Dinner and a show go together like dinner and a show.

A week or two ago, I FourSquared that I was at the famed NY Dessertery, Serendipity.  (Has anyone come up with the verb for updating your FourSquare yet?  Squared?  Four-ed?) When I left the shop, with a few thousand caramel calories in my tummy, there were still several families waiting outside for a table . . . and they were all clutching Playbills.

The next day, I walked into my favorite Sushi restaurant around 6 PM (I figured the fresh fish would balance out the sundae from the night before . . . that’s how it works, right?).  The restaurant was packed.

Of course it was.  It was pre-theater.

I don’t have the exact stats, but I’d bet that more than 50% of theater attendees go out to dinner before seeing a show.  The two events go hand in hand.  They are linked like Santa Claus and Christmas, weddings and honeymoons . . . the US and oil.

So if theaters and restaurants are so codependent, and since we are both perishable inventory industries. . . why don’t we do more together?  Sure, a few shows here and there do check-stuffer promotions, or 10% off a meal with a ticket stub.  But there has got to be more that we can do.

When our matinees are hurting, should we have a promotional month called the “4 Course Lunch” promotion, where the 4th course is a show?  Should every show have a restaurant buddy that it can cross promote with, and even share a few media buys, or e-mail blasts?  Could you set up a commission program with the wait staff of a nearby dining establishment to encourage them to send people to your show?

Great food, like great theater, leaves the diner totally fulfilled.

Perhaps our two industries could join together to help fill more of each other’s empty stomachs and empty seats.

  • Rachel says:

    During the stagehands’ strike a few years ago, I remember the midtown restaurants were doing really badly. No theatre= no pre-theatre dinner.

  • Jon says:

    Very much agreed. To my mind, treating one’s self to a night out, including a pre-show, ‘unwind’ drink or appetizer, is part of the thrill of the experience – following up with dinner, puts it over the top. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t really imagine just going straight to the theater and then home – at the very least a nice [ideally shared] dessert would round out the evenings.

  • Sean says:

    This is very popular in regional theater. Many theaters that I have worked with in California have a direct connection with a few restaurants that funnel patrons to each other. The restaurants need us as much as we need them. I worked at Josie’s West on the upper west side for the past 6 months and the Beacon theater is one of our main sources of income. When Banana Shpeel was crashing, our revenues were down by a third. It would have helped it we, the servers, knew anything about the show, all we saw were the reviews.
    Someone needs to get on this. In tough times, We need to look at the broader picture, outside of just advertising a show, what else is included in the experience of a show. Streamlining will also make the experience easier for the patron and they will be more likely to come back!

  • More theatres need to offer a pre-fixe theatre meal! They did that in London and I loved it!! It was fantastic, fast and usually cheaper!

  • I agree with Sean. When working group sales for a Michigan theatre, we set up lunch reservations for groups of all sizes prior to matinees; we had developed relationships with about a dozen restaurants in the area. Sometimes the restaurants created a special ‘theatre menu’ for these groups and sometimes they were just regular lunch reservations. But the groups — and the restaurants — loved it. NYC tourists would love that – it makes their travel planning so much easier.

  • Indeed! It would serve Broadway to emulate the West End in many ways (ex: filming productions for wider public consumption a la the NTLive program).
    Tim Childs

  • CLJ says:

    When Actors’ Playhouse opened in Coral Gables, there were two restaurants on the street. 10 years later, there were over a dozen, and all of them mentioned the theater when asked why they had chosen their location.

  • Kyle Hamman says:

    I work in a storefront theatre in Chicago (technically we’re not a storefront as we are on the second floor) and there is a restaurant below our theatre. I stopped in for a drink while waiting for my wife to get out of rehearsal and the owner asked when we were going to be performing again. I told him that we were in rehearsals and would be opening soon. Then I asked him why. He then told me that the week before when our theatre had put on a fundraiser performance that the restaurant enjoyed their best night of business since they had opened a year and half earlier. And he attributed it to our theatre company. He now has a sign in his window that all of our patrons receive 10% of their meal. So, yes, it’s a small deal but the relationship has begun. We’ll see what happens next. I guess, it’s our move.

  • Kyle Hamman says:

    That should read “10% OFF.” If they only got 10% of their meal, there’d be a problem.

  • David C says:

    I am always surprised when I see theaters that have not embraced local restaurants and vice versa. A theater with whom I have worked has a great cross-promotional effort underway. The ushers hand out discount cards to patrons, the lobby has mini-guides to local restaurants, special events are catered by many of their ‘cooperating’ restaurants – seems to be a win-win: http://www.trtc.org/pages/8planvisit/restaurants.html
    Taking Ken’s initial post one step further…for those cities with robust theatre communities, a version of restaurant.com might be in order. Not sure how to fashion it and would have to think about it, but a cross between that and TKTS might be an interesting way to get new butts in seats.

  • Dan says:

    I work with a small community theatre and have been pitching something like this to our board for years. The problem? I can’t find local restaurants that are willing to give it a try.
    The majority of the restaurants near our venue are chains that have no control over what they do locally. And the few local ones don’t seem to want to do anything with us, no matter how much we try and convince them that it would help both of us!

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