STARKVILLE, MISS. — Two recent Mississippi State graduates have found a way to “keep fans in the game” so they don’t miss crucial moments of play while waiting in concession lines.
The 2013 baseball season at the university’s Dudy Noble Field/Polk-Dement Stadium has been the inaugural season for SportSnax, a company that claims “waiting in line is old school.” Founded by Daniel J. Payne and Eric A. Hill, SportSnax now enables fans to place orders from smart-phones and have concession food and drinks delivered directly to their seats.
Working with Aramark, which provides order filling and delivery, SportSnax launched in March, with service available to all fans located in the stadium’s chairback seating sections.
Aramark is the national foodservice contractor that has provided on-campus dining services at MSU since 2007.
By pointing their phone’s browser to website www.dawgsnax.com, hungry fans may both view a menu and place their order without downloading an app or pre-registering. In addition to the cost of food or drink, a $1-$2 convenience fee is applied.
Payne, a 2010 MSU accountancy graduate from Ocean Springs, is CEO and CFO of SportSnax parent company, Blue Ocean Communications LLC. Payne also holds an MBA from Delta State University.
“It seemed like I had to make a choice when I wanted to eat during sporting events,” Payne said, in explaining the thought process that led to the birth of the new business.
“Did I want to see the next drive that could contain a game changing play or did I want to satisfy my hunger cravings?” he continued. “I wanted both, but there was no way to accommodate this desire.”
Payne proudly notes that the average order-delivery time is less than five minutes with SportSnax.
His business partner, Hill , is a 2012 MSU industrial and systems engineering graduate from Sterlington, La. While still in high school, Hill founded HillTech, a web development and management company that grew to support clients in 16 states before being bought out after five successful years. Now, he is COO and senior system architect for Blue Ocean Communications.
Payne and Hill met as MSU students, finding via Facebook that each had an interest in entrepreneurship. The resulting friendship is centered on their mutual business inclinations.
“Daniel is exceptional at developing firm business strategy behind a good idea, while my strength is in conceptualizing and design of the system and scalability,” Hill said.
Courtney Bryant, Aramark/MSU Dining’s marketing manager, said “SportSnax allows us to enhance the fan experience by offering a delivery service through the utilization of cutting-edge technology. We are proud to have the opportunity to bring this program to our fans.”
The technology has great potential and has run seamlessly thus far, she added.
Before launching SportSnax, Hill was completing the final semester of his bachelor’s degree curriculum. He approached the MSU Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board for guidance on implementation and marketing. As a student, he was eligible to apply for a small grant to help further the business through the Thad Cochran Endowment for Entrepreneurship.
The business continues to benefit from a team of MBA majors in MSU’s College of Business that help analyze the marketplace, competition and consumer behavior.
“We believe they have a great product and a strong management team that will enable them to be successful,” said Abby Thompson, entrepreneurship program coordinator in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.
Current MSU engineering doctoral student William C. Long, also of Sterlington, and aerospace engineering senior Nathan G. Byrd of Soso recently have joined SportSnax as regional operations manager and customer relations manager, respectively.
Bryant said at baseball’s season end, Aramark will review the delivery system to determine if they will utilize the system in the future or consider implementing SportSnax at other concessions venues.
Hill, adopting his COO mantle, said the business still is in its infancy, so customer feedback is critical to its continuing development and success.