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Q&A with Aramark’s Chris Devore: How speed, efficiency and quality win in Houston

Alice Chan Sep 22, 2022 11:45:00 AM
Zippin-powered stores have an average transaction time of around 30-45 seconds and sometimes faster!

Chris Devore is Aramark Sports + Entertainment’s District Manager for Houston where he oversees operations for Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and NRG Park, a big undertaking in the fourth-most populous city in the U.S.. Chris sat down with us to explain how he thinks about checkout-free and the benefits it brings to the over 500 events at NRG Stadium alone. 

Devore Headshot Q: Tell us about your role at NRG

I oversee NRG Park and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. My main job is to ensure that NRG and CWMP stay on top of their game for events and continue to drive innovation and idea creation for new concepts and future thinking of operations and growth.

Q: What made you consider checkout-free technology for NRG?

Aramark Sports + Entertainment takes a dedicated approach to innovation and is always re-imagining the fan experience by finding ways to introduce new technology that can improve upon our concessions offerings and food and beverage services.

Q: What advantages does checkout-free retail offer vs. current concession stands? 

Checkout-free retail offerings have been proven to be more efficient and offer faster transaction times and decreased wait times. On average wait times at a normal concession stand can range from 1-2 minutes per person.  At our Zippin-powered stores we are seeing an average transaction time of around 30-45 seconds and sometimes faster!

Q: What has been the guest reaction to checkout-free? Any specific anecdotes? 

Once our guests try it for the first time, most really enjoy how quick and easy they can get their food or beverage items and return to the event action.

Q: Are there types of events - football vs. Rodeo vs. concerts - that you see checkout-free being adopted more?  

I really see it as something for all events.  We are on the cusp of a major technological shift in how large format stadium venues operate.  Outside of the stadium, the consumers want something that is easy to use and they want it NOW. We are continuing to find innovative ways to satisfy that need but on a much larger scale with a much tighter time frame.  Speed and efficiency are non-negotiable behaviors and they all roll into quality.  If you can have those three pieces, you have found a winning technology. 

Q: What has your store crew and managers’ reaction been to working in a checkout-free environment?

Our staff members have adapted to the technology and embraced a new way of interacting with guests. For them, there has been a shift in how they serve. Before it was pulling beers from buckets, popping tops, and ringing them up. Now, they are communicating and educating guests on the technology – if it’s their first time – and guiding them on a process that will improve the efficiency and time spent getting their favorite food and beverage items.

Q: Do you imagine a future where all your retail operations are checkout-free?  If yes, why? And if not, why not?  

To a certain extent. I believe we will always have guests that want to interact with a human when they are making a purchase, and I’m all for the hospitality experience and personal touch. But there are also people that love the convenience that comes with technology like the autonomy of checkout-free stores or the ability to use their phone to mobile order to their seat. So, I think it will be a mixture of service offerings and technologies that become the future of large venues and how they sell food, beverage, and merchandise.

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