and a number of economic factors. The venue was open for most of the day, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., but its peak times, such as intermissions between hockey game periods, were relatively brief. Had the company employed cashiers, they would have been extremely busy during these times, but at other times would have had little to do.

"We realized that for the volume of sales we expected, traditional bar service would be extremely labor-intensive, making the sale of alcohol cost-prohibitive," says Ani Tchakmakjian, corporate accountant at Vision/Co, who oversaw the technology selection process and its on-site deployment. "The alternative was finding a technology that would eliminate the labor requirement and still be straightforward for the consumer to use without assistance. The ParTech EverServ terminals were a perfect fit for what we needed."

To serve the thousands of customers who visited Hockey House, Vision/Co deployed 14 PAR EverServ 2000 POS hardware terminals running PAR EverServ POS PixelPoint software as self-service kiosks. Customers could use the touch screen terminals to buy tickets, which could be redeemed for wine, hard liquor or beer at serving stations, by swiping their Visa cards.

125,000 drink orders processed
The terminals proved themselves to be tough enough to withstand intensive use by the public, contributing to total sales of more than $800,000 Canadian on more than 125,000 drink units sold. More than 45,000 consumers were served at the Molson Canadian Hockey House during the 17 days of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Crowds and sales were undoubtedly boosted by the performance of Team Canada's hockey teams: both the men's and women's teams took home gold medals.

"We were impressed with the reliability of the ParTech systems in an environment with heavy use by untrained users and subject to potential spills of food and beverage," says Tchakmakjian. "Even after running for 14 hours a day in a harsh environment, the ParTech kiosk systems continued to operate flawlessly."

The venue's co-sponsors were also pleased with the technology's performance. "My biggest fear going into the Games was, "What happens if the system goes down?'" says Chris Bell, manager of sponsorship operations at Molson Coors, Canada. However, "after seeing the PAR solution in action, I was impressed with how durable the terminals were and how quickly the orders were processed."

The kiosks also met the aesthetic requirements of Vision, Molson and their co-sponsor Hockey Canada. "We wanted the technology to have that "VIP sense,'" says Tchakmakjian. "They looked like your basic machines; they were small, easy to use and easy on the eye. We were even able to utilize the creative designs that Molson and Vision came up with within the screen setups and screen savers of the terminals; they seamlessly fit the VIP environment and the décor that we had at the venue.

"ParTech's ability to listen to our requirements and to meet our needs with some minor modifications was incredible," she adds. "Up until we found the EverServ terminal and the PixelPoint software, we were losing hope of finding a technology that would work within our budget."

Keeping lines moving
Of the 14 terminals located throughout Hockey House, two were manned with cashiers for customers who wanted to pay for their drink tickets with cash. Having only two manned terminals turned out to be quite sufficient, according to Tchakmakjian, because the intuitive design of the self-service systems made transactions quick and easy for the customers to navigate without much assistance from the event staff. "The lines at the terminals never lasted more than a minute or two, and no one complained about long lines," she notes. "When you factor in the number of people that went through, the fact that no one complained about lineups was incredible." The self-service interface began with a screen asking users if they were of legal age to drink alcohol. If they were, they proceeded to the ordering screen, with one button for beer and another for wine or hard liquor. Once customers chose how many of each drink they wanted to purchase, they swiped their Visa cards. After the cards were authorized, the terminals printed a receipt and tickets that could be exchanged for drinks at serving stations located throughout the venue.

Using a ticket exchange system was important because Vision needed a system to track how many drinks were sold each day. In addition to reports provided by the PAR PixelPoint software, Vision could also count tickets to determine how many drink units were sold. "The reporting was easy to use and we were able to tailor some of the reports in order to gather the information we needed," says Tchakmakjian. "This made life so much easier. At a glance, we were able to know how many tickets and what type of tickets were sold; we could even see which terminals had the highest volume of sales."

System flexibility
The smooth operation of the ticket-selling functionality is even more impressive because it was not part of the business plan from the start. Vision had originally planned to make admission to Hockey House all-inclusive rather than selling individual drinks. However, in the interests of responsibly controlling alcohol consumption, and also because of the difficult economy, Vision realized that it needed to alter its pricing structure.

"Originally the entrance fee was to be all-inclusive," explains Tchakmakjian. "When we realized that we needed the ability to sell individual tickets, the PAR system and its capabilities made it easier for us to make that business decision."

The PAR technology also made it easier to respond as Hockey House's business grew to Olympic size. "We originally thought we would need at most six terminals, but we actually ended up using 14, and thank goodness we did," says Tchakmakjian. "It turned out to be the perfect number of machines for the venue's volume of sales." She appreciates the technology's flexibility, productivity, and reliability, particularly because operating Hockey House "was one of the biggest events we've ever done, if not the biggest. The PAR self-service units' performance far exceeded what we expected."

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