Dining at the Movies: Leading circuits share their thoughts on the cinema cuisine revolution

Features
Cinemas Features

Going to the movies is a whole new experience today, thanks to the growing popularity of elaborate menus of hot foods, beer, wine and creative cocktails, whether served at in-house bars or restaurants or at your seat inside the auditorium. Film Journal International surveyed nine theatre circuits that have welcomed the movie-dining revolution and invited them to share their experiences—and their menus.

Jennifer Douglass

VP, AMC Dine-In Operations

AMC Theatres

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

We offer what we call full service (a server takes your order and provides service at the seat) and delivery to seat (orders are placed at the counter and delivered to the seat).

What are your top menu items?

Popcorn is always going to be a top seller, followed by the most popular categories in casual dining (burgers, chicken tenders, etc.).

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

We offer a line of signature cocktails, hard lemonades, martinis and margaritas that incorporate fresh ingredients and top-shelf liquor. They include mojitos, “Forbidden Fruit” (Ciroc Peach Vodka, Woodbridge Moscato and cranberry juice), “Watermelon Chiller” with Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka, Patrón Citrónge and watermelon puree, and Top Shelf Long Island Iced Tea (Grey Goose Vodka, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Bacardi Rum, Patrón Silver Tequila, triple sec, sweet-and-sour and a splash of cola).

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

The biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity—the dine-in business is still a new and growing segment of the exhibition industry. This means that there isn’t one right way to do it—each exhibitor in the space has the opportunity to put their own unique stamp on it, which is exciting. Relative to casual dining, the biggest challenge is the volume of business we do—restaurants can stop seating guests when the kitchen gets behind, but we don’t have that option.

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?

The sheer volume of the food we have to prepare is pretty impressive—and that food doesn’t cook or serve itself, so we also have much larger staff sizes compared to traditional theatres. The complexity of managing all of the moving pieces creates a more challenging workload.

What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

Alcohol licensing varies from state to state, city to city, jurisdiction to jurisdiction. You can’t apply a “one size fits all” approach to licensing. Additionally, it’s extremely important that if you’re going to get into the alcohol business, you take the responsible service of alcohol very seriously.

In instances where you’ve put in a bar, what type of feedback have you received from your patrons?

The bars have been incredibly popular with our guests—particularly our Movie Featured drinks.

Do the laws in the states where you operate mandate a full menu?

It depends on the state and city—some states like New York and New Jersey do, while others do not.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?

While we can’t release specific figures, it is an incremental cost and we look to ensure that our return on investment is proportional relative to the investment.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

We built our first two in 2008 and then didn’t build another for two years—we took that time to really understand how theatre and restaurant intersect and define the experience we wanted to offer.

How has in-theatre dining impacted your bottom line?

We just opened our 43rd dine-in location—we’ll let you draw your own conclusions!

 

Rob Novak

VP, Concessions & Food and Beverage

Marcus Theatres

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

We offer two in-theatre dining concepts, complete with in-auditorium wait staff. The first is our Big Screen Bistro, which allows guests to enjoy dinner and a movie simultaneously with a complete menu featuring entrees, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, desserts and signature drinks.

Our newest in-theatre dining concept is BistroPlex, which opened in June 2017. We refer to BistroPlex as “the restaurant that serves movies” because of its combination of culinary creations with a local flair and in-theatre dining experience offered in all eight auditoriums. We created this concept for guests who seek a wider entertainment offering; they specifically enjoy the marrying of dining on an entrée while watching a movie. This food-first approach extends into a separate, full-service bar and lounge that offers the same amazing menu as our in-theatre dining service.

What are your top menu items?

Some of our most popular items include our gourmet smash burgers, specialty sandwiches, chicken tenders and Zaffiro’s® handmade thin-crust pizza. We also offer hearty salads, savory entrees and ethnic-inspired dishes, such as our Asian Pork Banh Mi sandwich. Along with these culinary creations, we continue to offer popcorn, candy and soda, as guests still appreciate the opportunity to order traditional movie fare.

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

We currently offer 15 unique mixed drinks that cater to both men and women of all tastes. This includes everything from new twists on classic drinks like margaritas to fresh takes on cocktails that are on trend, such as our variations of the Moscow Mule—the “American Mule” and “Strawberry Mule.” We have fun creating attractive drink offerings.

