Ep. 29: FanFood’s Growth & Where It’s Going with Carson Goodale
In each episode of The GameDay Playbook presented by FanFood, Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate gameday more efficiently.
Carson Goodale, Founder of FanFood, joins Rob Cressy to give an update on the growth of FanFood. What are the new products they are rolling out? What about partnerships and why has cashless payment been a big driver of growth? How and why are they expanding outside of the world of sports? What does the internal growth look like and what challenges has he had to overcome in the process? If you want an inside look into what it’s like to grow a tech company, this episode is for you.
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Rob Cressy: (00:04)
Welcome to the Gameday Playbook presented by FanFood, a discussion around how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate game day more efficiently. I'm your host Rob Cressy and joining me today is Carson Goodale, CEO of FanFood. Carson, great to have you back on the show.
Carson Goodale: (00:28)
I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Rob Cressy: (00:31)
I'm excited as well. And what I wanted to do was get you back on a podcast to give some updates on what is going on in the world of FanFood, because one of the things that I love about the platform of podcasting is it gives us an opportunity in real time to share the growth of the company, the heartbeat, the things that are going on in your mind. This is a very transparent and real thing. So let's start with the number one thing. Let's actually talk about product rollout first.
Carson Goodale: (01:03)
Yeah. 2020 is an exciting year not only for FanFood, but I think for the entire industry as a whole because there is a trend and it's starting to pick up. And what we're looking to do in 2020 from FanFood's product roadmap perspective is to accomplish a couple things. One, create an omni-channel in venue ordering experience. So a couple of months ago we released a web application that mirrors the UI/UX of our consumer app which now gives fans, you know, they don't need to download an app to have an frictionless ordering experience. They can place orders in a matter of seconds, which we love.
The next thing that we're rolling out in this quarter is premium suites. So now that we have the web app and we're allowing fans to preorder it before they even get to the game. Offering that experience and now, you know, building something in this suite so now we have fans, whether you're a season ticket holder, general admission fan or an executive assistant that's pre-ordering concession suite packages. During the game day you now have the ability to, as a fan, order concessions directly from your phone for an express pickup at a concession stand and get it delivered. Now, every suite will have an experience where those guests can order additional things, whether that's merchandise or F&B directly to their suite or call a server for any additional things that they may need. What we learned is that these guests, they're paying a lot of money to be there. Why the hell are they sticking their head out the each door and calling for a server that may or may not be there? It's not the best experience and so we are staying focused on how we create and what we're fans of creating is that ultimate in venue ordering experience. There's a couple things that we're learning and by going through this process is that the applications that we're building. We're solving in-venue things from a logistics perspective, the application now is starting to expand beyond just sports. That's when things are going to look really interesting and that's why I'm really excited for 2020 for FanFood.
Rob Cressy: (03:35)
And it makes complete sense that the word premium, you think that there's going to be a certain experience attached with it. But so often I just think about some of the games that I've been to in suite life and you get there and you're in this box and it's like the view and all, but then you're right, you're like, where's the server? What's the food? Is this on time? Is this warm? And the premium experience isn't really there. A lot of times I think about our everyday life and how convenient it is, how premium it can be, even if it's just premium in one specific moment. But that's what we're accustomed to. So if we go somewhere where we don't get to experience that same thing and we're charged more for it, you're like, well, wait a second. I've rarely gone to a suite and been like, Holy crap, this was the coolest experience. You know what I usually say, the seats aren't as good as they are down there because we're way up here.
Carson Goodale: (04:31)
Exactly and for those guests and then on the food service side too, I find it interesting. Like you have a captive audience for three hours, that's an opportunity to up-sell them, make more revenue and provide a better guest experience. So how can we accomplish both? So rolling that product out and also I haven't officially announced it yet in the coming months but we partnered up with a kiosk company which allows us to now really provide a fully integrated kind of automated, plug and play solution to help take any venue, any size, completely cashless. Which I'm really excited for. I think what we're seeing right now in the industry is a trend that's starting to move away from cash registers and traditional point of sale because the on demand fan doesn't like waiting in lines.
Carson Goodale: (05:28)
And how do you speed that up in an economy where your minimum wages are driving up? And the biggest pain point is staffing these events. How do we start to take pressure and headache from that game day staffing perspective? And so the trend that we're starting to see is moving toward a cashless environment, right? Replacing the need for sales with kiosks and focusing concession stands on more of fulfillment based areas. It's what we're building out and what we're looking to go to market with is to have a fully kind of integrated omni-channel experience to you know, create the ultimate guest experience.
