5 June 2019

By Jason SOUTHERN – UK Channel Manager – AURES UK

Everyone likes to be treated a little bit special from time to time. A growing number of cinema operators are tapping into this by offering customers a VIP experience, with the luxury of in-seat service as they watch their chosen film.

In many outlets, in-seat service works something like this. Film-goers are invited to arrive for their showing 15 to 30 minutes early, where they are shown to their seats and their orders are taken. This ensures that drinks and food can be delivered before the movie starts.

However, as an increasing number of cinema operators look to expand their revenues from concessions, it is becoming more and more common to be able to buy refreshments during the showing, too. Especially in smaller, boutique venues, operators are reviving the old tradition of the snack vendor walking the aisles – only nowadays they don’t necessarily have to carry the products with them.

It isn’t just the usual soft drinks, sweets and popcorn that operators are looking to make available during performances. In-seat service can now involve offering customers the option of buying alcoholic beverages from a licensed bar, or even hot meals from a cafe or restaurant, all delivered right to them. This is something we can expect to grow to the bigger chains.

Taking service to the customer

Driving this revival and evolution in auditorium service is Mobile POS. With cashless payments and digital terminals in handheld tablet form, cinema staff can take service to the customer, adding value to the cinema-going experience as they avoid having to queue or leave the theatre to get refreshments.

There are several reasons why the arrival of Mobile POS (M-POS) terminals has enabled the concept of in-seat service to develop. One is the speed and convenience of cashless payments. Purpose-built M-POS tablets with an integrated contactless reader mean sales can be processed in seconds, without having to fumble around with change or even entering a card PIN.

In the past, the logistics of handling cash payments meant in-theatre snack sales were often restricted to an interval, where queues would develop anyway. The practice eventually petered out. Now, it is POSsible to take and process an order and payment in seconds, meaning it can happen at the customer’s seat during the showing.

Second, M-POS means staff do not have to carry snacks and drinks around with them, or else make a note of orders on paper and then have to go to a bar or concession to get them fulfilled. Using a standard product information management (PIM) system, staff with an M-POS tablet have access to the entire food, snacks and beverages range at their fingertips, and can process an order for any item with a simple touch. Once the order is placed, colleagues in the bar, restaurant or snack shop will be alerted, meaning drinks and food can be prepared ready for waiting staff to take back to the customer. This speeds the whole process up.

Overall, thanks to the speed, choice and convenience M-POS can offer, in-seat service can now be positioned as a premium experience for the cinema-goer. The choice is no longer leave your seat and queue for refreshments, or fumble for change in the dark as you try to buy one of a limited number of snacks from the in-theatre vendor. It is about getting what you want, when you want, delivered right to your seat, simply and seamlessly.

AURES is attending CineEurope 2019, the continent’s biggest cinema industry exhibition, in Barcelona from 17th to 20th June.