Payment at the Oktoberfest: Time to Go Mobile?

 September 20th, 2018

The Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world: every year it attracts more than 6 million international guests to Munich, Germany. While the cheering crowd is enjoying the festival, the organizers and vendors keep making millions of revenue almost exclusively through cash transactions…until recently. Last year, the Oktoberfest made a huge step towards the digitalization of payments and, together with Blue Code, introduced a mobile payment solution specially designed for the “Wiesn”. But why did it take so long for such a huge event to digitalize payments?

Pay for a Beer with Cash Only?

On the payment world map, Germany is still marked as an “old-fashioned”, cash-preferring country, even though its economy is one of the strongest on the globe. 80% of all the money transactions in Germany are made in cash, comparing to 45% next door in the Netherlands. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston reports that, on average, every German carries twice as much cash in their wallet as a typical Australian or French. Such an affection to coins and paper currency lies in the core of German culture: they prefer to take control over their spending habits. With a credit card, it is easy to lose track of things. By using cash instead of plastic, Germans just try to avoid the situation of having a debt.


However, apart from the culture, there is another reason why card payments are not welcome on the festival: crowded Oktoberfest tents. Everyone who has been to the Oktoberfest already knows how packed the tents usually are. Whereas it is fun for the visitors, for the waiters it is a real challenge to elbow their way through hundreds of people and keep serving tables. With 6,9 M liters of beer consumed annually at the Oktoberfest, just imagine how hard and stressful this task can be. While supplying the guests with ample amount of beer, the personnel also needs to handle the payments immediately on the spot. It is not beneficial from a time management perspective as it takes time for a card to be processed and accepted and the waiters need to be fast in taking care of the visitors. Nevertheless, some Wiesn tents do already accept cards, but only in case of group payments.

Having Fun Without Thinking of Cash?

Yes, the year 2018 changes the payment game at the Oktoberfest and opens a possibility to pay for a Mass of beer with a mobile only. According to the motto “Mobile payment goes Oktoberfest”, Oktoberfest partnered with the Austrian payment service company Blue Code to offer an easier payment solution for Wiesn visitors.

The Oktoberfest app is available for free for Android and Apple. To pay with a mobile, the customer only needs to connect their bank account to the app. To make a payment, the app would generate a barcode which the personnel would need to scan. Tips can also be easily added to the transaction. The creators of the app claim that this way of payment is faster than paying with a card or cash. At the moment, the Oktoberfest app can be accepted in several tents and is also available in some shops outside the tents. However, the app users need to be adult EU citizens and have a German or Austrian bank account.

How is it Done at the Other Festivals?

Still, the idea to implement mobile payments at the Oktoberfest should have come up a couple of years earlier: other famous festivals already offer contactless payments via wearables. For example, this year’s Tomorrowland, a Belgian music festival, has presented a bracelet that enabled visitors to pay faster for food and drinks at the event. Even events that imitate the Oktoberfest offer more convenient, modern payment options to their guests. In 2016, the Oktoberfest Tour in Sweden has succeeded in providing their attendees with contactless and mobile payments. It might be the case that the Oktoberfest organizers have been inspired by the payment models of this kind of festivals and have finally decided to start catching up with the trend.

The solution to use a mobile app for payment at the Wiesn sounds reasonable and might be preferred by Generation Z. Nevertheless, it may not be used by elderly people, since there is a high probability that they are not familiar with this kind of technology and would stick with the familiar cash payments. What is more, it is not clear yet what impression the app will leave on the guests. With Oktoberfest 2018 coming soon, it’s high time to test the mobile payments at the Wiesn on your own.

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