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TOPIC: Additional services in concession.

Additional services in concession. 15 Jan 2015 23:55 #41902

  • TheGem
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How many here have thought about or currently offer other services in their concession/lobby area?

I know most larger theatres have areas like a bar or even restaurants. I mainly speak of the smaller theatre say 1-3 screens?

One thing I've been currently hearing around the area is the wanting of some type of coffee house. I've contemplated using some re-vamped lobby space to hold maybe a small seating area and offer traditional coffee house beverages and food and of course the all mighty wi fi (still somewhat of a selling point in these parts...I get a lot of calls at the restaurant asking if we offer it). This would be open early morning till the theatre has its last showing. Just a thought and wondered if anyone else here had taken that route or offered any other types of services. I know I also had planned on a small selection of beer and wine.

I understand noise may be an issue in a smaller theatre mostly from people in the lobby and that can be worked out.

Just an observation. Our bar still has arcade games, gumball machines, and even a claw machine (that does particularly well for some reason) I never thought anyone would still be interested in those (even the adults like the pinball) Heck, even the employees sneak over to play the claw/pinball machine when its slow LOL.
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Additional services in concession. 17 Jan 2015 05:41 #41911

  • slapintheface
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The main biz is on beer and wine .. Not on coffee ..

You will be shocked on the numbers.
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Additional services in concession. 17 Jan 2015 17:23 #41912

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Already figured as much on the alcohol sales. I've worked bars/restaurants now for 10 years. Nice mark up. Most of our domestics right now sell at about 2.75 and we're the CHEAP ones in the area. Most other places have gone to about 3-3.50. Some of our specialty ones are 4.50 with the cost being about .90 on those.


The coffee area is basically an idea to operate in a sense "independent" of the theatre. Kind of a two in one. I doubt anyone would order coffee in large numbers while seeing a movie..at least enough to justify its availability outside of being a complimentary offering.

Just curious is anyone else has done a separate service outside of just movies/stage.
Last Edit: 17 Jan 2015 17:28 by TheGem.
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Additional services in concession. 18 Jan 2015 00:06 #41916

  • leeler
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we did years ago. The problem for us was the whole going to bed late and closing the theater down and then getting up early to make coffee. Really had the candle burning from both ends. Plus, we are in a pretty small market. But, I think your reasoning is sound. Most theaters are empty all morning long. Why not do something with the space.

We put tables and chairs in front of the screen and played the news and put it on screen. We had an espresso machine and drip coffee too. We had some rolls and cookies and biscotti, too. It was pretty cool and I miss it sometimes. We ended up selling the business to someone who wanted to do a full on coffee shop in town. They would have squashed us like a bug if we didn't sell. We never did big business but we didn't lose our shirts either. All in all, a nice experience. Under the right circumstances I think it could work.
"What a crazy business"
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Additional services in concession. 18 Jan 2015 11:11 #41918

  • lionheart
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It was part of my plan to operate the concession area as a lunch counter even though we were not showing movies at that time of day. I built the concession stand with three different kinds of ovens, a microwave oven, a Vulcan Flashbake oven, and an Alto-Shaam cook and hold double oven. None of these require a vent hood, but provided me the ability to prepare a fair range of foods. My theater is in the downtown area of a small town near other cafes. The downtown is fairly busy during the day, but usually quiet in the evenings, so most of the cafes were closed after lunch. I thought some people might want to come to the theater before the show to eat also. I included a seating area in the lobby with five 4-top tables. Some people did actually come early and sat there to eat, but not often.

