Theatres and Cinemas are tricky because they contain different types of business with different requirements.
This page explores two needs for EPOS here:
- Seat ordering for drinks and snacks
- Over-the-counter epos for food ordering system – these are essentially the same requirements as a QSR EPOS system
- Ticketing software – which is not really an epos, but is worth thinking about in relation to EPOS software, from the perspective of things like integrations.
One thing which can be very lucrative for theatres and cinemas is seat ordering. Covid-19 brought a large number of QR-code based ordering systems which permit people to order from their phones. The market is huge, and includes our over own Order & Pay solution. QR codes can be generated by most of these softwares, and you can print QR codes
There’s a few ways you can think about the market of the top table ordering apps but here’s some things to think about:
- Some solutions are apps which require download, and others are not and will not. On the plus side, apps provide a deeper relationship and enable you to sink your fingers into things like email addresses for your marketing strategy. On the other hand, there’s a lot of evidence that customers resent downloading apps they have not actively sought out, and adding additional friction (“download the app” > “make an account”) not only prevents people from impulse orders but really irritates customers and drives them away. GDPR prevents you from using the email addresses anyway, so we do not see the point in having “an app”.
- Some ordering systems are ugly, and others are stylish. Customer-facing design is not a natural competency for a lot of EPOS software providers, so be sure to check out what the app looks like from the inside. Having brought in lots of customers, the StoreKit Order & Pay team are beginning to use the data to continually optimise our design to maximise purchases. Given that users of all ages and abilities will be using the software, it’s really important that the software feels really accessible to use as well.
- Ask about load capacity. A technical consideration is that everybody may order their drink at the same time. The light comes on, the interval begins… and four hundred people order their drinks at once. Naive or immature software brands might not have invested enough in this or thought about handling that many orders in that short a period of time.
- Some can integrate with your other software, and others cannot. EPOS software will often integrate directly, ticketing software may need to use connector or aggregator software in order to integrate. If you want to talk to an Order & Pay expert, email email@example.com to set up a call – but using the link in the picture above, we encourage you to sign in to the software and have a play around first.
Ticketing is sometimes described as part of a POS solution, depending on who you ask. So to be clear, in this article, a POS refers to the hardware solution which exists “at the point of sale” (or what’s on the cashier’s screen). It also refers to the associated back-office which comes with that POS.
However, we’d also distinguish between POS-module companies and POS-first companies. A POS-module company is a company whose core competency is building another bit of software – for example, online ticket booking – and which throw in a module enabling you to sell snacks. A POS-first company would be one which had built a POS – probably for hospitality – and which is likely to have a fuller suite of features for the purpose for which it was built.
With that in mind, there’s three options:
- The first and most obvious option is a complete cinema software solution which has a food/drink POS module in addition to the core ticket selling competencies. The big upside of this is that you don’t have to think too hard – it’s been designed for you. The big downside is that you’re likely to find that the further away you go from your software company’s core competency, the worse the software will become.
- The second option is to build a software family, which is comprised of a few different softwares. The upside is that you can use all the software to their fullest potential and you’re unlikely to be caught out without a feature; and every cashier can see the screen most relevant to them. The downside is that you have to think about integrations – but don’t let that put you off! Nowadays, many integrations work right out of the box, without developer fees or six-month timeframes.
- The third option is to have separate softwares for separate parts of your business and not to bother integrating. The upside is that you can choose whatever software you like without thinking about integrations; the downsides are that you’ll need separate tills for separate parts of your business (e.g. a box office, a bar, a sweet shop), and you’ll struggle to aggregate the data to understand all the parts of your business at once. You also can’t thread services together this way, e.g. book drink orders to be served during the break of a show.
Finally, another thing to think about is marketing. Many EPOS systems have in-built features, such as loyalty cards; and more will work in concert with your e-commerce platform to deliver a marketing pipeline you can use.
Because you aren’t selling a physical product, your inventory needs will be much simpler and you won’t need a complex EPOS system – but you’ll need the EPOS to speak to ticketing software which links to time and seating plans. To manage the volumes of people passing through a busy cinema, you need high capacity, high volume printers integrated with the EPOS terminals.