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

The biggest challenge is fluctuation in volume—in the era of reserved seating, guests tend to show up right before the movie, leading to a lot of orders being generated in a short amount of time. As such, we are continually fine-tuning our operations at both our Big Screen Bistros and BistroPlex to find the optimal service for our guests.

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?

You need to have talented servers as well as professional kitchen staff that are not only able to execute on the menu, but also cater to the expectations of our guests and our company. It’s also critical to have friendly wait staff that are adaptable and understand that serving in a movie theatre is not an exact replication of serving in a dining room. Despite challenges like stairs, high concentration of orders and limited guest interaction, they must maintain fantastic customer service at all times.

What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

Today’s consumer desires expanded options in their movie theatre, which includes the ability to purchase beer, wine and mixed drinks. Municipalities may have trepidation about offering liquor licenses to exhibitors. However, it should be made clear and known to the municipality that, as the seller, you take on a tremendous amount of responsibility in selling alcoholic beverages.

In instances where you’ve put in a bar, what type of feedback have you received from your patrons?

Feedback has been very positive, with guests noting that they appreciate the dedicated space of a bar or lounge. Traditionally, movie theatres didn’t include gathering places with a purpose. Now, we give our guests a comfortable, welcoming space to grab appetizers before a movie or mingle over drinks after the show.

Beyond the separate bar and lounge offered in BistroPlex, all of our Big Screen Bistro locations include a Take Five Lounge, which brings a casual, relaxing atmosphere to the lobby—plus a full menu with meal, appetizer and beverage options. Guests are also embracing the idea of hosting group outings, watching live sporting events in the bar of the BistroPlex or in our Take Five Lounge.

Do the laws in the states where you operate mandate a full menu?

The laws are mandated on a state-by-state basis. In addition to following these laws, we assess the marketplace demographics and consumer preferences at each of our locations prior to moving forward with in-theatre dining concepts like Big Screen Bistro and BistroPlex, full-service restaurants like Zaffiro’s® pizzerias, or lounges like the Take Five.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?

Installing a full kitchen has a significant capital cost from both an equipment standpoint as well as a code-compliance standpoint. Your kitchen investment is tied directly to how expansive your menu is and how many guests you are attempting to serve.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

Make sure you properly plan and allocate resources from a menu perspective, an execution perspective, a capital-cost perspective and a talent perspective. To truly be successful in in-theatre dining, it’s imperative that you are equipped to deliver high-quality food and drinks and tremendous customer service at or above restaurant level at all times.

 

Justina Walford

PR Outreach & Support

Studio Movie Grill

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

Full service in-theatre dining and bar with a made-to-order American Grill menu.

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

We have periodic limited-time specialty cocktails that go with our movies, like the Wonderita for Wonder Woman and the “Golden Circle” we created with Kingsman: The Golden Circle with Old Forester Statesman bourbon.

In our evergreen menu, we have Adult Spiked Shakes like the Creamy Caramel Macchiato with Three Olives Espresso Vodka, Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka, Coffee, and Caramel; margaritas like the XL Prosecco Rita with Gold Tequila and Maschio Prosecco Sidecar; and many others like the XL Caribbean Hurricane with Cruzan Silver Rum, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and tropical fruit juices.

What are your top menu items?

Our most popular items include the Coconut Chicken Tenders, house-breaded with honey mustard dipping sauce, and our Buffalo Chicken Pizza with red hot chicken, bacon, creamy Colby cheese sauce and blue cheese drizzle. Our most popular dessert is the Brownie Sundae with Ghirardelli Chocolate, vanilla and triple chocolate ice cream, and cinnamon chips. As part of our outreach, we also have select menu items where SMG donates five percent of the proceeds from Chefs for Children menu items to local charities serving special-needs children.   

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

One large challenge is balancing managing a restaurant and a movie theatre under the same roof. And some of the biggest challenges are not isolated to in-theatre dining. Recruiting and hiring the best people to operate and develop our team members is the most critical piece in establishing consistency in the brand. The ability to build a winning team is a blended effort of internal development, promotion and attracting external talent.

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?



As in many foodservice operations, that is the million-dollar question. Staffing to meet and exceed the guest experience is a process we take very seriously. When you offer a wider variety of food and beverage offerings, the demand and skill to manage costs and labor grow exponentially. Training then becomes the difference-maker in productivity and retention. 

What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

There is a substantial amount of responsibility and liability involved in alcohol service. Many states, counties and cities have different laws that pertain to the service of alcohol. Training and supervision are essential to ensuring your brand is knowledgeable and protected.