My lunch counter never really materialized, even though I planned the space and purchased the equipment. Part of my problem was poor execution. I had wanted to make food service beyond basic concession fare an integral part of my operation, but I was pushed for time when I was near opening the theater. The holidays were approaching and I could not afford to delay opening any longer, so I didn't work out the final details of planning a menu and training people to operate as a cafe. Instead, everyone suggested that I go ahead and open and implement the cafe later. At the same time, my wife, who was supposed to be my head cook, started to realize just how small the space was behind the counter and where prep and cooking was to take place. She told me that it was just too small to work. I told her the plan was not to serve huge numbers of people, but just a small number at any one time. The health inspector had approved our food license, so we had everything we needed, but she didn't see it that way. She said if I was going to have a cafe, I would have to handle it all myself. The result was that I delayed any implementation of this important aspect of my plan for about six months after opening. I changed the plan for the signage from "Gentry Cinema & Cafe" to just "Gentry Cinema" thinking I would add the rest later, but never did.

I had originally planned to cross promote the two aspects of the business by telling people that if they went to a movie they could come for a meal another time with some kind of discount such as a free drink with meal purchase if they present their ticket stub from a recent show. I would also have offered a free small popcorn to anyone who bought a meal from the cafe as well the next time they bought a movie ticket. But without the signage, without my wife's help, and without a committed early start, I soon found it very difficult to start this up later. I did add some hot foods to the concession menu after 6 months. Our per cap went up about 50 cents, but since we sold only small amounts of those hot foods for any given show, I can not be sure the increase in per cap was due to those menu additions or if it was simply due to my increase in the price of the price of a small and medium sodas by 50 cents. I think the soda prices were likely the cause. However, I did offer a wider variety of foods to my customers. Happy customers at the concession mean more repeat business.

I took the lackluster sales of the hot food items as a sign that the cafe wouldn't go over that well, so I waited even longer to ever try opening for lunch. When I finally did, it was out of desperation. It was at the slowest time of year and no good films were available, about September as I recall. Ticket sales were not covering costs. I didn't advertise lunch service anywhere except to put up a sandwich board on the sidewalk to say we were open for lunch and to offer a special deal of a free soda with the purchase of any hot menu item for lunch. I moved the sandwich board inside after I closed the lunch counter after the lunch break. Those who came to the movie would see it and know we were open for lunch. I was open about 2 hours a day for lunch. I did that for a month. It started off pretty well as people from nearby businesses came in for lunch. I operated the place alone and did up to $50 in sales a day for the first few days. Not bad for two hours by myself. But business went down from there. The novelty of a new place to eat wore off and sales dropped quickly. I tried walking around the downtown and giving out samples of hot foods, popcorn, etc. and telling people we were open for lunch. It didn't take off. I gave up after a short time and just went back to running movies with hot foods available at the concession stand.

I was proud of our hot menu items, and people who ate them usually came back to the concession to tell us how good they were. Some people got to the point they would usually order their favorite hot item when they came to the movie, but most just kept to the traditional, popcorn and soda and maybe candy. I never fully executed the lunch counter since I never developed the kind of lunch specials I wanted to. I never even turned on the Alto-Shaam. I thought I would make one or two specials for the day, and if they didn't sell, my family would eat them after they'd been held most of the day.

Maybe this wasn't the best plan, but I never worked in restaurant management. I had limited experience working in restaurants when I was younger doing such things as cook's assistant, waiter, and delivery driver. I just knew that if I could supplement the theater with food sales it would help with the slow times at the box office. This statement is still true, but how do you get people to come to a lunch counter? I think it must start with full commitment, signage, regular hours, and a good menu. The place should feel like someplace they would like to eat as well, so ambiance is important. Also, will coffee and pastries be enough if there are three established cafes within a block, plus a doughnut shop? I doubt it. If your location is out of the way where no one will go just to eat, will that work? I doubt it. But, if you know what you are doing, I still think food service could be a vital part of your business.

Others will say that any food sale that has less mark-up than popcorn and soda will actually hurt your bottom line. I did not find that to be true, but if I had sold more hot foods I might have had to test that theory. My strategy to avoid that problem was not to sell any hot food for less profit than I would have made from a small popcorn which I sold for only a dollar. I kept food costs down to 30% or less for every item on the menu. If I couldn't do better than that, I didn't sell it. If I had overcharged the way the big chains do, I could have kept food costs on all items down to 15 or 20%, but nobody would ever want to buy the hot food items, or even a large popcorn in my opinion.

