Promoting the Association: Jeff Scudillo keeps NAC in motion
“Concessions are the backbone of the theatre industry. We implore our members and the concession industry as a whole to not be afraid to try new things and to always think outside the box.”
Those excellent words of advice come from Jeff Scudillo, the current president of the National Association of Concessionaires. “More often than not,” he reminds us, “concession products are being sold at a premium over what may be the same or a like item on the street. If you can provide a premium presentation and offer quality products and services, your patrons will be more likely to pay the premium price and feel better about their purchase decision.”
As our subsequent profiles will show, Scudillo is part of a long line of accomplished concession executives who have led this great organization. “As a member for the past 19 years, I can truly say that my association with this group, its members and the NAC staff has been an extremely important ingredient in the success of my business; and personally with many long-term friendships established along the way,” says the VP of special markets at The Promotion in Motion Companies.
As Scudillo prepares to hand the reins in 2015 to president-elect Terry Conlon, the head of concessions for the University of Illinois, the mission remains the same. “NAC continues to develop and to define its place in concessions as a whole… We are increasing awareness of the organization and of what NAC brings to the industry.
In addition to the Concession & Hospitality Expo, which “has been highly successful over the past four years” since NAC resumed organizing the annual convention on its own, “our biggest platform is obviously education.” Lauding the work of NAC’s director of education, Larry Etter, Scudillo provides additional details.
“We are working strongly with NATO on the theatre side, for example, including all the regions and their regional affiliates in order to help support education at their functions throughout the U.S. We are also expanding outside the country…with meetings and training seminars throughout the world. Right now, our international membership typically is from the theatre industry—both exhibitors and product companies—and the really strong growth in regions including South America and countries like Russia and South Korea warrants a need for proper concession knowledge and training.”
Historically speaking, “NAC was heavily based on theatres until about ten years ago. Between our executive vice president Dan Borschke, Larry Etter and the entire board, we are trying to attract more people from the diversified side of the concession industry to our membership base, all the while designing and developing new programming specific to that class of trade. That’s happening as we speak.”
While we may all think of movie theatres first, the “diversified side” of NAC actually covers food and beverage operations at a wide range of facilities, he explains. On its website, NAC lists Stadiums & Arenas, Zoos & Aquariums, Colleges & Universities, Foodservice Contractors, Park & Recreation Departments, Amusement Parks & Family Entertainment Centers, Ice and Roller Skating Rinks, Racetracks, Bowling Centers, Outdoor Facilities, Convention Centers and Performing Arts Centers.
This diverse membership benefits theatrical exhibition too, Scudillo told FJI last July. “As theatres are getting more involved in not just typical concessions but food and beverage, as well as alcohol, they can tap into that knowledge base of many diversified concessionaires who have been doing this for years, whether it’s information about the designing of stands, working with manufacturers and the vendors that provide food and beverage for non-traditional concessions, or just overall promotion and marketing of these new pieces to their patrons.”
In his day job at The Promotion In Motion Companies, “primarily calling upon movie theatres, stadiums, arenas, airport gift shops and specialty retailers,” Scudillo has long experience with bringing new delights to moviegoers. Back in 1979-1980, company founder and chief executive officer Michael Rosenberg “was able to develop a pack of gummy bears that was made specifically for movie theatres. We really built the company on the backbone of our relationships with the theatres,” Scudillo gratefully acknowledges. “That’s where we cut our teeth in the sales and marketing of confectionery products. It is a great trial mechanism for our brands to be seen in theatres first. There are many instances where a retailer will find and try our products sold in a movie theatre and then begin carrying them in their stores as well. We do need to create a point of difference in the various retail channels. One of the things that we do is to market packs that are specific to each class of trade we do business with.” In addition to unique packs, he continues, “Promotion in Motion also designs and develops sales programs in support of our product brands and concession partners we sell to. We have the ability to create promotions for specific events and customers.”
Promotion In Motion was “primarily a sales and marketing operation” when Scudillo joined the company in 1995. “We had great brands and Michael Rosenberg is a very dynamic marketer. The company is now one of the top 100 largest candy companies in the world. Our primary production facility, which opened in 2006, is located in Somerset, New Jersey. Here we produce many of our sour items, fruit snacks and gummy-type products. We also have a panning operation at this location, used for the production of our Welch’s Fruit n’ Yogurt Snacks, as well as our Bake Shoppe Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Miniatures, to name a few.” In general, the product line is made up of both proprietary brands like the latter—along with Sour Jacks, Nuclear SQworms and Buddy Bears gummies—as well as additional licensed items from Welch’s, My M&M’s, Sunmaid and Fisher.
“When we introduced Welch’s Fruit Snacks, it was our first entry into the better-for-you snacking category,” he elaborates, “and that category continues to grow. We continue to add items on the better-for-you side whether that is under the license of Welch’s or with other branding concepts.” One of those healthier items might be particularly popular in the southern parts of the country. “Pickles in movie theatres,” Scudillo exclaims when asked about any more unusual snacks. But when it comes to snacking, he calls himself “a purist who goes for the large popcorn and large bottle of water and Welch’s Mixed Fruit Snacks.”
Speaking of “going for it,” what is Scudillo’s take on the latest self-service initiatives that have theatre concession stands becoming more like convenience stores? “When you have the opportunity to grab something, the tendency is to actually grab more than if it is behind the case. Theatres have been very smart in how they promote brands. Whether it is behind the case or self-serve, they are making sure that the customer is aware of what’s out there, aware of what promotions are available and how to get the right products in the hands of the right consumers.”
In closing, Scudillo shares another piece of advice. “In the theatre space, the key to successful sales is the speed of service at the concession stand. You want to get as many people as possible through the stand, as quickly as possible, while offering quality products… It is important to try and put together formats that help move the customers through that line, but also to offer them brands, packs, products and sizes that the consumer wants and trusts."