What is your percentage of sales from alcohol?  

Movie content does contribute to sales volume in this area. Another factor is having creative, crave-able liquor, beer and wine offerings for our guests. Our drinks that we create specific to the films are creative ways to bring in an audience with a specialty cocktail.

What type of feedback have you received from your patrons about your bars?

We have amazing feedback. People love having a drink while waiting on a friend or after the movie to talk about what they just saw. The bar is a large piece of our restaurant and lobby as a welcoming communal space to be utilized before, during and after a screening. 

Do the laws in the states where you operate mandate a full menu?

Each local municipality has unique rules as it relates to bar or alcohol service in a theatre. We take these very seriously and adhere to all local mandates. On that note, SMG has been extremely well received and new cities have provided special-use permits to allow us to open.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?  

Kitchen construction costs are directly related to the size and scope of the operation. The evolution of the menu and additional equipment should be considerations in the design and ability to expand the kitchen footprint.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

In-theatre dining is currently the fastest-growing segment in film exhibition. It’s worth the investment. All the challenges pay off when the guest is happy, so execution is what sets you apart. Service is key. The guest journey has to be the top priority. For Studio Movie Grill, we also add a focus on creating a positive wake in the communities we serve. Our mission is to Open Hearts and Minds, One Story at a Time, and we do that through focused community outreach.

How has in-theatre dining impacted your bottom line?

As the leader and innovator in the segment, we haven’t done it any other way at Studio Movie Grill.

 

Sarah Van Lange

Director of Communications

Cineplex

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

We offer in-theatre dining at our 17 VIP Cinemas locations across Canada. VIP Cinemas are a luxurious entertainment experience available exclusively at select Cineplex theatres. They are open to adults only and offer menu service at your seat, licensed auditoriums, a private licensed lounge and a dedicated box office. They also offer an expanded food and beverage menu which includes appetizers, mains, desserts, wine, craft beer, spirits, and premium handcrafted cocktails. 

What are your top menu items?

We offer a range of delights that appeal to all appetites, but some of our recent top menu items have included poutine, tacos, burgers, charcuterie, churros and popcorn cauliflower (made with actual movie popcorn!).

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

Our VIP Cinemas offer an assortment of premium craft beer and a wide selection of wine, including a reserved wine list at certain locations. Our premium handcrafted cocktail menu includes a Showtime Caesar, Old Fashioned, Dutch Mule, Drink Pink, Tommy’s Margarita, Coconut Refresher, Ciroc La Piña and Spiced Mojito. 

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

The biggest challenge from an operations perspective with in-seat dining is coordinating film schedules and aligning them to the timing of service. As we don’t offer in-seat dining while the film is playing, often there is a very short window between taking our guests’ order and fulfilling them.

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?

Timing of service before a film begins can be a challenge, but as Canada’s largest film exhibitor we’ve got a good system in place. We schedule our staff based on film products and the day of the week.

What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

Our alcohol service is fully compliant with all local and provincial legislation and ensures the safe service of alcohol across our network.

In instances where you’ve put in a bar, what type of feedback have you received from your patrons?

Our guests love our fully licensed lounges. Guests are no longer just going to the movies, they’re experiencing a one-stop shop where they can socialize before and after a film. Our lounges have a full-service menu and our guests enjoy the ability to dine at their leisure with the option to continue their meal in the auditorium. We also have TVs in our lounges for additional content, which has been a real hit.

Do the laws in the provinces where you operate mandate a full menu?

Provincial laws in Canada do not mandate that we offer a full menu, but we are obligated to offer food with alcohol.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?

Aside from equipment costs, the addition of a kitchen doesn’t significantly impact the cost of construction. The cost is relative to the entire build spend and really depends on the footprint of where we’re building.

 

Danny DiGiacomo

VP of Marketing

Movie Tavern, Southern Theatres

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer? 
Movie Tavern is a full-service in-theatre dining experience offering a wide variety of menu options and craft cocktails delivered right to your seat at the touch of a button. 

What are your top menu items? 

The Game Day Platter is Movie Tavern’s signature sampler, featuring three jumbo sliders, wings in your choice of sauces—Buffalo, BBQ, Lemon Pepper or Chipotle Glaze—and bacon cheese fries. It’s served with ranch, bleu cheese and ketchup. Our Balsamic Bleu Burger is a peppered and grilled fresh ground burger topped with balsamic marinated red peppers, bourbon onions, bleu cheese crumbles, arugula and crispy onion strings. And Chicken and Waffles is a golden Belgian waffle with house-battered chicken tenders, served with gravy and maple syrup.