Integrating with ticket platforms
This is where it gets a bit fiddly, and there are several options out there – depending on how complex you want to go.
Ticketco offers an integration with the payment provider iZettle (hardware for which we offer a discount!). You can take card payments at the entrance as a part of the TicketCo ticket sales package (monthly fee), and the money goes straight to your bank account. Because iZettle comes with free basic EPOS software in addition to the payment processing, you could use iZettle software for some simple ancillary parts of your business, like a sweet shop.
iZettle POS would probably be a bit basic for a pub or bar, though.
Bigger chains might use Cinicloud, a ticketing service designed to help single-screen cinemas and multiplexes manage inventories, seat layouts, scheduling, and ticketing seamlessly over the cloud. You’ll want to make sure your online and physical platforms are integrated so that you’re not continuing to sell tickets to sold-out events.
The on-site EPOS and e-commerce platforms need to share the same seat booking system. Another thing to think about is print-at-home or e-tickets. Laser QR code or barcode scanners can be used away from the main sales desk to scan people’s tickets and reduce queue times.
You may wish your EPOS to tag certain films as 15+ or 18+ and have an alert so that the sales assistant is prompted to ask the age of the viewer. You’ll need to configure the different price brackets according to custom groups (student discounted tickets, children’s and family tickets, for example).
Use your EPOS to upsell. This may mean programming it to pop up with combo offers on the customer-facing display. This may mean sending branded e-mail receipts which present customers with offers. Sell box office tickets and then drive up your revenue offering food and drink combos, deals and merchandise.
With advanced EPOS technology, and depending on your ticketing platform, you may be able to offer customers buying tickets online promotional bundles – combining theatre tickets with prosecco and show programmes for example – which can be redeemed on arrival at the theatre using a voucher code. Code recognition software will need to be plugged into your in-house EPOS systems, so it can identify these codes when presented by the customer and authorise the server to award the correct goods.
Whether you’re selling at the bar or at the box office, it’ll be paramount that you’re serving customers quickly and efficiently. Reduce queues before performances and during intervals, improve customer experiences and maximise sales opportunities.
The snack stand doesn’t usually require a really complex POS. However, one feature you’ll need which is surprisingly rare among POS systems is weight! The cheaper softwares are sometimes more likely to have this, as their customers are more likely to be market traders and sellers-by-weight.
They include iZettle and Square, which are both able to handle weight items.
Unlike generic pubs and bars, selling drinks isn’t a cinema’s or theatre’s main function – for this reason, your bar will be running a simple, counter-based buying operation (akin to a Quick Service Restaurant).
If you’re a bar without tables then you’re probably looking for a POS with a simple and rapid front end (without the complexity of table service, which will demand higher-end EPOS).
- Drink recipe lists for your cocktailers
- Timed promotions
Price scheduling (e.g. happy hours) will be key to your bar operation here, so will modifiers and combination/deal discounts, which you can adapt your EPOS to handle. For example, you may have mid-week pre-show drink offers. Look for EPOS technology which is programmed to automatically switch between standard and promotional pricing at pre-defined times of the day or week.
- Automated low-stock notifications
Since bars aren’t huge outlets, and you’ll probably sell very limited food options, the stock control software need not be hugely powerful. But at busy times when large volumes are passing through the till, that extra foresight from automated stock control can make all the difference in replenishing shelves quickly.
- Pre-order and collect drinks
Consider integrating your EPOS system with a software application like Wi-Q for mobile pre-ordering via an app.
Our favourite Bar EPOS options
Simple Bar – Goodtill
One great software for a simple bar would be goodtill. Goodtill is designed for speed; and it would enable you to sell simple items (like a pint!) quickly at points when you need your bar to serve customers as quickly as possible.
