Ottawa Champions turn to local tech firm for food and beverage service

A local tech firm is hoping a new deal with the Ottawa Champions baseball team will create opportunities with other local sports franchises and help it come full circle.

SweetSeat is an app that allows fans at sporting events to order and pay for food or drinks from concession stands without leaving the comfort of their seats. Its deal with the Champions will start with the private suites at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park.

Champions fans will be able to place orders from tablets installed in the suites and will never miss a home run or diving catch as their food and beverages will be delivered directly to them. The plan could eventually expand throughout the park.

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“We had been looking for a way to get back into our local market and be a part of the community here in Ottawa,” SweetSeat founder and CEO Ryan MacGregor said.

The company was founded in 2011 and got its start through a pilot project with the Ottawa 67’s at the old Ottawa Civic Centre. While that business relationship ended with the Lansdowne renovations, Mr. MacGregor said he owes a lot to 67’s owner Jeff Hunt for taking a chance on a new startup.

Mr. Hunt introduced Mr. MacGregor to several OHL clubs, relationships that paid dividends down the road. SweetSeat still works with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Mr. MacGregor said he is hopeful that his firm can restart its relationship with the 67’s at some point.

Overall, he said, sports venues haven’t been the “early adopters” of the technology, as the company had originally hoped.

So after working with a Toronto-based consulting firm, SweetSeat turned to the office market. It now has a pilot project with Aramark, working with the dining service in a total of seven office buildings in Calgary, Toronto and Waterloo.

This service differs only in that the employees who use the app have to go to the on-site cafe to pick up their orders. They still get to avoid lineups.

Mr. MacGregor said the lunch-time window at an office building is pretty much the same as a hockey intermission.

“It’s the exact same model from the logistics side of it, just from a different setting,” he said.

While SweetSeat explores this new vertical, it is not abandoning its original goal of working with sports stadiums and arenas. Still, Mr. MacGregor said the company is looking at many other market segments as well, including movie theatres, golf courses and anywhere else people want to avoid lineups for food or beverages.

SweetSeat is a two-man enterprise right now, with Mr. MacGregor and business partner Cody Spicer bootstrapping the operations.

Mr. MacGregor said he doesn’t want to chase funding until the venture is “worthwhile,” but hopes the deals with the Champions and Aramark will help SweetSeat gain traction.

Until then, he and Mr. Spicer will continue working in ByWard Market restaurants.

“That’s our funding right now,” Mr. MacGregor said.

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