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

Movie Tavern’s full bar offers a variety of classic and craft cocktails, beer and wine.We also have fun with specialty drinks by launching limited-time offers such as movie-themed cocktails, and “adult milkshakes” which include a mixture of popular spirits and creative flavor profiles served up cold and creamy. Favorites include the Blue Thing Margarita(Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, Blue Curacao and our own special frozen margarita mix), Caramel Salted Pretzel Shake, a sweet and salty vanilla shake spiked with Stoli Salted Karamel and topped with whipped cream and a pretzel stick, and Frozen Arnold Palmer, madewith Seagram's Sweet Tea Vodka and frozen lemonade mixture.

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?
One of the challenges to in-theatre dining is the execution of unobtrusive food and beverage service in low lighting. Movie Tavern has an extensive training program that gives our team effective tools and techniques to ensure our guests have a seamless and positive in-theatre dining experience.

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?
An in-theatre dining auditorium generally requires a larger team which includes a few key positions: servers and runners, as well as a back-of-house kitchen team. Think of it as seating and servicing an entire restaurant at once!

What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

It is essential to understand the local alcoholic beverage laws, which can vary by market and location. It is critical that the local team is staffed and trained properly to ensure adherence to requirements and certifications required by law.

What is your percentage of sales from alcohol?

On average, one-third of our total F&B sales are from alcohol sales, but it varies depending on limited-time offers, movie genre and time of year.

What type of feedback have you received from your patrons about your bars?

Generally, our guests like to spend time before or after the movie to enjoy a cocktail or snack. We also host private events in the bar area, as well as a weekly trivia night and open-mic night, depending on location.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?
Kitchen costs can vary quite a bit depending on the number of screens and seats the theatre houses. There are FF&E costs [Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment] to consider in order to execute fast and efficient at-your-seat foodservice.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

Do your homework. In-theatre dining, essentially, adds a restaurant and bar component to the traditional moviegoing experience, and it requires a variety of skilled team members, certifications and strict adherence to local laws, not to mention challenges with execution.

How has in-theatre dining impacted your bottom line? 
In-theatre dining is our specialty. Providing great amenities and food and beverage service is a proven differentiator and has a positive impact on our bottom line. We provide an overall entertainment experience that goes beyond just a great movie presentation.

 

Patrick J. Micalizzi

Assistant VP, Food and Beverage

National Amusements

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

We offer an array of dining options, depending on location. All theatres have a robust fare of traditional concessions and hot foods. Many feature quick-service outlets which include a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Famous Famiglia Pizzeria, Pretzel Depot Hand Rolled Pretzels and our Café de Lux proudly serving Starbucks Coffee. About half of our U.S. cinemas have a lobby restaurant with a full casual-dining menu and bar. A select group of our cinemas offer our Lux Level premium experience, which includes dine-at-your-seat service with a full restaurant and bar menu. Guests use a call button on the seat to request service and our wait staff will provide food and cocktail service throughout the feature. Recently, we have added stunning lobby bars to several locations that allow guests to enjoy a beer, wine or a handcrafted signature cocktail and take it right to their seat. We certainly offer something for everyone.

What are your top menu items?

Popcorn is and always has been our number-one selling item. However, we give popcorn a run for the money with our casual-dining offerings. While we do offer full entrees at our dine-in locations, burgers, salads, sandwiches and appetizers are the top performers. In fact, our appetizer-sharing platter served in a bento box is easily our number-one selling restaurant item.

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

We have a very creative signature cocktail menu featuring premium spirits and fresh juices. Some of our most popular cocktails are our Hand Crafted Ultra-Premium Margarita, the Pomegranate Lemon Drop Martini and our Tito’s Mule made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Of course, our beer and wine selections prove equally as popular.

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

Staffing and consistent service when attendance is not nearly as consistent. Depending on season, film product, etc., your “restaurant” can see wild swings in volume of business. Being able to deliver that top-notch experience for six guests or 600 guests can certainly prove challenging. Of course, quietly serving meals in the dark took a little getting used to as well…

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?

