Ambassador Extraordinaire: Barbara Aslan is always there for members of NAC

Cinemas Features

This month’s concessions spotlight is on one of the most beloved women in the industry, Barbara Aslan, director of operations and membership services for the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC). Ms. Aslan oftentimes goes unrecognized due to her preferred low profile, but everyone who knows her knows she carries the NAC torch from sea to shining sea. She exhibits that special can-do attitude that all trade associations envy. But she may be the most humble person you will ever meet.

Barbara was born and raised in Chicago and is proud of her heritage. Her passion is the trade association industry, as she loves people and loves helping them exercise their opportunities.

Barbara has spent nearly 14 years making NAC members’ lives a bit easier. In reality, while she serves as the administrator for new memberships, she spends most of her time solving problems or assisting members with their necessities. She is consistently the point person when it comes to registering NAC partners with trade shows, educational programs or travel schedules. Typically, she is the first person you speak with when contacting the NAC headquarters and she usually points the caller in the right direction with a soft, easy tone and sense of humor. She is the front person when entering the NAC structure, always welcoming the newest affiliate as if he/she were a member of her own family.

What is interesting about Ms. Aslan is that while she was born in Chicago, very few people know she went to Oscar Mayer Elementary School. Yep! Little Oscar was a frequent visitor, as was the wiener mobile. “You know the funniest thing that happened to me was when I was 20 years old I visited Disneyland and there he was: Little Oscar! After all those years, he didn’t remember me,” she laughs.

Barbara continued her undergraduate work at Amundsen High School and attended Mayfair Junior College. In her early years, her parents would travel to the East Coast regularly for family vacations. (Maybe this is why she has such an affinity for Libby Mauro and his Italian charm.) She still remembers when her aunt and uncle took her out West as a graduation gift—she has loved the West ever since! “Who doesn’t like seeing the mountains when you have grown up in the city?” she reminisces.

Barbara’s parents are first-generation Americans. She is compelled to honor them with words of praise, noting that they influenced her with great kindness while teaching a strong work ethic. “My parents were so grateful to be in the United States. Their parents were immigrants from Persia. Therefore, they knew a strong work ethic that they passed on to me… My father served in the Army Air Corps, hence I grew up in a disciplined environment of structure and respect. I have always been grateful for that influence.”  

Barbara recalls the start of her working career: “After high school, I went to work for Sears, Roebuck & Company, where I learned how great customer-service skills are important in any job you have.”

NAC was fortunate in 2003, since Ms. Aslan’s previous employer made a decision to leave the Chicago area. With no intention of leaving her mom and dad or her beloved Windy City, she was divided about whether to work in the association channel or transition to a hospital facility. She made the decision to accept a position at NAC. “I’m glad I choose NAC! I went to ShoWest a month after I was hired. I was so impressed by the NAC membership because of their close networking group.” She recalls the time she saw Warren Beatty, her favorite actor, at ShoWest: “While I did not get to meet him, at least we were in the same room together.”

Barbara sees the cinema industry evolving away from the traditional methods of concession services of her childhood. “There are so many food and beverage options now, and yet the movies are still one of the best entertainment values around. The challenge will be how theatres reinvent themselves to other types of events and meetings. The NAC Expo is always presenting new items in food and beverage to theatre chains as well as to other venues and other member companies.”

As the director of operations and membership at NAC, Ms. Aslan has close personal contact with all her constituents. She holds everyone’s hand and treats them as family, ensuring they get the full value from the Association. Furthermore, she adds the integrity so many associations espouse. She is upfront and honest with anyone who asks about NAC and sometimes directs them to a better fit. In truth, her expertise comes from her prevailing values of treating everyone the way she likes to be treated. She has become a pillar of excellence in the Association.

Barbara says that she enjoys the simple life. Growing up, she had a fondness for the world of photography, but she confesses that now that cellphones are a part of her life, that hobby has been put aside. She loves these United States and would rather see the multitude of cities inside its borders than travel abroad; however, she might visit London, England as a treat. Her favorite sporting event is baseball: “I have been a Cubs fan for a long time, and they were so bad it was hard. But now they are really good, so I am back on the bandwagon.”

It is easy to see why the NAC membership is on the Barbara Aslan bandwagon—she is a superstar in her own right!