New perks and refreshment options are being offered to draw customers back to the theater.

Giant TV screens in full-HD and 4K coming to living rooms and bedrooms across the nation are causing the movie-going public to dwindle. However, forward-thinking movie theaters are addressing the resulting sales and profit decline with creative solutions that increase the entertainment value of the cinema experience.

Food service is one particularly lucrative aspect. In some places in the US, customers no longer grab some dinner and get a movie later. Dinner at the movies is becoming a legitimate pastime that has been providing profits rise for movie theaters that are adopting this innovative business model.

Food Service in Cinema through the Years

When we think of theater food, we mostly think of popcorn, candy, and soda. But back when movie theaters first opened their doors to the public in the early 20th century, studios refused to run movies in theaters that served any kind of snacks. At the time, going to the movies was supposed to be an activity for the sophisticated set. The mere thought of people nibbling on something while looking up at the silver screen cheapened the experience.

By the time the Roaring Twenties rolled around, popcorn vendors started selling their products just outside the movie theaters. People loved it and started bringing tubs of popcorn inside the cinema. Theaters started to realize just how much they were missing out on the opportunity to sell snacks. Finally bowing to public demand, they invited vendors to sell popcorn and other food items in their lobbies for a nice, hefty cut of the profits.

Strategies for Providing Food Service at the Movie Theater

Movie theaters such as AMC and Alamo are making it big in the combined food-and-cinema business. Here are some of the strategies employed by these businesses that you may want to adopt if you’re thinking of using the same business model.

  • Provide full-service meal options.

Most movie theaters provide limited food service that typically consists of the classic combination of popcorn, candy, and soda. Some may even throw in french fries or chips for extra options.

If you want to stand out, you’ll have to offer more than just the usual food items. A full-service meal, complete with seat-side delivery service, will entice moviegoers with a unique experience they likely haven’t had before. Food can be served in trays clipped to the armrests of existing chairs. If you would like to provide multi-course meals, you can have dining tables installed in the cinema.

Conduct market research in your area to find out what will attract customers. You also want to look at the location of the theater and evaluate the competition in the area.

Ventless kitchen equipment can be more expensive, but it eliminates the need for a commercial hood system that significantly raises your overhead costs. Beverage equipment, such as a walk-in cooler for those with more room in their kitchens or an undercounter refrigerator or two for those with tighter spaces, is also needed for serving ice-cold drinks.

  • Promote your business.

Get the word out about your new food service offering? Send out emails to your subscribers and update all your social media channels. Let them know that you’re not just screening a movie; you’re also serving good food and drinks. A great way to attract customers is to offer a meal-and-movie theme. For instance, when Alamo aired a rerun of Marilyn Monroe’s “Some like It Hot,” they served a spicy four-course meal with seafood and wine pairings.