Ask The Experts: Question for Dino Ciccone

Hi Dino,

I’m in the movie theatre business. I have a concept I’m planning on creating at closed or older outdated movie theatres that are no longer able to be competitve in the marketplace. Movie Bistro will feature an eating enviroment with beer & wine and feature 1st run films. The first location we are looking at has room in the lobby for a pizzeria. Patrons will also be able to take their food into the auditoriums with them on a tray that fits into the arm rest cup holder.

It will be essentially two businesses under one roof. Synergistic as well. The pizzeria will feed off the 3000-4000 patrons the theatre will draw and the theatre will use the draw of the pizzeria.

Using the existing space of the theatre concession area back room we will avoid an expensive kitchen set up.
Our plan is to use electric impinger conveyor ovens (avoid a hood), pizza prep table, salad prep table and a walk in refigerator/freezer. Serving pizza, salads, appetizers, and desserts. We may also offer pasta and oven sandwiches.
The theatre concession stand will be be fully operational offering traditional theatre food fare.

We want to avoid an expensive kitchen staff and use the existing staff to make the food. We therefore don’t want to have to make the pizza dough but use a pre-made pizza dough or flat bread…any suggestions??

We would also like the pizza to be unique…is there anything you might suggest that would make use unique? Are different cheeses a "draw’, like smoked mozzeralla or Greek cheese?

I have a ton of movie theatre experience but none in the pizza/restaurant business. We may either hire somebody with restaurant experience or find a restaurant partner. Any suggestions? Suggestions on where to look for the partner?

Thank you!
Scott Cassell
Stadium Theatres

Hi Scott, I think the idea is sound. I would go to a spot like that. The name is nice but suggesting Bistro would suggest pizzas more on the gourmet side. I would have to see the spot and based on the budget a nice wood oven or decorative deck oven of course more specialized training would be required. There is so much we could talk about here ,I had an idea similar to this and could really help you out. There are safety concerns also like if customers are carrying hot pizza to their chairs and it slips and lands on someones head, that’s not a good recipe. You will probably have to redesign the rows to allow plenty of maneuvering room. You really need to spend serious time on the design and functionality of the entire project. If the city and location are good and the proper test marketing says it would be supported as i said I think the idea is sound. Then you might consider finding a bit more money and really do it up a few notches and cover all the concerns. As far as partnership it could potentially come from anywhere just start posting ads and talking with everyone. If you wanna get a hold of me 519-317-8554

Here’s my two cents on what I see as the major problem with this business model. Lines for concessions at movie theaters are already too long with people waiting for their candy/popcorn that takes practically no time to prepare. How bad will these lines be when people have to wait 10 minutes for their pizza to cook? The next issue is how to handle the rush periods. In my business, I have rushes, but I never go from no orders to absolutely full throttle in a matter of 30 minutes. How do you plan to go from feeding nobody to feeding a group of 200 coming in for the newest movie? How many of the electric impinger ovens do you plan to use? Even if I have all three of my ovens running, it still takes a sizeable amount of time to push out enough pizzas to feed a group of people that size. How do you teach your customers to arrive significantly earlier than they do at a normal theater because the concession line will take longer to get through. Lastly, what do you do if you cause someone to miss the beginning of their movie because they were waiting for their pizza? Do you now have to comp out both the pizza as well as their admission? That’s what I would expect if it happened to me. These are just a few of the problems that immediately come to mind.

there is a place in Dallas that does this cant remember name but they start seating people at tables taking orders and serve them at the table then about halfway thru dinner they start the movie

place here does it and they do it WELL, they have servers that come to the table…they take everyones order prior to the start of the movie and bring it to you…also you have a really small led light that signals the server you need thier attention.
they do really well.

There was a cinema in my area that did this concept for several years…may not be a good sign that it’s now an empty building but…

2 mistakes I think they made. The main concession counter area was inside the theater. I know this was to allow easier access to the concession area certainly but I think they miscalculated the amount of noice and light coming out of that area. The popcorn smelled great to be sure…but I’d rather hear the show and be able to see it in the near total darkness. There was an awful lot of noise from the popcorn, the grill, and just the normal ordering process. It was usually “too” much going on for the inside of a theatre.

The seating was nice b/c they arranged several over-sized seating groups thoughout the theater, many had a “coffee table” type affair to share between them. It was way beyond the most comfortable movie seating around! Orders like pizza that took some time were handled by small vibrating pagers not much different than many chain restaurants use.

We certainly miss the opportunity to have a fair pizza or a burger with a nice beer watching a movie with friends, hopefully your concept will take hold and stick around for many years.

Thank you for your input!

I have never seen a concession stand inside a theatre auditorium…OMG! Talk about disruptive!!
They obviously were people with restaurant experience and no movie theatre experience.
It must have been a very small movie theatre or some type of conversion to the concept.

Thank you!