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Early reports suggest autonomous shopping experiences at sporting venues are paying off for Delaware North, clients and fans

From self-service checkout solutions to being the first company to bring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology to a sports venue, Delaware North in recent years has introduced several innovations that enhance the fan experience and improve the bottom line.

To that end, Jamie Obletz, president of Delaware North Sportservice, was a featured speaker at SportsBusiness Journal’s 2022 Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium in September.

Obletz and John Jenkins, vice president of Amazon Just Walk Out, led a panel discussion titled “Frictionless Stadium Experiences: Perspectives from Delaware North and Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology.”

Delaware North first piloted Amazon Just Walk Out technology in 2021 at the company-owned-and-operated TD Garden. The company has since introduced stores at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, home of the Seattle Kraken; UBS Arena, the new home of the New York Islanders; and KIA Forum in Inglewood, Calif. And there are more in the works.

Obletz said several variables influence the placement of Just Walk Out-enabled stores.

“The whole focus for us is trying to find the strategic locations within a venue to convert to this type of footprint with this type of technology,” he said.

“Locations in the venues that are high traffic are where you traditionally have bottlenecks, especially in intermissions or pregame entry points. It’s a matter of finding the best location to alleviate that bottleneck and some of the hardships that fans experience.”

The Amazon technology uses biometrics, sensors and advanced cameras to create the cashierless experience. For store entry, guests can swipe a credit card or use their palm if they’ve preregistered using Amazon One and then select the items they want from the shelves. Guests are charged upon exiting the store, generating payment receipts that are sent to their emails.

A Delaware North case study of 66 events at TD Garden – a mix of Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics games, comedy shows, Disney on Ice and concerts – indicated Just Walk Out zones drove higher throughput, per-cap spending and revenue than traditional grab-and-go options.

“We’re seeing per caps in the zones where the stores are being deployed increase between 20% and 30%,” Obletz said.

 Checkout-free tech at major venues has proven to be a win-win.

“All that fan wants is a beer or food as fast as possible. Well, that’s great for the venue or the concession operator as well because it means I can get more dollars per square foot in that store,” Jenkins said.

With data and customer feedback continuously being evaluated, selection at Just Walk Out stores could be expanded to include more hot food, greater customization and even merchandise and apparel, Obletz noted.

“Delaware North has been a great partner for us,” Jenkins said. “Your willingness to spend time to do ROI (return on investment) evaluation and the case study has really paid off.”

Photo caption: Delaware North piloted the first Amazon Just Walk Out stores in a professional sports venue at company-owned-and-operated TD Garden, home of the Boston Bruins and Celtics.