Atlanta Falcons' Stadium Is Going Cashless to Keep Lid on Prices

(Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, rolled out the lowest food-and-drink prices in the league in 2017 to coax fans into buying more. Now it’s going cashless to help keep those prices low.

Starting March 10, the venue will only accept credit and debit cards and mobile pay methods, according to Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s AMB Group. The move will eliminate the costs of handling cash -- including security, physical cash drawers and reconciliation. It will also speed up transaction times at the register and give it more flexibility to adjust pricing.

“There is a significant amount of effort and cost that goes into the handling and accountability around cash that will get completely removed from the equation,” AMB Chief Executive Officer Steve Cannon said in an interview.

Atlanta Falcons' Stadium Is Going Cashless to Keep Lid on Prices

AMB says its pricing strategy is working. Average spending per fan in 2017 increased 16 percent from a year earlier, and spending levels last year were in line with 2017, the company said. Along with going cashless, the stadium is also cutting prices on five of its top-selling items. Hot dogs will drop 50 cents to $1.50, and chips and salsa will drop from $3 to $2.50. The prices will be in effect on March 10 when Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United team, also based at the stadium, plays its first home match of the season against FC Cincinnati.

Margin Friendly

Efforts to become more efficient, especially as inflation headwinds put pressure on costs, helped the company improve its profit margins by 15 percent last year from 2017, AMB said.

Yet the latest move may not sit well with fans who rely on cash. In 2017, almost 11 percent of Georgia households didn’t have bank accounts while 24 percent were considered “underbanked,” that is they may have a savings or checking account but prefer cash transactions, according to the FDIC.

To accommodate those patrons, the stadium will have about 10 machines where people can insert cash between $10 and $1,000 and get a prepaid Visa debit card, executives said.

AMB opted to start the cashless model during the soccer season. That sport attracts a younger, more tech-oriented fan base -- and they have reacted more positively to initial tests, Cannon said.

“We will have a lot of learnings under our belt,” he said. “If we have to make any adjustments or pivots, we will be able to do that before Falcons’ season begins.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.