Rob Cressy: (06:12)
So let's keep going down this road because I think one of the biggest challenges I could see is the ability for the venue or the operator side of things to be forward-thinking enough to say, even if they do realize there's a pain point. This is changing the way that things were done and by definition, a lot of people see change as risk, so it's going to be a little bit slower. Whereas once again, we're always going to default to the way that you and I experience things as consumers. Consumers are used to rapid change, but then we get to these venues and rapid change is not in their lexicon. It's not in their thinking there. So how are you guys working on overcoming that or helping bridge that to say, listen, we want to help make this a better experience for everyone by making it cashless because sign me up for all of this stuff. The fewer human touch points I have, the better. And I think a great example with this would just be, if you think about the way the movie industry is evolved from a ticketing standpoint, we would have to go there and you wait in line there and you get the popcorn and there's a ticket person. Now you got freaking Fandango. You can reserve your seats, you go there. The only person you in theory need to see is the person that you show your digital ticket to. It's a completely frictionless experience. It saves time, it saves money, and it's a much easier experience.
Carson Goodale: (07:40)
I don't disagree.
Rob Cressy: (07:42)
But what do you, how do you overcome the challenge on that side? Because even when things are logical and make sense, you're like, we want to help make this cashless. How do you help convince or show the light to the venue side of things being like, listen, we want to help you on this because that's the, that's what will help your rate of adoption.
Carson Goodale: (08:03)
Yeah. I think this is why Amazon was so successful in scaling because they are hyper-focused or obsessed on the customer experience. And they focused their innovation around that. And so in our digital age, there are companies that do things exceptionally well, right? Like I'm not looking to get into the kiosk business by any means. I don't want to get into the hardware side but what they're doing, it's a similar shared vision of reducing friction, creating a better in-venue experience and focusing efforts on fulfillment because it's just overall more operationally efficient. And so we're aligned in that regard. And so by partnering up allows us to now come to the table with an enterprise kind of solution. So how do we change this kind of consumer behavior? That's like the challenge, right? And so execution is the name of the game. And so it's going to come down to, we're going to prove it, right? So we are in, not only are we, you know, having the technology solution, but we're putting our money where our mouth is and we're saying we'll even staff the damn thing for you. And now we have different staffing like options, whether that is staffing for just the fulfillment, whether that's staffing, concession stands or you want us to do the in seat delivery. Great. We have a solution now for that to really provide the ultimate in venue experience from start to finish.
Rob Cressy: (09:42)
One thing you mentioned that I don't want to gloss over is you said we're going to be getting into more than just sports. So can you sort of expand on that? Because for me, that's one of the really exciting side of things.
Carson Goodale: (09:57)
The market's massive. And when I originally started FanFood and focused on sports, I wanted to go to the big boys. I wanted to go to the NBA, I wanted to go to the NFL. But guess what? We learned that in order to get there, you got to come to the table with an enterprise solution ready to go. It forced us to kind of take a bottom-up approach and prove it through execution, continue to refine our product until we felt like we have what we need to make a compelling statement. And by going through this process and solving a lot of these in venue logistics, our technology is now applicable to other markets outside of just sports. We focused on sports. It solves the number one pain problem. I believe in sports. The biggest pain point is waiting in long lines as a sports fan, when you're paying a lot of money to be there, that's the number one problem that hasn't been solved.
Carson Goodale: (10:57)
I feel like the king of the industry shuts an eye to it, almost like he doesn't even address it and that trend is changing. So what we learned and focusing on it's been a grind the last five years of building this technology solution, but now that we have it, now we want to start testing it and rolling out in other areas because there is a need in other markets whether that's hospitality, entertainment venues, so from those initial kind of conversations, you know, they're proven to be excited about kind of our core offering. And here's an interesting use case, the premium suite stuff, right? You're going to put a kiosk in every suite to allow guests to call an attendant or order a food, a menu specific.