I've babbled on for long enough. Just remember, my place is closed, so consider the source of this advice. It doesn't make it worthless, but it won't ensure success either. Good luck.
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Additional services in concession. 15 Apr 2015 23:40 #42161

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I never got around to it but thank you for the input. I really like reading peoples perspectives and ideas on what they've done. Not only is each different, but I love small business and its dealings in general.

Im still on the sidelines thinking about the prospects and mostly researching as much as I can. With my background in food service (about 10 years) I figured maybe I could add another element to bolster a single screen income outside of the standard fare and alcohol selections. To be honest I didn't expect to make a lot from the idea of running a theater..I've never been driven by earning a high income rather I want to be in control of how I do things and not run someone else's vision. This town is also experiencing a positive upswing in that almost every business has changed hands in the last 3 years as the old guard is retiring and are all making big improvements and its starting to show. I'd love to be a part of that myself and the theater back from the brink would really swell that upswing and the community. Right now as a server/bartender I don't make much currently (maybe 20K?), but I also have good circumstances behind me. I'm only 27, own my home outright, have 0 debt, no car payments, virtually no bills except the essentials, no kids (99% percent sure that's not going to change), have one rental property, and live with someone that has a good income and the area I live in has a pretty low cost of living. So, I actually do pretty well for myself with what I make and can easily save and live on what I earn and I'm happy with that. So perhaps I have that going for me. If I could pull that in for myself and maintain the business I'd be happy. Anyways, that's a bit off topic.

So for now, I'll continue to scheme and ponder and see whats presents itself in time.

If anyone else has attempted at adding extras I'd love to hear what theyve done...even if it wasn't a success its always a teachable moment.

I have to say running the news with coffee in the morning would be pretty cool. I bet it would actually run well in this area (not something i think i would do...just due to time) but even just once a week to have almost a community gathering for fun in the morning seems nice. We have SO many coffee groups in this town that meet. 4-5 different ones at each spot....one even meets at a local mechanic shop (next door to the theater lol) We have one that comes into the tavern 3 hours before we open to meet, they just donate money in a jar and we give them a spot to hang :)

Anyway, hope everyone is doing well!
Last Edit: 17 Apr 2015 01:51 by TheGem.
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Additional services in concession. 18 Apr 2015 18:11 #42168

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I had not thought about it as other than when normally open. One problem with that model is we do a lot of school groups, special events,etc. Following Slap's long ago suggestion we have continued to add bagged herb and spice popcorn, higher end candies, beer and wine, coffee (thank you Keurig K cups!) lots of odd sodas and just recently a local product Belfast Soda Company belfastsodacompany.com/ and that has done very well. Our candy/ soda/popcorn selection used to look very stale and predictable and all this has added to its appeal.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Additional services in concession. 20 Apr 2015 16:34 #42177

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A little off topic but anyone use a cotton candy machine?
Our local place has one that sits in the lobby, but Ive never seen it used in the last 15 years Ive been there. I feel like making some up on a weekend would encourage some sales from it since its "fun" and not something you really see outside of a fair.
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Additional services in concession. 20 Apr 2015 16:48 #42178

  • filmbooks
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I used to have one at a small 3 plex. It's dirt cheap to make and we sold quite a bit to kids. It was a good thing to keep staff busy between shows making more.
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Additional services in concession. 22 Apr 2015 20:19 #42182

  • rufusjack
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TheGem wrote:
A little off topic but anyone use a cotton candy machine?
Our local place has one that sits in the lobby, but Ive never seen it used in the last 15 years Ive been there. I feel like making some up on a weekend would encourage some sales from it since its "fun" and not something you really see outside of a fair.

We did very well with cotton candy. Good thing for staff to prep in between shows. Made and bagged it then. Sold a ton of green for one of the Shreks.
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Additional services in concession. 20 Sep 2015 00:07 #42478

  • jacker5
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Cotton candy is a mess and not worth the trouble!
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