Staffing for a dine-in environment is certainly a departure from traditional concession stand staffing. We seek out and hire restaurant and kitchen professionals as if we were the local restaurant. Workload increases—especially in kitchens that feature a “from scratch” menu. But, of course, the average guest check rises as well—keeping that labor number to an acceptable level.
What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

Embarking on alcohol service for the first time can be overwhelming. Consult with the professionals. From legal advice to distributor relationships to staff recruitment and training to crafting a good menu, there are many moving parts and, in a sense, it can be a business all its own. Adding an adult-beverage offering can be a significant part of your revenue. Invest in doing it well and follow all the rules. It is a lot easier to build the program well up front than having to course-correct once the beer is flowing. Applying for and acquiring liquor licenses can be the most challenging piece of startup. Every state is different and, more so, every issuing town/city within that state has a process by which they consider you as a worthy candidate for that license. Follow all the rules regarding the safe serving of alcohol. There are great programs out there that provide the knowledge and training that your staff will need to serve responsibly. Developing relationships with liquor manufacturers and distributors is also key. Building partnerships with liquor manufacturers, vineyards and breweries is also a great way to get the most out of your bar program. Most offer services on menu development and support for menu printing.

In locations where you serve alcohol, what is the percentage of sales from alcohol?

This varies by location, amenities and, believe it or not, the film mix playing in the cinema at the time. Safe to say, we do a fair amount of bar business and it complements the food offer appropriately.

In instances where you’ve put in a bar, what type of feedback have you received from your patrons?

Guests truly enjoy what we have built for them. Having a glass of wine while watching a movie is something that many find enjoyable. In the planning stages, we received some comments expressing some concern for introducing liquor into a cinema environment. Today, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. In fact, many of our sources of online feedback often include “and they have a bar!” Our guests have welcomed the addition and have embraced it.

Do the laws in the states where you operate mandate a full menu?

The rules vary by state and even by municipality. Since we have such a robust offering in cinemas, meeting those requirements was not a far stretch for us. We do offer food more substantial than just concessions fare in all locations where alcohol is served.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?

Building a kitchen is a big undertaking and a tremendous expense. We weigh out the kitchen build-out and associated costs when deciding whether to proceed with a particular project or not. The square footage, utilities, rent and long-term expense of operation are also key factors. Kitchen technologies have advanced such that a traditional restaurant kitchen of a decade or two ago can easily be streamlined and made smarter, less costly and more efficient through newer equipment such as ventless fryers, panini presses and combination ovens. In any case, a kitchen buildout is a significant and ongoing expense.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

Be thorough in your analysis and scrutinize the return you expect to get from the project. Dine-in is not for every location. Do it right. Invest in the proper configuration of a kitchen, the best POS technology and the hiring of top-notch restaurant staff. Exhaust all of the necessary training opportunities including Alcohol Awareness Training and Safe Food Handling certifications. TipS (Training for Intervention Procedures) training for all service staff is a must in most jurisdictions but a smart investment even if not mandated. Lastly, listen to your guests. Your first menu may not be a lasting menu. Your guests will quickly tell you what is working and what needs to change. Around our office, we joke that our first menu should have been written in pencil because it changed almost immediately.

How has in-theatre dining impacted your bottom line?

There are added expenses that come with adding dine-in service. Profitability will never be that of a core concession offer. However, in the right location, with a great menu and a fantastic staff, profitability is certainly achievable. Each of our dine-in experiences is meeting its financial goals.

 

Larry Etter

Senior VP

Malco Theatres

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

We offer a wide range of menu items that have a hand-to-mouth type of practicality: burgers, quesadillas, chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, fireball shrimp, fried wontons, toasted ravioli and much more.

What are your top menu items?

Surprisingly, people still make popcorn number one and nachos number two. Beyond that, our number-one selling item is a fruit and cheese tray or sausage and cheese tray; next is the reliable pizza.

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

Currently we offer a wine of the month, craft beers and try not to advertise alcohol spirits (we do sell them, but with a sensitivity to alcohol awareness).

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

Service! Service times, managing staff and payroll cost; the space required for these operations is much greater than a concession operation.

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?

It has made it complicated. This industry is attempting to be like the restaurant industry; however, in the restaurant industry you have continuous service, whereas in the cinema industry you could have as many as 500 food orders in 45 minutes and then nothing for two hours. That’s the challenge, staffing for a huge sales push, then nothing for hours.