Complex Bar/Restaurant – TouchBistro
Touchbistro is a tad more expensive than the Good Till, but boasts extra functions and features. You can do table service, for example, and Touchbistro has an “offline” function which means that many of the functions will continue to work in the case of a WiFi-outage. (This does mean that you’ll need to buy a server with Touchbistro if you have more than one till.)
Assessing your business
Reporting is fundamental to all businesses, and will be the evidence you need to make calculated decisions: what film format does best in my cinema, 3D or 2D? What day of the week is most popular? What is the average transaction size? Are my loyalty programmes working effectively? (Cineworld Unlimited, for example, has generally succeeded in boosting sales). Which film screenings appeal most to children? It’s likely that your sales will vary across a variety of time frames (by season, such as during film awards season, or by the time of the week).
This is one area an integration between your ticketing software and your POS for bar and/or sweet shop will be really helpful. You know you’re likely to need more sweets in months where more tickets have been bought; but software can tell you the proportions in detail. If your reporting works across different datasets, you can tell that people are more likely to order Rose wine for Hugh Grant films.
As you start to grow, you can conceptualise any software solution – POS or ticket sales – differently. Instead of a single app, think of it as a suite of different “views” depending on each staff member’s remit. You may wish for only certain head office members to have access to financial data, and you can create secure log-ins for managers only. If you’re a multi-site manager of a cinema enterprise, for example, you’ll have a different, protected log-in screen. You can switch from venue to venue to compare performance and collect several data reports to give you a broad understanding of your business. Paid-for EPOS systems like Lightspeed, Revel Systems and iKentoo will be adapted for these more complex things.
We would recommend that all your software systems are cloud-based (What is the cloud?). This means your reports will be available to view on a web browser, anywhere in the world and at any time. Real-time intelligence about the value of your discounts, deals, allowing you to develop the most profitable offers and promotions. It’s a safer and smoother way of working, especially when you have lots of terminals collecting diffuse data in concert with an online portal.
Marketing capabilities and loyalty programmes
EPOS marketing features boost customer loyalty by helping you acquire new customers, retain existing customers and sell more to all customers. Marketing and remarketing are huge parts of what make cinemas and theatres successful, as you’re changing your offering all the time, and many of your patrons will come back again and again and again.
It costs a lot more to bring in new customers than it does to retain existing customers.
Your EPOS can be configured to work with your loyalty programme software, like Lightspeed Loyalty. It might be that your loyalty card allows ticket-buyers to receive rewards points, or one-time rewards on their birthday. Staff can enter the customer’s ID number or login to a member’s area.
You can set up your EPOS to send digital receipts. For instance, iZettle will let you send out email receipts, which you could customise to show your opening hours and website address, and include deals to keep bringing customers back.
The marketing benefit for your business here starts with retrieving the customer’s email address – though there’s a bunch of regs surrounding what you can do with these details. First, you need the customer’s opt-in consent before sending them emails. Secondly, you can’t share their email addresses with other parties, unless they agree to this. So it can be advantageous for you to deal with cloud-based EPOS software, where data security is handled by the EPOS company, meaning merchants don’t have the burden of responsibility.
Theatre and cinema companies, like any other business, rely on customer loyalty to achieve long-term success. Maximise on your customer base with a loyalty programme.
- ‘CRM’ stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s used to refer to databases which hold customer information.
Generally, more information for this will come through your e-commerce solution whereby people are actually buying tickets and input information. But you can attune this to your EPOS with things like identity tracking. This is where you identify someone’s bar purchase via the card they used (at a safe distance – through a process called tokenisation) and you can match that to their ticket orders to build up a fuller profile on them.
You like whiskey? You’re a loyal customer? You like Tom Stoppard plays? Have one on the house! This is advanced stuff! So call us if you want further details of how this would work.
With ticket sales, snacks and drinks and perhaps a bar all under the same roof, cinemas and theatres create a real mix of demands for sales processing and administration. But with the right EPOS system, you can fulfil these needs. Modern businesses need to keep up with the ever-evolving state of the hospitality and entertainment industry – so nowadays EPOS systems offer a broad range of measures. If you’re unsure about what’s best for you, we’re on hand to help.