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What's your 2 cents on DECC going cashless?

Executive Director Dan Hartman takes to Facebook to gather input as the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center explores its options to shorten lines.

The DECC from the air.
The DECC and Amsoil Arena on Aug. 4.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — As the event industry comes back to life following two years of pandemic-related shutdowns, "going cashless" is a growing trend among venues across the U.S.

Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Executive Director Dan Hartman recently attended the International Association of Venue Managers
conference in Phoenix, Arizona. During a panel, Hartman was surprised to learn that two-thirds of fellow attendees already opted for cashless transactions at their venues.

Among the reasons for doing so were to speed up lines and increase revenue. If customers can make it through food and beverage lines faster, they have more time to patronize other concessions, Hartman said.

Tomato basil soup is one of the new concessions at Amsoil Arena. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com
Tomato basil soup has been one of the concession menu items at Amsoil Arena.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

"At DECC, we have two stands that offer same thing. One line is 1.5 minutes long and other is 10 minutes. How do we move people around the arena more? Our focus is on how to get people what they want quicker, which allows people to try more things out because the quality of our concessions is great," he said.

Upon Hartman's return to Minnesota, DECC staff requested the Duluth event venue go cashless during a leadership meeting. However, prior food and beverage transactions of events at Amsoil Arena revealed more than 50% were cash, giving Hartman pause.

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After the internal conversation, he took to DECC's Facebook page on Monday to pose the question to followers: "As a means to move lines quicker, should we go to a cashless system at our concessions and beer stands?"

An outpouring of nearly 200 public comments resulted, with responses landing on both sides of the coin. Some were in favor of paying with plastic-only, while others vied to keep the cash option.

"There was such a wide range of viewpoints. Overall, people think it should be a good mixture of options. No matter what, we are going to have a better system with a goal to make shorter lines for parking, beer and food. It's our biggest negative guest experience, so we need to attack the long lines," Hartman said.

Another meeting with DECC Food and Beverage staff will convene to discuss all the feedback received. Hartman anticipates the DECC will reach an official decision on whether to go cashless within the next few weeks, prior to hockey season beginning in early October.

Amsoil Arena: Concession stands
The North Shore Landing is one of main concession areas. Each is named after a Northland landmark, and faces in the direction of that landmark.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

"Based on the feedback, I can guess that we are not going to go cashless," he said.

Going cashless would still allow guests to tip. If guests don't have a card to use, they can use cash at the box office to have the balance put on a concession card, which can be used at all locations.

Personally, Hartman prefers pre-order systems as secondary options for food and beverage, where customers pick-up their purchased items in a separate line. This "Fast Two" system saw success during the DECC's recent REO Speedwagon and Styx concert when adult attendees were able to purchase two beers with their ticket.

"I think in time, we will grow with those who want to expedite their purchases. Whatever we can do to make the customer experience better is our primary focus," Hartman said.

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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