Building an NFL Stadium POS Solution for the Atlanta Falcons

David Ruddock
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How do you build an end to end point of sale and restaurant management system for an entire NFL stadium? Esper and Xenial have the answers, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium is where you can find them — home of the Atlanta Falcons.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium houses 200 restaurants that all require various point of sale, mPOS, kitchen displays, and self-service kiosk devices to function. During a span of 6 hours (a typical full day stadium event), these stadium concessions vendors experience more volume than most restaurants will in a week. The volume of transactions is sky high, and the consequences of a downed POS system or kiosk potentially disastrous for any given vendor.

Environments like stadiums require device infrastructure that values reliability and scalability hand in hand — no compromises. Devices must be ready to operate during events — there are no second chances to “win back” trust in the event of a major outage. Hungry, thirsty, and packed to the brim, your customers are your top priority, and also your instantaneous feedback tool via channels like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.

Combining Xenial hardware and Esper device infrastructure (including Foundation, our x86-compatible AOSP Android distribution) created the winning combination for Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The below interview, edited for clarity, discusses just how we did it. Keith Szot, of Esper, and Andy Grindstaff, of Xenial, break it down.

What is Xenial?

Andy Grindstaff, Xenial:

Xenial is a subsidiary of Global Payments, which was born out of the acquisition of several point of sale solutions. The vision was to try to take all of the experience that these companies had decades of point of sale and restaurant management experience in the tech space and imagine what a modern point of sale and data management system would look like if we could wave a magic wand and start from scratch.

What’s the “secret sauce” for the Xenial and Esper stadium solution?

Andy Grindstaff, Xenial:

There is this desire from brands to move to Android or to a cloud point of sale, but they don’t know what to do with their current hardware. We [Xenial] have a whole bunch of Windows units out there. That really became one of the reasons why we ended up partnering with Esper, because Esper has the ability to build on the same chipset, the x86 chipset in these Windows devices—Esper’s Android OS [Esper Foundation] can run on the x86 chipset.

Keith Szot, Esper:

When franchisees buy hardware, they really hate it when you say you have to rip all this stuff out and buy a bunch of new devices. So what we did is something unique: We built the Android operating system for the x86 architecture. It sounds a little strange, because Android runs on all the smartphones and tablets—but that’s a different chip architecture called ARM. Commercially, no one has successfully delivered Android for x86. It’s important because it gives franchisers [restaurant chains] the ability to move to Android before the next hardware refresh cycle hits. So if you want to drive digital transformation and move to the cloud, but you have to keep your installed base, we have a very economical way to do that.

Some of our customers can do this completely remotely — move devices from Windows to Android — for their fleet. Part of this, too, is we put into our Android build [Esper Foundation] value added technology that kind of takes you to the cloud.

Andy Grindstaff, Xenial:

There are a lot of conversations happening with several of the brands that are piloting our cloud point of sale right now. They were thinking they might have to use Windows, and that that’s been the big change—realizing that Android really is an option, especially with their current hardware. That realization changes the conversation to be able to not have to talk about a hardware refresh if you want to change operating systems. Because it seems like everyone really is at least very Android curious. It’s powerful to actually show that this is something that could realistically work right now, and to still be able to switch out the hardware as it dies or if it gets to “end of life”.

How does Xenial manage all these devices using Esper?

Andy Grindstaff, Xenial:

We are starting to see a lot more ability—to do what I think is a really impactful thing for restaurant brands, especially the IT admin side of things…is the term “single pane of glass”. Being able to go to one place to handle all your stuff, having a lot of different integrations into your systems creates a lot of challenges of having to go to four or five different places to do your business. And so, as much as possible, being able to bring all of that into one place and that was one of the reasons we were really excited to do a lot of the integrations we’re building with Esper and bring them into our own portal so that you can control all of that from the same portal and looking at how can we continue to extend that.

How does Esper help Xenial scale POS, kiosk, and kitchen device solutions?

Andy Grindstaff, Xenial:

We can talk about Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was the first thing we partnered with Esper on. It’s a stadium with 200 restaurants and it is essentially just like a 200 store franchise brand, but every store just operates for about six hours. It’s the craziest volume you can imagine for these sites.

This was a bit of a wild pivot for our company to jump into, but the more we spent time with them, the more it started to make sense and that, so really being able to roll out and this was the first time testing the Esper platform and having control over the devices like he mentioned with their security things. They had very, very strict requirements in terms of what they were going to allow to be in their system. And so that was a big success for us of being able to move into this space.

It became an opportunity for us to jump in and Esper was a key partner in that because we were able to manage all the kitchen devices, point of sale devices and kiosks from the same place. And that was a big selling point for why we were able to go into that place and to power that. Because it really is like 200 or so restaurants and various operations, everything from table service restaurants to bars to a QSR-type environment, to grab-and-go type of stuff. There were a lot of different use cases and we worked with Esper on rolling that out and it’s been really successful.

It’s now exciting to see as brands are starting to look and be like, “Well, we really want to start checking out Android—what does that look like?” We can now point to this and say we’ve already proven it out at a pretty big scale.

Keith Szot, Esper:

There were a lot of requirements and frankly the core Android OS wasn’t built to deliver on those requirements. Xenial needed those capabilities built for the OS, so we did—through this, we have delivered the full technology implementation that meets the standards for deployment in the stadium in the Android OS.

More about Esper

Esper’s software platform makes it easy for hospitality customers to deploy, monitor, and update devices from POS systems, to kiosks, kitchen display systems, digital signage, and more — remotely and from a single pane of glass. Learn how you can give out-of-date solutions the chop and streamline your operations with Esper.

Restaurant Device Management

“Give Old Technology the Chop: Why Restaurants Need Automation” — at FSTEC 2022, Keith Szot, VP of Customer Innovation at Esper, and Andy Grindstaff, Senior Manager of Strategy and Technology at Xenial, gave a presentation sharing how Esper and Xenial, together, help customers navigate the complex vendor landscape (specifically for Android on x86), consolidate and simplify their stack, automate, and deliver for customers.


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David Ruddock
David Ruddock

David's tech experience runs deep. His tech agnostic approach and general love for technology fueled the 14 years he spent as a technology journalist, where David worked with major brands like Google, Samsung, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Verizon, and Amazon, reviewed hundreds of products, and broke dozens of exclusive stories. Now he lends that same passion and expertise to Esper's marketing team.

David Ruddock
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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