Innovating on the F&B Journey

From concession-based sales like popcorn and ice-cream to restaurant-style in-seat dining offering customized pizzas and craft beer, food and beverage (F&B) in cinemas has come a long way. That journey is reflected by the continual evolution of Vista’s F&B module to meet the increasingly sophisticated needs of exhibitors and moviegoers alike.  John Burrows is Vista’s F&B Program Manager.


John, why is offering a great F&B service increasingly important for exhibitors?

It’s an effective way to aggressively drive up spend per admit; going out for a “dinner and a movie” is the evening of choice for many, and for decades, exhibitors were only cashing in on half of that pie.
There is nothing stopping cinema exhibitors offering both dinner and a movie to their guests. Vista F&B makes this easier than ever.

In-theatre dining is a huge part of that F&B service, right?

In-theatre dining is at the core of this movement. Personally, I love snacking on wings in the cinema (which never make it past the pre-show!).

The integration with showtimes, auditorium seat maps, reporting, and a common loyalty system, takes operations to the next level.

As in-theatre dining is essentially competing with restaurants, guests expect a standard of food and service comparable to a restaurant, all without interrupting the movie. It’s a challenge, but amazing when well executed. After chatting with wait-staff at in theatre dining locations, it became clear that most of them had transitioned from the restaurant industry and not from cinema.

Vista is uniquely positioned to provide real additional value in the F&B space. For example, the integration with showtimes, auditorium seat maps, reporting, and a common loyalty system, takes operations to the next level. Not to mention the efficiencies of maintaining a single system.

Does Vista F&B go beyond in-theatre dining and restaurant food?

Yes, many customers have bars or cafes in the lobby running Vista F&B and they get to share in the benefits from one system, just like in-theatre dining customers. However, many cinemas aren’t interested in serving prepared food or drink at all but they can still benefit from Vista’s innovative solutions implementing concepts such as counter pickup, self-service, and remote ordering.
Queues at concessions counters turn moviegoers off from ordering, so making that process easier is a huge opportunity to increase concession spend. Counter Pickup, where customers place orders themselves (on their phones or via kiosks) not only makes the lobby feel more like a ‘now’ environment (versus a ‘yesterday’ environment), but it reduces wait times and requires less staff.

Where does mobile fit in to today’s F&B story?

In today’s world, we want to do everything from our phone and we don’t want to wait in lines. Vista makes this achievable with our guest and staff facing apps – Vista Mobile and Vista InTouch. No need to wait to buy a ticket or concessions, you can do it from your phone. Once at the theatre, you can start your order, scan past the usher, head into the auditorium, and meet your food at your seat. This seamless in-theatre experience is available for a range of cinema offerings – from popcorn pickup to three course meal delivery!

How have customers – moviegoers and exhibitors – influenced the changes that we're now making in Vista F&B?

We love to partner with our customers and we build the best software when we do. With this method, we are less specific up front and dive in to the details collaboratively as the projects evolve. The end-result is not always where we thought we would be at the beginning, but rather an unexpected, exciting solution that addresses our customers’ business challenges. We do a lot of learning together.

An awesome example of this success was Vista’s partnership with Cineplex and their Rec Room, which actually isn’t a cinema! We worked together to build enhanced kitchen management and restaurant reservation functionality.

How is Vista F&B innovating to meet the needs of exhibitors and moviegoers?

We want to improve processes for staff and kitchen management, and in doing so, move toward mobile functionality.
For exhibitors, we want to make managing the F&B system as easy as possible. For example, a site wants to run a special burger on the menu across all channels for a day. The food service team should be able to execute that change without involving IT.
For staff, we want to continue to improve kitchen management technology and have done A LOT of recent work. No matter how many customers I meet, the extent of diversity in kitchen management still blows me away. Due to operational preferences or building layout, the number of ways we have needed to route items is staggering. Vista F&B supports kitchen printers and kitchen screens for scenarios ranging from collecting popcorn at a pickup counter to complex multi-area or multi-line kitchens.
For guests and theatre staff, the drive for more mobility is critical. We want people on their feet and walking around using our software, taking F&B orders directly from customers and placing the orders from their same device. We can already achieve this with Vista POS running on a tablet and we’re continually looking for ways to make such value-added and efficient service as frictionless and cinema-industry-customized as possible.


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