Last week, thousands of film industry professionals gathered together in Las Vegas to attend the 9th annual CinemaCon. One of the first events of the week was a seminar led by Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue fame. Entitled “Better Business Through Reaction Management,” the discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities faced by theater owners today. Although the event was geared towards the theater-based audience, the overarching themes of Taffer’s lecture are applicable to any business looking to increase its growth in the coming years.
After 172 episodes of Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer has seen his fair share of failure. While the nearly 1,000 bars he has assisted have all struggled for different reasons, Taffer believes that each location had one shared problem. “Excuses are the common denominator of failure every single time,” Taffer declared during his presentation. Why is this so dangerous? “Because excuses let us feel good about failing, which is the worst thing we can do to ourselves,” Taffer explained.
After addressing some of the other risks faced by theaters, Taffer concentrated on the prospects available to theater owners today. He urged all members of the audience to be “forward thinking” and to understand that “following the crowd gets you left behind.”
While many people, including myself, would assume that the product being sold by theaters is the movie audience flock to see, Taffer shot this idea down by emphasizing the “R” factor. This unique concept focuses on the idea that “the reaction is the product.” For theater owners, this means that every part of their business, from the snack bar to the merchandising, must be centered around “creating reactions, not transactions.”
Another way for theaters to grow their profits is to focus on G.R.O.W.s (guest reaction opportunity windows) which Taffer described as “touchpoints where businesses can do or say something that connects with people.” Separated into four main categories, the G.R.O.W.s presented to the audience included “Ticket and Greeting,” “Food and Beverage Innovation,” “Theater Amenities,” and “Experience Packaging.”
Taffer also devoted some time to discussing the importance of hiring positive employees. He noted that theater personnel are “not trained, but taught to work in the business” and that it is crucial to “hire ambassadors, rather than employees.” He compared the acquisition process to the NFL draft, emphasizing that it was important to “only select winners and constantly upgrade.”
The final message that Taffer led his audience with was a thought-provoking one: “people don’t leave a great experience and say it was expensive; if your customers are telling you your prices are too high, they’re telling you your experience isn’t worth it.”