- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

“There has to be an easier way,” Michael Jobe thought as he waited in a concession line for snacks, missing a touchdown by the home team, the University of Maryland Terrapins.

Frustrated after missing another big play, Mr. Jobe, then a senior at UMd.’s College Park campus, had an idea: Why not offer a service that lets customers place snack orders online and have their orders delivered directly to their seats?

One year later, First Down Mobile LLC was born.

Mr. Jobe’s fledgling company began offering its in-seat delivery service at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium this month. Customers who registered at FirstDownMobile.com were able to pre-order their food and beverages and specify during which quarter they wanted their orders delivered. First Down Mobile servers, wearing green aprons and equipped with insulated thermal bags, delivered the goods throughout the stadium on game day.

“With our service, fans do not have to worry about climbing stairs, bumping into people, waiting in long lines or missing any of the game,” Mr. Jobe said.

Premium customers can send text messages to First Down Mobile servers whenever they are ready for their orders to be delivered during the game.

Customers who opt for the company’s basic service pay an annual fee of $55. Premium-service customers with text-messaging privileges pay double.

“Oftentimes people get so tired of waiting in line for food and beverages that they give up,” Mr. Jobe said. “Not only will this technology increase the sales for university concessions and enable customers to have a better game experience, but it will also decrease long concession lines.”

Mr. Jobe, business partner Ryan Ples and friend Daniel O’Keefe first tested their idea at the 2008 Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship contest sponsored by the University of Maryland. Their business plan won first place and $833, which the 2008 UMd. graduates combined with their own savings to begin their company.

“We began developing a Web site. We mapped out the stadium to see exactly how this would work and successfully negotiated a deal with dining services,” Mr. Jobe said.

“We don’t stand in line and wait for the food,” he said. “We work directly with dining services. We have access to food and beverages before the people standing in line.”

With one minute left in the first quarter of the recent home football game against Middle Tennessee State University, Mr. Jobe and his team were ready. The laptop computer stationed at First Down Mobile’s headquarters indicated that Nick Celenza, a customer sitting in Section 19, Row QQ, Seat 26, had placed an order for two 32-ounce souvenir cups of Diet Pepsi to be delivered in the second quarter. Mr. Jobe, Mr. Ples and three servers watched the clock.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Mr. Jobe carefully tucked the beverages into thermal bags and walked briskly to Mr. Celenza’s seat. Mr. Jobe excused himself past three spectators and delivered the two beverages to Mr. Celenza’s wife, Melanie. Mr. Jobes’ servers-in-training took notes.

“I placed my order yesterday,” Mrs. Celenza said. “This service is so convenient. The drinks are nice and cold. Last week we ordered burgers. They were warm and fresh.”

Mr. Jobe and his partners wanted football fans at the University of Maryland to be the first to receive their service. They negotiated an exclusive agreement with the university so they won’t have to worry about competitors poaching on their turf. Now they hope to bring their brand of customer satisfaction to football fans at other universities.

“We would really like to see this type of service expand,” Mr. Jobe said.

The field is wide open.

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