For Britain’s theatres, there is an omnipresent challenge of finding strong, reliable access to fruitful revenue streams. Competing against new and emerging forms of entertainment, theatres need to capture their audience, and their spend, in order to survive.
In 2016 HQ Theatres had already recognised a need to grow the average customer spend and was seeking ways to achieve this without falling back on traditional, hard sales tactics. A review of in-venue bar activity revealed pre-show and interval queues were often 6-10 people deep. Combined with the challenging logistics and layouts at some of the group’s older theatres, it was clear that improvements could be made.
The team was equally keen to mobilise customers that choose to remain in their seats throughout show intervals. From observations it estimated that 30-40% of ticket-holders would remain seated, without making any additional spend.
To prevent everyone congregating on the theatre bars at once, HQ Theatres first introduced a simple pre-ordering scheme whereby customers would place orders at the bar, in advance of shows, for at-interval collection. Despite some uptake, this didn’t solve the problem and risked extra congestion before the show.
Upon seeing that other theatre groups were investing in pre-ordering technology, HQ Theatres began to explore market options, eventually coming across Preoday. Of the technologies tested it was Preoday that emerged as, not only the most attractive, but the most user friendly.
HQ Theatres first released its pre-ordering platform for guests at G Live, Surrey’s leading arts and entertainment venue. The launch was a success and presented the team with numerous learnings which it knew could be applied to other sites. Still, with every venue facing its own challenges in terms of layout, operations and connectivity, it decided each needed its own, unique strategy.
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
“In recent years we’ve noted the general public demanding easier, quicker and straightforward answers to their problems; there’s a real desire for their needs to be met instantly. Our show intervals are twenty minutes long and in demonstration of that desire, we’ve seen customers increasingly unwilling to spend even half of that time queuing.
“Saying that, the Churchill Theatre is a complex venue. Therefore, before launching a pre-ordering service, our on-site team engaged in a detailed planning process, ensuring guests would collect their drinks from the correct bar and wouldn’t struggle to locate orders. We wanted to solve a problem, not create a new one.
“We’re thrilled that, since introducing the ordering platform, revenue is up and guests are purchasing their drinks well in advance of arrival. They now have more time to relax and to put extra spend behind the bar! We’ve also been taking note of ordering patterns so as to adapt pre-show marketing to suit – it seems play genre has a real impact on app use.
Long-term, our aim is to take the pre-ordering service to the next level and offer in-seat delivery; our venue has challenges with regard to access, so for some guests, this will be priceless. We are also considering the introduction of app-exclusive packages, particularly for event nights.”
Once the venues had been surveyed and strategies established, roll-out began. The theatres began with pre-show collection, which, once working seamlessly, was extended to include interval times.
At one venue, an extra step was taken. The Cliff’s Pavilion is one of HQ Theatre’s larger sites; it was decided to tap into the 30-40% remaining in their seats by offering in-seat delivery. Here, pre-order for collection hadn’t proved enough of a motivator for this group, yet in-seat delivery proved a game-changer. Now, approximately 70% of those using the in-seat delivery service say they wouldn’t be without it. It has been such a success that HQ Theatres is now working on plans to introduce it at other venues in the group.
In their own words
“Pre-ordering has opened fresh revenue streams for HQ Theatres, encouraging guests that wouldn’t even consider ordering in the past, to purchase refreshments. We’ve put a lot of effort into education around the technology, and the marketing plus staff training have really paid-off. Having great support from Preoday throughout the process has been invaluable.
“It’s wonderful that what started as a project looking into what other theatres were doing, has proved to be a excellent opportunity for us and one which continues to grow.”
Mark Hollington, Hospitality Director, HQ Theatres
It’s not as catchy as: ‘When is a door not a door?’ (answer, when it’s a jar) but it speaks to the idea that in-car collection, and the technologies that support it, are flexible enough to bend to the needs of a business and its guests.
Delivery can be daunting to the uninitiated, and it might be tempting to sign up with a third-party ordering aggregator that offers the service, such as UberEats, but other options could suit your business and brand better. Here we present three different ‘levels’ of delivery, starting with the most basic – and cheapest method: doing it yourself.