COLUMBIA — Fathers and sons. Beautiful midsummer baseball. You know the scene.
But Dad was hungry and employed his patriarchal privilege, sending the kids to go get a hot dog for him. Will Anderson never saw Albert Pujols smack the game-winning homer to beat the Cubs because he was stuck in the concessions line.
“I knew there had to be a better way,” Anderson said. “How much time was every fan wasting in line and missing key parts of the game?”
Thought turned to invention and then to engagement. Anderson, Carson Goodale and South Carolina alum Myles Hilliard teamed up to form FanFood, a mobile concessions ordering application that was unveiled at the Gamecocks' Founders Park this weekend.
“We did 87 orders through the platform,” said Hilliard, who attended the first of a three-game series against Texas A&M to aid the new venture. “We had 30 Thursday and 57 Saturday. Both USC and Aramark were very impressed by the adoption. In my mind, that was fantastic for an opening weekend.”
Hilliard, a 2016 graduate of USC's Darla Moore School of Business who works in Chicago, jumped on the opportunity as soon as he saw it. The Gamecocks hosted archrival Clemson on March 3 and the lines at the two concession stands at Founders Park were stretched throughout the concourse. It didn’t take long for unhappy fans to complain via Twitter.
USC athletics director Ray Tanner accepted the criticism while pointing out that concessions vendor Aramark was at fault, saying the company was briefed on what to expect and failed to follow up. He also promised it would be addressed.
Hilliard and his teammates pounced.
“A couple of my buddies sent me the Tweet complaining about the concessions, so I reached out,” Hilliard said. “(Marketing director) Eric Nichols contacted me a couple of days later, and he helped us get in touch with the department.”
FanFood was the perfect answer. It’s a simple process — the app can be downloaded to your phone, and if you’re sitting there in the fifth inning, feel like some nachos and a Coke and don’t want to miss any of the game, you pull up the menu, select what you want and pay for it online.
The app sends a text message when your food is ready.
“The lady in front of me used it, so I downloaded it right after,” said Robbie Lackey, who traveled from Camden for Thursday’s game. “I was walking up here right after I picked it on my phone.”
Lackey was back in his seat with his food in less than five minutes. USC promoted the service via social media and its website, word-of-mouth helped and the numbers were strong for a first weekend, despite a rainy and cold doubleheader on Saturday.
“It was really cool how quick everything came to fruition,” Hilliard said. “It was clear it was important for them to deliver a good experience.”
FanFood was available at Founders’ first-base concessions window and is expected to return for the Gamecocks’ final eight home games. Depending on how well it goes, there could be branching out to the third-base stand … and other USC sports.
“We haven’t received any negative feedback whatsoever,” said Anderson, who has also seen the app succeed at North Carolina, East Carolina, Purdue and several minor-league baseball parks. “Our clients have been making referrals on our behalf.”
Nothing can replace the peanut guy walking the aisles and throwing a bag to the customer in seat 17.
But if you can order, pay, begin eating and not miss a pitch, there’s nothing wrong with giving the peanut guy some competition.