Malco's maestro: Larry Etter brings love of education to concession operations


This month’s concession executive spotlight focuses on Larry Etter, senior VP of theatre service and food services for Malco Theatres, who plays a dual role of management in his own company and educational stewardship at the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC). As we continue this series, you will recognize this characteristic in many of our leaders. They engage in our industry in many different ways and we hope our profiles will help you see the big picture more clearly.

After graduating from Memphis State University, Larry Etter began his career in hotel food and beverage management for the newly opened Hyatt Regency Memphis and the Peabody Hotel. He extended his career path throughout the ’80s and ’90s by entering the recreational foodservice arena and renovated amusement parks and stadiums while working to build other facilities such as Memphis Motorsports Park. He received several awards during this time, including “Innovator of the Year” from Amusement Business in 1982 while at Mid-South Fair/Libertyland.

Larry entered the movie theatre business in 1997 when he joined Malco Theatres in Memphis, Tennessee. He started as director of concession services and grew his role within the company to include operations and leadership. As a senior executive with Malco, he has had the opportunity to build the business through significant negotiations, including sizeable soft drink agreements, and negotiating onscreen advertisement contracts and construction build-outs.

Larry has enjoyed added roles in supervision, as the administrator of training, auditor, principal of purchasing, and operations. Malco has experienced considerable growth from 212 screens to over 350 screens in the past 15 years, with an increase in attendance from four million patrons to an excess of nine million patrons. Larry has helped oversee the growth of 22 new theatre locations during his time at Malco.

Asked about the biggest challenge for food and beverage operations in movie theatres, Larry emphasizes “the ability to protect the integrity of the film presentation while integrating food choices and variety with emphasis on service, food quality, and value-added properties that make the entire experience more enjoyable than other recreational entertainment.”

The veteran Malco executive also has a deep love of education which has been demonstrated throughout his career. He has served as a consultant to many other theatre operators as well as foodservice groups. His consulting services also reach into the university level via alliances with Baylor University, the University of Mississippi and Auburn University. He has engaged in the development of a concession curriculum in universities and worked with Dr. Susan Hubbard at Auburn to create a three-hour accredited class in recreational foodservice management supporting a degree in Human Sciences.

Larry has served as president and chairman of the board for the National Association of Concessionaires and has been on its board of directors since 1993. His university consulting experience led to his recent appointment as the NAC’s director of education. He has assisted in building online programs for food safety, alcohol awareness and sexual harassment certification within the NAC portfolio. He also worked with Experia and NSF in developing the recreational foodservice food-safety exam specifically designed for concessionaires and contributed to the writing of the nationally certified manual for food safety by NSF.

Larry frequently speaks to groups in the industry such as CinemaCon, regional NATO chapters, and vendors. He has international experience including in-depth knowledge of the Russian cinema market and has led seminars in Istanbul, Turkey. He has also spoken at the Kino Expo conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, and participated in training programs for Asian exhibition operators at CineAsia in Hong Kong. He currently teaches a one-day accreditation class for recreational foodservice managers as well as a three-day Concession Managers Certification class for NAC and the ACS certification for suppliers and sales professionals. Larry also produced NAC’s first webinar series in 2012.

The Marcus exec has received many industry awards including the Bert Nathan Memorial Award at Showest 2003, the 2001 Outstanding Leadership Award from Tri-State Theatre Owners, and an Honorary Doctorate of Foodservice from the North American Foodservice Equipment Association in 2005. He was also presented the Mickey Warner Award by NAC (its highest recognition) in 2012 for his continuous contributions to the recreational foodservice industry. He has also just published his first book, The Concessions Class, with a few condiments, published by CreateSpace.

Larry Etter has been active, engaged, and truly a participant in the growth of the theatre industry. Asked about the most rewarding part of his career, his answer comes as no surprise: “The people I have met, all the people that have shared experiences and given their time so that I might expand my capabilities. It is remarkable the number of people with so many assets that have shared their expertise so that we might be more successful. I have been truly blessed to have met individuals from all walks of life: suppliers, manufacturers, peers and elders that allow me to interrupt their lives with my interest. Especially the principals at Malco, who allow me the independence to grow my intellectual capital and incorporate those best practices.”

Larry Etter lives in Memphis with his wife Gwen, and shares family time with his son Eric, 21, and daughter Taylor, 18. He has enjoyed his vocational journey and continues to do so.