Understanding What Drives Movie Theater Concession Sales
Using Data to Define the Future of Movie Theater Concessions
Improving the movie theater experience means understanding what motivates moviegoers. Along with convenience, comfort, and pricing, food is a significant determining factor. It can influence whether a customer’s experience is positive or negative.
From in-house dining to serving alcohol, self-service, and other trends, the movie theater industry has experimented across the board with different approaches to food service. What’s working? What do moviegoers want? Where are the greatest opportunities? For insights into the minds of moviegoers, we’ll explore the data from surveys conducted by the National Association of Concessionaires.
What are Moviegoers Buying?
It will come as no surprise that popcorn tops the list of foods purchased at movie theater concession stands. Over 38 percent of moviegoers buy popcorn. (Source: Candy, Cocktails & Cinema Cuisine in 2018) Even in theaters with in-house dining, popcorn continues to be a best-seller. One way theaters can capitalize on this is by expanding their popcorn selection with gourmet flavors. Caramel and cheese corn have a higher perceived value and provide considerable profit margins. Other top items include soda, candy, slush drinks, pretzels, and hot dogs. Indulgence is the motivating factor behind most concession stand purchases, so keep that in mind as you try to entice guests.
The concession stand represents an opportunity to enhance the moviegoing experience. 49 percent of guests visit the concession stand every time. While that is an affirmative statistic, the challenges theaters face are 1) increasing spend for existing customers; 2) drawing in new customers. To get results, movie theaters must look at ways to overcome objections.
According to the Candy, Cocktails & Cinema Cuisine survey, the top two reasons moviegoers do not visit the concession stand are “too expensive” and “lines too long.” While prices won’t go down, theaters must look at providing value with specials, loyalty incentives, and innovative menu items. Give them an experience they can’t find anywhere else by creating food items that tie into new releases. Encourage repeat visits with an offer like, buy 5 large popcorns, get the 6th free. And expand your menu with more meal-like options.
The second reason puts a focus on the service aspect. How can theaters improve service and shorten lines? Many are turning to self-service options like touch screen soda fountains where guests can mix up their own drink flavor combinations. A similar concept has been introduced by Gold Medal for popcorn. With the launch of the ReadyServe™, customers can now fill their own popcorn buckets via this self-service popcorn cabinet. Concession line management is essential for customer satisfaction.
The Truth Behind Theater Dining Trends
Dine-in theaters have become the trend and do have many advantages. According to the study, Movie Theatre Preferences: What Drives People to the Theatres? in-house dining is viewed as preferable by guests. They are willing to pay more for tickets in order to have that level of service, convenience, and food selection. While this raises the expectations, it certainly does not discount the options non-dining theaters have.
Market share increases with higher options for food and beverage. So, it just makes sense to assess what you can do with the resources you do have available. For example, if you already serve hot pretzels, dress them up with dips and toppings. Offering gourmet popcorn and other specialty snacks gives your location a unique selling point with potential customers. Look to your current menu and keep strong performers while experimenting with new additions to see what customers respond to best.
What is the story about serving alcohol? The survey shows mixed results. Serving alcohol is not considered a major factor for driving traffic to movie theaters. However, the data shows that both males and females who purchase alcohol will also spend more at the concession stand.
In addition to menu updates, you may also consider how to make your ordering process more customer-friendly. The best-performing method according to the Movie Theatre Preferences survey was to order in-person with delivery to seat. Other trends that may emerge more prominently include ordering apps. While technology may play a factor, it doesn’t always translate into a positive user experience. Survey respondents currently rate electronic ordering as the least-preferred method.
The fact is concessions will continue to evolve as consumer preferences change, technology develops, and new trends arise. Align with a supplier who knows and understands the marketplace and is willing to work with you to develop customized solutions that meet your needs. To connect with a Gold Medal branch or dealer near you, please visit our Find A Dealer page.