What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

Risk vs. reward: What makes cinemas different is that a restaurant has a bartender or server watching over the audience constantly. This allows for supervision. Theatre owners supply alcohol to their patrons and then leave them unsupervised. Also, a restaurant is serving food as its primary effort and alcohol is a secondary revenue stream. In cinemas it is very easy for a patron to consume alcohol without food substance, making it easier to be intoxicated.

In locations where you serve alcohol, what is the percentage of sales from alcohol?

In most situations, less than 10 percent. We do have a few independent art houses where the percentages are double that. We still sell a lot of popcorn and soda.

In instances where you’ve put in a bar, what type of feedback have you received from your patrons?

In nearly every case, positive remarks. However, the responses are tainted in that the people that are drinking alcohol are the ones being asked. I have seen statistics that show 13 to 15 percent of theatregoers like alcoholic beverages served; reverse the lens, 85 percent don’t care one way or the other. Of those 85 percent, 85 percent say they will not take their kids to a theatre that sells alcoholic beverages.

Do the laws in the states where you operate mandate a full menu?

Not all. Tennessee is much stricter requiring a full menu; Mississippi, just a menu, Arkansas likewise. In Louisiana, simple foods like pizza work. All states are different. 

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?

It really depends on the menu, I have seen some theatre circuits spend one million dollars on kitchen equipment. We spend less than six figures. Most people I talk to spend 200k or more.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

Get out of the movie theatre management mentality. You must run the entire operation like a restaurant. Be prepared to double your cost of goods, direct expenses, and increase labor cost 100 percent (at least double what a typical theatre operates at).

How has in-theatre dining impacted your bottom line?

It has caused an increase in cost of goods, hiring more employees with more experience at higher rates of pay. The ultimate outcome is yet to be determined, but we are trading popcorn for burgers. More to follow?

 

Ramón Ramírez-Guzmán

Public Relations Director

Cinépolis

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

Casual-dining reduced offer (like sliders, baguettes, croissants, sushi, quesadillas, salads and snacks), and candy shop and cafeteria (sweet and salty crepes, specialty coffees, frappes and smoothies, teas and pastry).

What are your top menu items?

Baguettes, sodas, combos and VIP meals (sliders, sushis, quesadillas, salads and snacks).

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

Blended and espresso beverages, cocktails and spirits.

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

Constant innovation in food and beverages. VIP product differentiation offering.

How has in-theatre dining impacted your staffing and workload?

We have efficient training processes that help our staffing to assure standardization. All our products are adapted to be prepared in this operation model.

In locations where you serve alcohol, what is the percentage of sales from alcohol?

It represents ten percent of total sales.

In instances where you’ve put in a bar, what type of feedback have you received from your patrons?

It´s a unique VIP experience. It helps people to relax and have a good time.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?

All Cinépolis VIP complexes have an industrial kitchen, which represents five percent of the total investment.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

Having efficient processes, so you can finish all the orders in an audit in 20 minutes.

 

Francisco Schlotterbeck

CEO, Silverspot Cinema USA

What kind of in-theatre dining service do you offer?

We have servers to take orders from 15 minutes prior to the showtime up until the previews start to show. Our service is done all with disposable packaging.

We also offer F&B sales through our app when doing a movie booking—this way, our customer just has to arrive and we will deliver the meal to their seat.

What are your top menu items?

Top sellers are cheeseburgers, flatbreads, chicken tenders, pretzel bites, French fries, crispy chicken sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, beef sliders, lobster rolls and Caprese sandwiches.

What kinds of specialty drinks do you offer?

We offer a variety of cocktails, wine, IPAs, local breweries, etc.

What are the biggest challenges of an in-theatre dining operation?

For Silverspot it has been the perfect balance between programing and staffing. Also, our theatres were not designed with in-theatre service; therefore, it was a challenge with the infrastructure.

How has this impacted your staffing and workload?
It has a great impact on our payroll, more supervision, training, kitchen equipment, layouts, etc.

What do exhibitors need to know about alcohol service?

All local laws and regulations, staff certifications, responsible-vendor courses, etc.

In locations where you serve alcohol, what is the percentage of sales from alcohol?

Twenty percent.

In locations where a kitchen is mandated, what kind of cost does this add to the construction?

Between six and twelve percent—it will depend on the amount of screens and size of the theatre.

What advice would you give someone looking to start in-theatre dining service?

Define what kind of in-theatre service. Define the menu. Do an assessment of the kitchen space and equipment to serve the defined menu. Define the technology to use. Train and hire qualify F&B managers and servers. And define service paths and revise infrastructure obstacles.