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TOPIC: Decreasing average time to serve

Decreasing average time to serve 16 Nov 2007 00:47 #27396

  • markegge
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I suppose it would be appropriate for me to say hello, and to thank everyone who has posted on this forum for their generous and inestimably valuable advice.

I operate the student run movie theater on the Montana State University campus. By day it's just another lecture hall... but at night it transforms into a wonderful little non-theatrical second-run theater. We have a trusty OLD 35mm projector and typically serve about 200 students per weekend.

Drawing heavily on advice from this forum, we've set up a concessions stand that, so far, has operated rather smoothly. Until tonight, that is. Tonight, we were thoroughly clobbered -- we had a turnout of about 180 students to our late show.

Ticket sales and such were fine, but our concessions stand lost a LOT of sales because the line was long and we were slow. (We ran out of popcorn, too. Eesh! I'll never let that happen again!)

We operate on a shoestring staff-- usually just three people per night-- one selling tickets, two working the concessions stand.

Obviously, there are limits to what two people can do, but I can't help but feel that we could still be considerably faster.

For one, we'll start having a box full of extra "set up" popcorn bags that can be quickly filled...

Does anyone else have other suggestions of things that can be done to increase counter turn-around speed? Our set-up is simple: we sell popcorn, soda, and candy (stored in the counter below the cash register).

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Re: Decreasing average time to serve 16 Nov 2007 10:15 #27397

  • trackfood
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Welcome Mark-
Don't get too down on yourself, every one of us has probably gotten clobbered at one time or another. Sometimes, you just get a bigger than expected crowd. Some things I always had my staff do are as follows. You don't want them to have to be stocking/etc, when they should be selling. So make sure your stand is stocked up completely before the people get there. This includes little things like napkins, straws, seed oil, every item you use. Make sure your ice bins are full. Open popcorn bags ahead, make kids trays ahead. Make sure the soda syrup bibs have been checked, anything that might go out during showtime, have a replacement box on the rack, open and ready so you just have to move the connector to the new box. Look at your menu board, is it easy for customers to read and understand? Are sizes/prices clearly visible? Nothing worse than customers slowing things down themselves, because they haven't figured out what they want. Do you offer combos? A large majority of customers will get used to ordering a COMBO, thus making the sale faster. Do you have your employees trained to work FAST, get the order, get it served and on to the next one...Also, when I ran a single screen second run theatre that was very busy, I sometimes would start the movie a few minutes late 5-10 at the most if their was still a large crowd in the lobby. Most people understood.
Just a few thoughts.
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Re: Decreasing average time to serve 16 Nov 2007 12:14 #27398

  • leeler
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ditto to what Jeff said above. My wife and I run our theater mostly ourselves. We'll get one other person on Friday and Saturday nights but we get clobbered all the time. We round our prices to a quarter so we're not digging in the change tray and we have all of our prices posted on a menu board so people coming through in line can see what we offer and the price BEFORE they get up to us in line. Sodas seem to take the most time (especially the foamy ones) so we concentrate our efforts there.

Don't worry yourself to death over it. People are pretty forgiving about that sort of thing and will wait a few minutes for the show to start.

Good luck and if that's your biggest problem then you are fortunate.
"What a crazy business"
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Re: Decreasing average time to serve 16 Nov 2007 13:53 #27399

  • rodeojack
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If you don't have a computerized POS system, try those cash registers that have programmable keys on them. That way, you can press one button for popcorn, one button for soda, one button for a candy bar and hit the total key. That might save you some time over punching prices in for everything.

Keep selections simple. Since you don't have a lot of people, keep the number of available items to a minimum.

Condiments, toppings, napkins, etc. should be far enough away from the line so you can get already-served customers away from the crowd.

If you can recruit a volunteer or two during those rushes, have them serve as "runners", so the two of you can stay close to the cash registers. Let them get the popcorn and sodas, or recharge the popcorn popper. You might give them a pass to the show for their trouble.

Can the boxoffice station double for concession sales? Might be something you could do there.
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Re: Decreasing average time to serve 20 Nov 2007 03:43 #27400

  • Pieman
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I agree with all the above., combos can help enormously, and the way to move the combos fast is to reduce their price..for example if a large drink and popcorn usually costs you $10, but the combo is only $8. people will just get the combo. Our combos have candy in them, but we are going to change this shortly as people always want to change the candy on offer for soemthing else, which takes time.
if you are expecting a large crowd, then make some popcorn in advance and bag in ina large bin bag. I would think on a student campus it would be pretty easy to recruit a few helpers who would give you a hand for half an hour for a couple of free tickets..but I say recruit them and train them up so they aren't slowing things up by not knowing what they are doing!!
but yes, we all have times where ou unexpectantly get a large crowd, just serve who you can, if possible hold off starting the film til most people are in
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Re: Decreasing average time to serve 20 Nov 2007 13:39 #27401

I agree with the above. Occasionally I will start the film late if there is a huge crowd. But generally, I like to start on time. If you continually start late because of late customers, the customers get used to that and the late ones come even later. Starting on time actually helps your concession lines because people are entering at more staggered times.

On big nights I will bring down my popcorn warmer and make up several large and a few medium bags and stick them in the warmer. The popcorn is kept warm and are ready to go. That helps. Make tons of additional popcorn and have lots of butter (or topping) melted. Be stocked for the big crowd and have change readily available, so there is no delay there. I assign stations to my personnel so they know their job and don't muck up someone else's. One hand in the till. The person assigned to sodas are supposed to ask customers in line for their soda order before they even make it to the front of the line (when possible), so the foaming sodas don't hold things up. All concession items are in .25 cent increments, with the majority at even dollar amounts--tax is included when appropriate. Work fast, but efficiently--and always with a smile.
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Re: Decreasing average time to serve 08 Feb 2011 17:10 #35252

  • Ptwin
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I run a intermediate run theater in a college town. We had a 2 screen theater then bought the three screen theater next to us. Last summer we remodeled cutting a large hole between the two theaters and combined them as one, expanded cabinetry one one side and turned the other side into lobby/holding area. we use to have 6 terminals, sometimes opened another 2 for ticketing on busy nights. Now we have 4 terminals. We sell both tickets and concessions on the same terminal. On weekends where we put through 700-1200 people a night we have 4 people on registers and one person behind each set of terminals as a "backer" this person listens to the order and gets the popcorn and candy. The soda cups are under the terminal and the terminal operator gets that.We have self serve soda.Most times by the time the terminal person has printed the tickets and entered the order and processed the payment the concessions are there for the customer to take. So we usually have everything they need with one line to stand in and in the time just the ticket takes to purchase. On weekdays we run two terminals with no backers.
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