Carson Goodale: (11:53)
There is no difference than a sick patient in a hospital bed that wants to order something from a tablet that's a dietary restricted menu. And then, or if they have a problem, they can call for a server. It's the same application, the technology that we're built. And guess what? There's over 6,000 of those hospitals in America and it just massively expands the market opportunity. Now I don't want to scare people that are listening. Potential investors say, oh, there's a pivot focus. But I think what's interesting is that like our technology is now ready to start to expand and test and some of these other markets and that's what I'm really excited for too.
Rob Cressy: (12:39)
That is super exciting and you mentioned the word expand and there's something else that has expanded within FanFood: number of people that are working here. So let's talk about the growth of the team because I do want to give everyone a shoutout for making this happen and for the growth of everything. So talk about that.
Carson Goodale: (12:59)
Well, we went from zero to 30 real quick. So you know, during December we hired, well probably November, but on-boarded in December, a 16 person direct sales force and we're focused in various territories. They have various territories and got them on board during the holidays when we knew that it's going to be tough to set meetings and close deals during that time. And now they're up and running in full right here in Chicago and the team's great. The culture is great. Everyone gets along really well, everyone's super hungry, everyone's super motivated. They love the product that we're selling. So it's really cool to kind of see everyone working together. We have big goals, really, really big goals for 2020 and I think the team's excited to hit in those.
What has been the challenge for you as a leader? So we just talked about all this growth in the verticals and the partnerships and the rollout is that you guys are doing and now you've expanded your team. So now you've got more management stuff going on. So now you've just added even more things on your plate right there. So how have you managed that as a leader to make sure that you continue to do things efficiently, forward-thinking, doing things the right way, where it's not always for leaders when things can get piled up. It's not because you don't want to do a, just sometimes you got a lot of stuff going on. You got to prioritize that. So for you, how have you handled the growth of all of this?
Carson Goodale: (14:42)
I sleep less and I work more and my relationships are taken to a tarnish, but no. I think like, it's, it's kind of cliche, but when like we have a real team now, you know, like a year, like literally a year ago on this, during this time it was me, couple co-founders and some interns downstairs. And now a lot of my time is focused on, and this is cliche, but really the vision, right? Communicating the vision, articulating that because what leadership is or, and this is something that we learned in the military from a leadership perspective, is your ability to provide purpose, direction and motivation in order to accomplish the organization's goals. We have to set the goals for the year.
Carson Goodale: (15:45)
And now everything that I'm doing is, and this is kind of literally this morning, just showed someone on our marketing team the Simon Cynak video of why we do what we do, how do we do it and what we do. Because now that we have a team, my job is really focused on the why and constantly communicating that all the way down because these 30 employees today are going to be responsible for the culture of 300 tomorrow. And so making sure that we get that right now is very imperative. But also at the same time is one of the challenges too from a leadership perspective. Is that the delegation of trust too, right? Because this is also new where, there are certain things that I was doing a year ago and now I just don't have, you don't have the time. So time allocation and resource allocation has been a new learning, you know, challenge during this process as well. But it's a lot moving parts right now and just, it's exciting and stressful and passionate and motivated. You know, all of these things, all of these emotions wrapped up into one.
Rob Cressy: (17:23)
You know what they call that? Entrepreneurship. One day you're like, Oh my God, this is the greatest thing. The next day, yeah, well, we're gonna die to add some things here. So Simon Cynak's book starts with why. Highly recommend reading it or checking out the TEDx YouTube video. Also with the military leadership philosophy, checkout Jocko Willink books start with the one Extreme Wwnership. It was an absolute game changer for me. Because it really taught you how to lead as a leader when you're at the top, everything below you, whether you do it or not, it is your problem. It is someone screws up. What did I not do good enough? Was I not clear enough? And it's a very difficult thing to learn because it takes an element of selflessness and to check your ego. And it certainly when it's something that can be mundane, one of your salespeople doesn't treat a customer right or doesn't follow up or doesn't do something that's as simple procedure, but it teaches you to check back and say, all right, well maybe the process isn't written down. Maybe I'm not communicating enough to the manager to communicate to them. And when you can take it on for yourself, now all of a sudden you can be a better leader.
Carson Goodale: (18:32)
Totally, totally. It's a constant struggle too, right? Like, cause you're constantly learning and you have to have like the self-awareness to be like, probably should have done that differently or you know, how do I handle this situation? It's a new set of skills that you just kind of have to quickly learn. And it's so funny too because like when we're growing a startup like this fast, the today's BDRs and SDRs in three months are going to be the ones responsible for closing deals or responsible for managing new teams of BDRs. Whether or not you are responsible for now managing a new team or responsible for closing deals, bigger deals, you know with bigger contract values. It's like the growth, everyone's learning very fast. But it's a collective team effort to get there.
