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TOPIC: Questions on opening restaurant

Questions on opening restaurant 16 Jan 2007 19:22 #27110

  • Pieman
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This is food related, but not concessions, so not sure if this is the right place...anyway
Our cinema has an upstairs that used to be a restaurant. Nearly all the equipment is still there (ovens, grills, pots, pans etc..pretty much just missing crockery and wooden spoons) The reason it closed was lack of marketing and people just didn't want to walk upstairs as they felt they had committed themselves to buying.I would like to reopen it.
My question is, do you have a restaurant/cafe at your cinema? If so how does it run? is it full all the time? What marketing strategy do you apply to your restaurant? What sort of menu do have? Do you ever change the menu?
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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 18 Jan 2007 18:33 #27111

  • Cinemateer
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I would also love to hear responses to these questions. Thanks for asking, Pieman.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 26 Jan 2007 19:37 #27112

  • Mike
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I have been in the food/ restaurant biz. And did well and sold out. Up stairs is always hard especially if not in a thick market like NYC etc. However: if you give people what they want they will beat a path to your door. That said: restaurants are notoriously the highest % of failure in biz world as everyone thinks they know how to start-run a restaurtant and the truth is they do not. And nothing will teach you that faster than start-own one. If you are good and know what you are doing you may be one of the 10% who succeed but if you are not in that bright little pool of light you will suffer a slow and terrible fate.

Michael Hurley
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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 27 Jan 2007 08:53 #27113

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Boy, if that isn't the truth. My husband and I opened a small restaurant in the 1990's. It was a complete nightmare, and I had many years of restaurant experience. Working in a restaurant and owning one are two different things. It takes an enormous amount of planning, money, and time to make one a success. We found out pretty quickly that we weren't "restaurant people". Expensive lesson.
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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 27 Jan 2007 12:20 #27114

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I think Pieman's original question was geared more toward restaurants inside a theater in particular, not an independant establishment. It would pose unique marketing challenges, the menu would need to jive with the theater (just pizza?), etc. I'm also wondering things like do you let them take leftovers in the theater? Can they purchase a drink in the restaurant and take it in the theater (it would be cheaper than purchasing a drink from the concessions)? Do you keep the restaurant open when the theater is closed? Does the restaurant and theater share staff?

There is a Johnny Rockets next to a theater in Seattle that lets people purchase food and take it into the theater to eat. The theater has agreed to let people do this openly. It sure is nice to be able to order great food to go and eat it while watching your movie. We've gone back other times just because of this policy. There may be a financial arrangement between the two, I don't know.

Not many theaters have restaurants inside them, but for those that do, how is it working out? I think this is an additional revenue stream tactic that sounds like is gaining in popularity. After all, you've got the land, building, plumbing, heating, etc. there already. Having customers come for dinner and a movie in one spot certainly helps the restaurant survive as well.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 27 Jan 2007 18:13 #27115

  • Mike
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Two words : dinner and a movie. Okay maybe that's 4 words but clearly food and movies go together. We have, and all theatres have, a symbiotic relationship with area restaurants. People go out to eat before hand and afterwards and they go out for a drink or dessert afterwards a lot to. We are surrounded by 3-4 restaurants and they all clear out as the movies start and then fill back up as the films get out.

That said: it does not mean that all restaurants will be successful even, and maybe especially, if it is inside a movie theatre.

It all depends on how busy your location is, what your management and vision and execution of all of the above is. Every restaurant is a very complex undertaking and much more so than movie theatres. In the movies you can be a screwball and the product will still be reliable. In a restaurant it is all about you/vision/menu/style/lighting/decor/staffing/cleanliness/price/spoilage/theft/and on and on. It ain't a popcorn stand with candy bars. And it is not for amateurs though hundreds of thousands insist on trying it and a small amount succeed and we are all better off for it.

There is a reason that banks do not like to loan for restaurants/ more like will not loan. Because they have seen the numbers!



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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 27 Jan 2007 18:19 #27116

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Notice I am interested in this? There are plenty of restaurants in theatres and alongside theatres. Some you can take the food in and some you cannot. Some are seperate entries and some are all in one. Here in Maine there is a Reel Pizza 3 screen and they do quite well. They have a bingo board and when your number comes up alongside the screen :B-9 your food is ready and you take it back to your seats/table. It can be done/ it is done/ restaurants are serious undertakings and perhaps one of the most attractive and simple appearing to get into: hence the care and planning that is required. Every town and city and location is different. Do it right and it's a great idea, do it wrong and.............

