14 March 2019

In the first of a series of blogs previewing AURES’s participation at CinemaCon in Las Vegas in April, we asked Sales Director Richard HEITMANN why he believes cinema operators will soon be switching ATMs for SOKs.

Self-service is a well-established trend in cinemas. For years, operators have been using automated ticket machines (ATMs) to cut down on queues at peak times.

One benefit of ATMs is that they link very conveniently with online pre-ordering. Cinema-goers can book online, pay by card and then, when they present the same card at the ATM in the cinema foyer, their tickets are printed, further reducing waiting times.

Yet there are signs that ATMs have maybe had their day in cinema sales set-ups.

With mobile technology as prevalent as it is, there is no longer any reason to print a ticket for pre-orders. Once a purchase is made online, customers can simply download a QR code to their phone, of have it sent via email or push notification. This reflects the fact that more and more online transactions happen on mobile anyway and is also represents a greener solution.

ATMs are also being supplanted by another type of self-service payment technology. According to AURES Sales Director Richard HEITMANN, self-operated kiosks – SOKs – are ready to make their mark, with some cinema operators indicating they will replace all ATMs with SOKs as soon as 2020.

“If you ever eat in a fast-food restaurant, you are probably already familiar with SOKs,” said Richard. “Let’s take the example of McDonalds. Nowadays, when you go into a McDonalds, you go to a kiosk, place your order on a touchscreen and pay at a card terminal there. Your order is then relayed to a service area, where food preparation staff monitor the orders coming in on screens, prepare your meal and hand it over when it is ready.”

Added value

In a cinema, says Richard, this kind of approach is attractive because it means customers can buy everything they need in one place. “One of the sticking points in the cinema-going experience is having to buy a ticket and then go and queue up separately to buy snacks and drinks from a concession,” he said. “With SOKs, you can book and pay for your seat and all your snacks at the same time, and then simply go and collect your food and drink from a service point on your way in to watch your film.”

Richard argues that there is more than just convenience at stake here. He believes that the SOK model, as demonstrated in the fast food sector, has the potential to transform cinema operations and add considerable value to revenue streams.

“Cinema concessions have traditionally only stocked pretty limited ranges of food and drink,” he said. “And yet outside their door, on most modern leisure complexes, cinemas are surrounded by bars and restaurants, all capitalising on the footfall cinemas generate.

“Cinema operators would love to grab some of this additional revenue for themselves by expanding their offering to include licensed bars and hot food concessions. Some already do, but traditionally they have struggled with the logistics of how to efficiently manage ticket and food sales, especially at peak times. The last thing they want to do is create more queues add create a negative experience.

“SOKs can be part of the answer. Existing concessions can be cleared out and turned into service areas rather than retail units, bars for serving drinks and kitchens for preparing food. Because order and payment is separated from fulfilment, you can make everything work more efficiently with minimal queues, as you now see in McDonalds.

“Cinemas could then greatly expand their food and drink ranges, experiment with what they offer, introduce seasonal and promotional variations and so on. Machines are also much better at up-selling than people, who might do it once or twice but then stop as they get busier and busier. With a kiosk, it is automatic – do you want to go large? Do you want to add a drink with that? The more you ask, the greater take-up you get, the higher your revenues.”

And for the customer, of course, this all adds up to a simpler, streamlined yet ultimately more pleasant experience – the ability to buy tickets, food and drink all in one place, less waiting and greater choice.

Richard and the AURES team will be demonstrating our SOK solutions for the cinema trade at CinemaCon in Las Vegas from 1-4 April 2019.