48 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Once guests are in their seats and
the event has started, basketball
games and concerts tend to be
incredibly enjoyable experiences.
However, sometimes getting to
that point can be frustrating.
The queuing process into the
venue can be slow and confus-
ing. Once guests are inside,
standing in line for concessions
becomes an arduous process, and
often when they get to the front,
items are out of stock.
Thats why a team of industrial
engineering students from the
Georgia Institute of Technology
approached officials at State Farm Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks of the National Bas-
ketball Association and more than 50 other events annually, about re-engineering the guest
experience. The three main facets of the experience investigated were ingress, concessions
and inventory management.
Consider the ingress process. Many fans take public transportation to the arena and en-
ter through the nearest gate. They get off the escalator only to see lines backed up all the
way from the arena entrance to the escalator exit, creating a major safety hazard. For many
guests, it can look as if lines are barely moving.
The engineering team took these frustrations and redesigned the gate to mitigate the
safety concern and reduce wait times. Using simulation software, they designed a system
in which attendants organize guests into a single line as they step off the escalator. Having
only one line more evenly distributes guests across all the ticket scanners, thus quickening
the pace of the line.
Implementing this system conrmed the simulation-based expectations that the time
waiting in lines would decrease and attendants would have more control over guest flow.
This success motivated the team to apply a version of this design at other heavily used gates.
After noticing that gate usage varies across the arena, the team decided to further improve
the process and designed a system to display wait times at all gates. Guests could then move
to other gates where times are shorter.
At the end of the line, customers reach ticket scanners that are potentially confusing.
Many guests have tickets loaded on their smartphones, but the scanners are not set up in-
tuitively. Often guests will fruitlessly attempt to scan their tickets until the nearby attendant
offers to do it for them.
Georgia Tech team seeks to improve
guest experience at Atlanta arena
Solutions in practice by Preet Shah,
Shyam Patel, Shamsya Khan, Amanda Baden,
Ingrid Cai, Deepak Rao and Arif Siddiqi
case study
A team of researchers from Georgia Tech included (front
row from left) Preet Shah, Deepak Rao and Shamsya Khan;
(back row from left) adviser Seong-Hee Kim, Shyam Patel,
Arif Siddiqi, Amanda Baden and Ingrid Cai.
July 2019 | ISE Magazine 49
To solve this issue, the team designed
signage to demonstrate how guests
should orient their phones. With all of
these redesigns and recommendations,
arena guests can expect to save 60,000
hours per season.
Once in the arena, many guests head
to concession stands. Generally, wait
times there are close to 12 to 15 min-
utes, which can be a long wait when a
quarter of a pro basketball game is 12
minutes. Rather than ordering a full
meal, some visitors just want popcorn,
candy or soda. Since the lines are so
long, many decide not to get any con-
cessions at all.
To combat this issue, the team used
simulation software to design an ex-
press lane that would streamline the
process for guests who want simpler
foods. With its implementation, guests
who wanted only snacks and drinks
saw up to a 90% decrease in their wait
times. The Hawks saw throughput at
each of these concessions stands in-
crease by an average of 39%.
Additionally, the current order ful-
llment process at many stands is a
food-rst, pay-second model. After
waiting in line, guests would order
food, receive it, recite their order to
the cashier and pay. The team created
simulations to switch some concession
stands to a pay-first model. Under this
model, a customer could order food,
pay and another attendant would give
them the order.
Where there was room for an ad-
ditional guest queue, the team recom-
mended mixed models that include
an express lane and the change in the
order fulllment process. The simula-
tions and trials of these recommen-
dations resulted in a decrease in wait
times and improvements in both guest
experience and the Hawks’ bottom line
via higher throughput.
The final aspect examined was inven-
tory management. Guests often wait
through the entire concessions line only
to reach the front and find that the food
they wanted was unavailable. When this
occurs, they can either wait until the
food is remade or pick something else.
To combat this issue, the team examined
the restocking process of popular food
items at concession stands. The arenas
current restocking model is time-based:
Every 15 minutes some amount of stock
should be prepared.
The team generated new restock-
ing points to meet a 95% fill rate (the
percentage of people who do not ex-
perience a stockout). The engineering
team used traditional (Q,R) inventory
policies and verified them using simu-
lation models. Along with easing the
frustration of guests, the recommen-
dations have a quantiable benefit for
the Hawks. Ultimately, having a higher
ll rate decreases service time, which
would decrease the number of people
who avoid a queue due to long lines,
and would increase throughput. This
increase in throughput is expected to
lead to an increase in revenue of about
In summary, the main success met-
rics in determining improvement in the
guest experience at State Farm Arena
addressed wait times, perceived wait
times, guest satisfaction and time in
system during ingress and at concession
stands. At the gates, the overall time
savings from the three ingress solutions
total 60,500 hours for the year. At con-
cession stands, the overall improvement
in concessions during the 41 home bas-
ketball games per season totaled 3,400
hours saved and an increase of up to
$157,000 in revenue for a single season.
These figures do not include conces-
sion stands for nonbasketball events due
to the inconsistency of concessions for
such events; therefore, the numbers an-
nually can be higher.
Inventory-wise, switching to the
new restocking policies could result in
an increased revenue of up to $85,400
per season.
Ultimately, the overall project de-
creases wait times by a collective
63,000 hours and increases revenue for
the Hawks by up to $240,000 per sea-
IISE member Preet Shah and his fellow
team members are students at the H. Milton
Stewart School of Industrial and Systems
Engineering at Georgia Tech.
The Georgia Tech team took on three guest experience challenges at State Farm Arena
in Atlanta: Long lines at the gates, long lines at concession stands and stock outages of
food items at the concessions.
Credit: Photos courtesy of Preet Shah