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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 27 Jan 2007 23:44 #27117

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Yes, a very interesting topic. There have been several important questions raised already. Will food or drinks be allowed to be taken into the theater? Is the concept fairly simple, like pizza only, or will there be a full menu? Does the theater staff also work the restaurant? What are the hours of operation?

Still, it seems to me that Pieman has an advantage over many others who might consider adding this function to their theaters. He already has the facilities needed to get started. Not just the space to put it. He has everything. What else would he have to buy to give this a try? Maybe more insurance? Hire more staff? Buy more inventory?

If lack of marketing or fear of commitment to buy were the real reasons the restaurant didn't make it, then it seems to me that these obstacles would not be so difficult to overcome. How do you market your other products-- movie tickets and concession items? One way is through trailers and another is with posters. Do you think that a trailer advertising your own cafe upstairs is reasonable? What about a poster case with a nice poster or menu with prices? Or even newspaper or website or phone line advertisements or coupons. Seems to me that would alleviate some of the hesitancy to walk up the stairs. If people know what to expect, then they won't be afraid.

On the other hand, it seems to me that there may have been other reasons that the previous cafe failed. Were the prices right? Was the food good? Was the atmosphere enticing? Did the concept fit the theater? For example, if you are a discount house, I doubt many people will be willing to buy steak and lobster upstairs.

I tend to think that the simpler the concept the better it will work. Many cinema cafe type places in America tend to focus on pizza, sandwiches, and hamburgers. Others try to offer more choices. I think the more offerings you have, the more chances you have to get it wrong. Let's face it, your customers will probably be patronizing your cafe for one primary reason-- convenience. I'm sure some have succeeded by offering more choices and trying to offer the best food in town, but it sure does put more pressure on the business.

If you think there are too many pizza parlors, hamburger joints, etc. in your area, consider the reasons their customers patronize them. Do they go there because they have the best pizza or burgers around, or because the price was right and it was on their way? In either case, you have a chance to compete based on convenience. If you try to compete by having the best food, somebody can probably do better than you. If you compete based on convenience, you certainly stand a good chance of convincing some people that eating at the theater is the most convenient choice.

So, keep the prices reasonable and the concept simple. Advertise to your movie attending customers. Of course, you have to cover the basics of cleanliness, consistency, quality of product, and providing the correct atmosphere. After that, you will have probably overcome any previous handicaps and can compete on a fairly level playing field with the other cafes in your area.

Will that mean a big boost in income? Maybe not, but if you keep your costs down, then conversely it will not be too costly if you fail. It goes back to how much extra money is it going to cost you to try it? Can you afford to fail?

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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 28 Jan 2007 02:10 #27118

  • Pieman
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Thanks for all the responses..its certainly made me feel a lot more cautious.After reading about the pitfalls etc I would think a coffee and cake style cafe with a few other items (eg, soup and rolls in winter, sandwiches in summer) would be all i was looking for rather than a full blown restaurant. I guess if the call for more dinner type foods came up it could be addressed once the place was reopened. Thanks again..its given me a lot to work on
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Re: Questions on opening restaurant 28 Jan 2007 13:24 #27119

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As for marketing a theater restaurant, I think there are lots of unique options. You could always name the sandwiches/soups based on actors or movie titles, or offer a $1 off discount on a movie admission with the purchase of a full sandwich/soup combo. Having old movie memorabilia on display would be unique and interesting too (think Planet Hollywood).

And yes, I would agree that it would be good to start out small and if the market demands, you can always expand. I think many of the restaurants that fail right off the bat try to bite off more than they can chew (pun intended).

There are also theater restaurants that deliver food to patrons inside the theater during the movie. This is a whole different concept, and can pose some distractions for other patrons, but many dinner theaters have figured out how to make having food available an integral part of their theaters.

All in all, I think demographics need to be studied before doing anything. You have to know if there is a desire to have food in/near a theater before spending a dime. Every area is different, so what works well in one city may bomb in another.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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