Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp (CSEC) owns and operates two stadiums in the city: McMahon Stadium, home of the Calgary Stampeders, and Scotiabank Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames and the world-famous Calgary Stampede. CSEC is responsible for all food and beverage and retail operations within both arenas, which recently switched their point of sale (POS) system to Square Register. Here we speak with Ziad Mehio, Vice President, Technology and Food Service, and Rachelle Roulston, Manager, Special Projects, about hitting pause during the pandemic, the unique challenges of rapidly implementing new technology on a large scale and predictions about contactless payments.
On hitting pause during the pandemic
Ziad: We were in the process of designing a new events centre to house the Flames when the pandemic hit, and we had a minute to step back and really look at the challenges our business was facing. To that point, 50-60% of our transactions — at our concession stands, retail stores and restaurants — were still done in cash. The volume of cash was just incredibly difficult to manage, and we started out on our mission to go completely cashless at our stadiums.
Square Register: Payments and point of sale, streamlined.
The first fully integrated POS terminal for any kind of business.
On needing a new POS system ASAP
Ziad: Our team began researching traditional stadium (POS) systems that would be able to meet the considerable requirements of our venues, which combined can host 66,000 fans at a time. We needed a robust system that allowed us to innovate. When we saw that the soon-to-launch Square Register featured seller and buyer-facing displays and was capable of taking payments and enabling integrated commerce right out of the box, it seemed like the perfect fit. We realized that Square was really innovating in terms of customer and fan engagement, which is exactly what we were after to achieve our goal of becoming cashless and contactless.
So, our team was totally sold on the merits of implementing Square Register, but we didn’t know how likely it would be to successfully roll out a new system on our super-tight timeline. The post-lockdown reopenings of both McMahon and the Saddledome were coming up fast, and we asked ourselves: “Can Square do what we need to do in a very, very short window of time?” This needed to be a seamless transition, and between both stadiums we would need to implement about 350 register units.
Rachelle: Implementing Square Register at both stadiums was a huge undertaking. We took on the challenge of flipping over our POS system with relatively zero time to figure it all out — there were only four and a half months between our first conversation with Square and the home opening game. But we pulled it off! Our seasonal staff were trained in no time, and the first game when we used Square Register went so well. The hardware is great-looking, and it’s super easy to use.
On using Square’s ecosystem to guide the fan experience
Ziad: Our full implementation of Square Register was accomplished through Square’s ecosystem of tools, including: Square POS (including Restaurants and Retail), online and QR code ordering, Square Terminal, Square Stand, Team Management Plus and Yellow Dog’s inventory management platform. Square’s powerful ecosystem of software, payments and hardware products have allowed us to integrate our systems and really guide the fan experience in a way that traditional POS systems couldn’t. All of our needs are met with this all-in-one solution.
Rachelle: We’ve placed QR codes all around the stadiums that allow fans to place orders without having to wait in a crowded line. You get a notification when your food is ready for pickup, and you go to a side window of the concession stand for your purchase. The customer experience is just made simple.
On feedback about Square Register from stadium staff
Ziad: The feedback from staff has been incredible. Our staff members were surprised about how easy it was to use — Square Register is a game-changer for them. Not only do they benefit from the advanced technology, but they save time not handling cash. They get to go home earlier, and they lose the risk of carrying cash around. They are a lot happier. For our business, choosing Square Register has just been such a great win.
On predicting how sports venues will accept payments going forward
Ziad: I believe that more sports venues will choose to go cashless going forward — this was already an inevitable shift, prior to COVID-19. People were already comfortable with eCommerce and paying with cards instead of physical currency. I don’t think I’ve had cash in my wallet for two years! The pandemic just accelerated the evolution of how we spend money. I predict that within a couple of years cash will no longer be accepted at most major sporting events.