Rob Cressy: (19:31)
And you know, what I love about all of this is I believe it actually comes down to one thing that you guys are already good at, which is sort of the core of what you guys do. It is a process because you're creating a process to improve the fan experience and to remove the lines at games and venues and things like that for these BDRs and other people within the company. They have to understand the process and the processes and what's going to allow them to get better and have higher roles and then teach other people because you're imparting the process for how you run internally. It's the same thing as what you do externally from a fundamental standpoint.
Carson Goodale: (20:09)
Exactly. Today I'm the expert teaching them the industry best practices, trends, tips, tricks, and we leverage things like this podcast to help drive some of that education internally because today and it's amazing how quickly they pick up because now they're communicating things or they're teaching me things now that I missed. I think it's empowering, and that is a big leadership trait that I think is especially that I'm ingraining at FanFood to develop tomorrow's leaders of FanFood.
Rob Cressy: (20:52)
Yeah. Because I think that's what you want. When someone is empowered, then they feel the ability to take ownership of a decision so it's no longer Carson, what do I do cause you just sit there and say, well, if I wasn't here, what would you do? You're like, Oh, I probably do this. You're like, Oh, crazy. That was the right thing. Like the more someone gets empowered, like a lot of the things in entrepreneurship, it becomes a muscle and the same thing happens for your team members when they can have a little bit of more ownership, you're going to have more trust and then they feel like, man, Carson's trusting on me to do this. And then they succeed at something and hit it out of the park and all of a sudden their confidence goes. It's like, Holy smokes, this is amazing. And it all starts with one small seed of empowerment of saying, you know what? I'm going to trust that you're going to do what you say you're going to do. Exactly. That's it. So Carson, as we wrap this up, is there anything that I didn't ask you that you want to share or let everybody know about, whether it's a forward thinking, thought about the industry, some optimism, give us some wisdom from you or just a sound off?
Carson Goodale: (21:57)
Man, you just kind of put me on the spot like that. I don't know. I feel like I kinda talked a little bit about the trends and some exciting like product releases that we have coming up and our pipeline that I think is going to really like add a new level of experience for the entire sports industry. I think like that is just like something that just badass, like the industry is like way behind. And I think that there's technologies now that you know, that we get to now share with the industry to provide a better experience, make stuff more operationally efficient and help make you know, the food service or stadiums more money. Because happier customers equal loyal customers that will in turn spend more money. And it's really striving toward, you know, being that industry leader from a how can we help take venues cashless perspective. That's how I'm sounding off because that's the positioning that I want. You know, people think about FanFood as, and hopefully in 2020 we can start to show that through our execution.
Rob Cressy: (23:09)
I want you to give a call to action and for someone listening to this right now, if there's an ability to connect partners, build relationships, what sort of person, company, anything would you love to throw out there? Because the way that we believe we're so relationship oriented in everything.
Carson Goodale: (23:46)
I can always use more help. Everyone went to a high school, right? So if you know the club parent, We have a referral page and it's 250 bucks. If you go to that page, it's on our website. We'll give you 250 bucks if you refer to a venue. And they sign up. Well we'll send you a check in 30 days. So easy way to make some money because everyone knows a high school and if you know a booster, you know the person that's in charge of the booster club, help out. We would love to get your help. I'm in the midst of fundraising right now. So, looking to connect with folks in these sports kind of industry sports technology, investors, athletes. That's what we have going on in 2020. If there's genuine interest to connect with me via LinkedIn or you can shoot me a note, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And yeah, just feedback, overall feedback. If you liked the podcast, give it a five star rating and share it with other folks in your network.
Rob Cressy: (25:05)
Awesome. Carson. I'm so excited to, to follow the continued growth of both you as a leader, as well as fan food, because I believe in what you're building and as always, I would love to hear from you about this episode. Did it cause you to think or take action or I would love to hear what you would like to see done to improve the fan experience anywhere you can hit up FanFood on Twitter @fanfoodondemand, on Instagram, @fanfoodapp or on LinkedIn. And as always, you can hit me up on all social media platforms @robcressy