In the run-up to CinemaCon 2015 CJ is interviewing and profiling several leading companies, trade bodies and people to capture the mood of the cinema industry as it enters its post-digital era.
Today we talk to Dan Borschke, Executive Vice President of the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC), the trade body representing those that make everyone’s trip to the cinema a little sweeter.
Celluloid Junkie: What have been the biggest challenges and achievements of the NAC in the past year?
Dan Borschke: The US FDA’s new Menu Labeling Regulations that go into effect on December 1, 2015 is probably the biggest challenge for our association and our members. These new rules stipulate that all exhibitors with 20 or more venues must post calories on their menu boards as well as make available all nutritional analysis of those items.
For many, this mandate will be a difficult if not herculean effort. This is not to state that calories are not important when one is eating out, but when the average customer only sees a movie at a cinema on such a limited basis it doesn’t make much sense to institute such rules for such a limited dining opportunity.
Secondly, since the rules have not yet been finalized it seems that the industry will have 5 or 6 months to get their act together for compliance. NAC is working with our members to assist as much as possible but it will be a very difficult task.
CJ: 2015 is off to a strong start at the box office and is predicted to be a record year for cinemas. Does that automatically mean that it will also be a good year for concessions?
Dan Borschke: Any time we get additional foot traffic in the lobbies of theatres the concession industry is happy. Furious 7 is a great example of giving the customer what they want with a first North American weekend box office of $146 million and the concession industry attempts to do just that daily with quality and delicious products that are delivered to the customer in an efficient manner.
CJ: Tell us a little about what NAC will be doing at this years CinemaCon. I see in the program that you have a weighty topic for the NAC-NATO panel on Wednesday, April 22, at 3:30 PM.
Dan Borschke: In our continued effort to assist our members to comply with the new US FDA regulations on Menu Labeling, NAC in conjunction with NATO will be conducting a 75 minute session: The How-To-Guide for Compliance of the FDA Menu Labeling Regulations. The session will include a presentation from a representative from the FDA as well as two digital menu board companies, Esther Baruh from NATO and legal counsel from Coca Cola. The session will be facilitated by NAC Government Relations Committee Chair Don Lear of The Hershey Company and we envision many of our member’s questions being answered by Dr. Claudine Kavanaugh of the US FDA.
CJ: There is much focus recently on converting cinemas to be able to sell alcohol and high-end dining. Is there a risk of forgetting the bread-and-butter, or rather popcorn-and-soda, business of cinema concessions in the rush to the cine-bar?
Dan Borschke: Dine-In Theatres will only work in markets that are open to up-scale pricing and have expectations of a diversity of food options.
The industry will never forget that popcorn and soft drinks brought us to the party, however it is also important to provide one-stop shopping for customers who want to spend their entertainment dollar all under one roof. To that end you will see dine- in theaters or up-scale restaurants within the theatre complex as well as various other entertainment options (bowling, billiards, bars and club amongst many others).
Alcohol now has been available for the last few years at cinemas and though every municipality has its own laws which make liquor sales more difficult than it needs to be, per caps are increasing and for NAC members that is our reason to exist.
CJ: The issue of calorie-count and healthiness of cinema snacks seems to have gone more quiet, but has it gone away completely?
Dan Borschke: The Concessionaires are in business to provide the products the customer’s desire. I have said it much too often but we are not a non-profit business. If you desire a certain food or beverage – we will make it available – if it sells.
To mandate products being available that don’t sell just doesn’t make any sense. Let the market place determine what will be available. Having fresh fruits and vegetables available might sound like a positive approach but if they are disposed of because no one purchased them – then what do we gain?
It would be of great significance if we had a customer base that saw movies on a weekly basis but even for the most avid fan that unfortunately doesn’t take place and popcorn or candy or a soft drink can easily be consumed and justified in a varied and balanced diet. Moderation in all aspects of one’s life is advisable.
CJ: What are some of the ‘best practices’ and innovations in cinema concessions that have impressed you the most in the past year? Are we seeing enough integration for example with smartphone apps and online resources?
Dan Borschke: The Concession Industry continues to experiment in finding the best balance of quality products and efficient delivery systems. Many companies are looking at digital ordering to self-service and everything in between.
We all know that the longer customers stand in line the less likely they will buy our products so our members are experimenting with all kinds of solutions. Sporting events are actually instituting self-service beer units while others are offering web-based or smart phone based food and beverage ordering even before you get to the venue.
With many theatres now offering specific seat selection in the auditorium it can’t be too far in the future for us to suggest that concessions be ordered at the same time as one buys their ticket digitally. Efficiencies will continue to be ironed-out so that customers can enjoy their food and beverages in a non-stressed environment which obviously will result in even greater satisfaction levels for concession purchasers.
CJ: Thank you for taking the time to share your insights with us.