Sacramento Kings

Kings’ new cashless store aims to help Golden 1 Center fans skip the lines

The Kings are struggling with their pace as the season starts, but fans can now race through a new cashless convenience store to grab a beer or snacks at Golden 1 Center.

Zippin debuted Wednesday night at the southwest corner of the arena, directly in front of a main entrance. Customers can enter the shiny silver gates by inserting a credit card or scanning an app. They don’t have to do anything when they leave. If customers use the Zippin app, they get a receipt notification on their phone.

The result: It’s very fast.

A reporter’s trip Wednesday to wander around the store to take pictures, scan the snacks and purchase a bottle of water lasted 56 seconds.

That’s the whole idea, said Zippin co-founder Krishna Motukuri.

“Our stores are definitely for high-capacity, high-volume settings,” Motukuri said, nodding at the Golden 1 Center doors just 30 feet away. “We want fans coming to the game to enjoy the game, not waste 10 or 15 minutes waiting in a line.”

The store is small at about 300 square feet. There’s draft beer on the far side, with an employee handy to check IDs. A refrigerator case houses beers from local brewer Knee Deep as well as all the usual large-scale brewers – and of course, there’s White Claw. Fans can also get pre-made meals, sodas and water. Shelves offer Doritos and tins of popcorn made in the arena.

It all works because of a camera system mounted on a girder high above the store. The cameras track customers “like a dot on a map,” Motukuri said. There’s no facial recognition. The goal, Motukuri said, is to keep the technology unobtrusive and to respect people’s privacy.

For Kings President of Business Operations John Rinehart, the new store is a natural idea. There was some empty space near the entrance and this could help fans get what they want without making them stand in a line.

“This was just an empty space in the concourse where we thought we could add something to add to the fan experience,” Rinehart said. “We’re always looking for the next great thing.”

Motukuri smiled when he was asked what he was most proud of. This is the highest-profile store his 4-year-old San Francisco-based company has opened, but that’s not what made him smile.

“One of the things we’re really proud of is when we brought this from a lab to a working store front, it took six months to get everything right,” Motukuri said. “This store took four weeks.”

Now if they could just work on the team’s pace.

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James Patrick has covered the beer scene from Maine to California. (OK, mostly just those two.) He’s worked at newspapers in six states as a sports reporter, sports editor, social media editor and newspaper carrier. He’s as comfortable drinking a High Life as a wild-fermented raspberry sour.