How Showboat Drive-In Uses Mobile Ordering to Generate Revenue During COVID-19

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Showboat Drive-in theater has been welcoming customers to its 10-acre lot in Hockley, Texas for the last 15 years. Fitted with two movie screens and two stores, the drive-in can see around 2,000 people on its busiest nights, even during the pandemic.

The perfect social distancing solution.

“We’re just so disconnected right now and I think that’s why the drive-in business is doing so well for people,” explains owner Andrew Thomas. “They can still meet up with their friends — you sit in your car, I sit in my car — but we’re still around each other in a way that we can’t be in other normal venues.”

Before FanFood, Thomas said customers only had access to four cash registers, and with a thousand or more people at each screen, there were only so many orders the concession stores could handle at once. With customers taking a few minutes to order, and the kitchen needing time to prepare some of the orders, wait times could take as long as an entire movie.

“One of the things that works really nice about FanFood is that you kind of customize the experience for yourself,” he says.

Now that Showboat has partnered with the mobile ordering platform FanFood, Thomas has time to go out on the lot and interact with his customers. More importantly, his customers don’t have to leave their movies to wait in hour-long lines for concessions or be near other people.

“FanFood became a necessity because of the coronavirus, but it’s something I’d been interested in for years now,” he said. Not only has mobile ordering and express pick-up solved issues caused by the pandemic, it has also solved these pre-pandemic issues Showboat was facing.

70 orders in 3 minutes? No problem.

Thomas describes Showboat’s FanFood set up as a “triage system,” in which there are three terminals: a terminal featuring hot orders, another for basic concessions and a terminal at each window where employees can hand out orders and clear the transactions.

“People seem to really get it because it’s sort of the environment we’re in right now,” he says. “[Customers] don’t want to stand in a crowd of people– they don’t know who’s sick or not. They want to know that the things that you’re doing are for their safety.”

Since teaming up with FanFood, Showboat has seen their average number of orders per customer increase, and they’re fulfilling orders faster than ever, with wait times decreased by over 75 percent. As a result, it doesn’t take customers “nearly as long to get the stuff.”

“They can sit in their car, be enjoying the movie, hanging out with the family — doing the thing that they’re actually there for — and then as soon as their order is ready, they can get up and go pick it up.”

While Thomas says concessions can receive as many as 70 orders in as little as three minutes, the staff is handling the transition well. Instead of taking one order at a time and having extremely long lines, the kitchen and concessions staff have been able to utilize the triage system to handle the orders all at once. Orders of only pre-package snacks and drinks can be fulfilled in under two minutes, and kitchen orders can be done within 15 minutes.

Increase your staff’s hourly pay by $3 an hour!

Increased customer satisfaction has spillover benefits for his employees, too. Before FanFood, staff would make around $15 a night in tips, whereas with FanFood, employees rake in anywhere from $200 to $250 a night. This increases their pay by $2 to $3 an hour!

“It solved a lot of our problems that we had already,” he says. “The Covid-19 situation will eventually subside, but we’ll keep using FanFood for the long run because it solves sort of the core problems that we’ve had in terms of concessions stuff.”

For the next phase of this partnership, Showboat Drive-in is planning to offer delivery straight to vehicles, they just need to figure out how to mark the spaces on the lot so that employees can easily find their way to deliver orders.

“I really appreciate that FanFood as a company is about problem solving and looking for creative and inventive ways of adding value to the system and adding value to their customers.