No matter the format, live events and festivals often have one thing in common: Want a drink? Get in line.
The slow march to the bar or food stands, followed by the minutes required to order and pay, is commonplace at festivals, venues, and other well-attended happenings, detracting from the customer experience. Billfold, an RFID point-of-sale for high-volume service, is designed specifically for these moments, making waiting a thing of the past.
At over 400 events, Billfold has boosted patron spending up to 67%.
Billfold is the product of two veteran operators, Stas Chijik and Benjamin Roshia, who specialized in large-scale events in New York City. Stas and Ben are best known for launching the food and beverage operations at the 85,000 sq. ft. mega venue, The Brooklyn Mirage / Avant Gardner. After years of successful events and a constant drive for efficiency, they tackled the final pain point in their bottom line: the glacial speed of transactions and the resulting customer wait times.
“We’ve catered and operated events since 2008, and our area of expertise is high-volume beverage service. In 2012, we began specializing in warehouse parties and became partners in high production value events that took New York by storm, growing rapidly from 1,000 to 10,000 attendees per event,” says Stas. “We saw that payments were taking up too much time and affecting sales.” A traditional point-of-sale (known as POS) takes bartenders at least a minute to run a card and get a signature, and that’s after the patrons have already held up the line, fumbling through their wallet or purse.
The partners realized that RFID wristbands might be the solution. RFID (radio frequency identification) uses electromagnetic fields to identify tags attached to objects, in this case a wristband worn by an event attendee. In search of an RFID vendor, they went to events to see how other systems worked. They were faster, but created even more pain points. Customers had to add credits to their wristbands in one line, then spend in another. Many simply gave up on this repetitive process of topping up their wristbands. Stas and Ben decided to build a POS that fully addressed their needs and did not create barriers to spending, developing what is now Billfold.
Unlike top-up RFID systems, Billfold creates a secure connection to a patron’s credit or debit card at a self-serve kiosk or online, which takes about 30 seconds. From then on, it’s head to the bar, order and pay in a matter of seconds, and off to the dance floor. “We needed it to be seamless and intuitive,” says Ben. “So we created a system that’s easy to learn for attendees and staff. The system can generally be set up with less than a week’s notice, it works with existing inventory software, and it’s priced to fit venue budgets, something most RFID systems can’t provide. It works for all aspects of an event, from food vendors to coat check and merch.”
Billfold enables each bartender to process as many as 200 orders per hour. The transactions take less than 5 seconds with no printing checks or flipping a screen to capture signatures. The customer-facing screen is split: one third shows the order and the rest is an advertising space offering drink specials or sponsored products during key decision-making moments. Billford runs sales in real time, allows event organizers to centralize cash, and simplifies reconciliation with straightforward readable reports. The system also offers live data on individual locations within a venue or festival, as well as individual staff sales, to assist management in correcting any problems.
Billfold gives operators, event organizers, and sponsors valuable first-person data about actual purchasing behavior on site. It links emails to purchases, so that organizers can follow up with targeted offers tailored to their customers’ habits. This data can also be used to create instant product pushes. If a certain beverage isn’t selling as anticipated, organizers can trigger a flash sale and promote it on the customer-facing screens. Leftover inventory can influence profitable specials.
One recent example: The team was running a 27-hour New Year’s Eve party. After the midnight toast, they were dismayed to see cases of champagne left over. They whipped up an on-the-fly mimosa special, displaying it to Billfold’s customer-facing screens. “We sold 327 mimosas in the first hour,” recalls Ben.
In the competitive market of live events and festivals, Billfold offers a key solution to the longevity of the industry, helping keep festivals and entertainment venues hopping. “We’ve taken everything we’ve learned into building a point-of-sale system that won’t drive staff crazy, and that customers actually appreciate,” Ben reflects. “With Billfold we created a set of tools that allow operators and organizers to maximize revenue with zero friction,” so they can focus on creating amazing experiences.