Handheld POS Serves 1,300 Guests Per Hour at Dinner & Movie Concept Chain

By Darek Heath, VP of Operations, Studio Movie Grill | January 13, 2011

Founded in 2000, Studio Movie Grill is an innovative cinema chain that simplifies the process of enjoying dinner and a movie by providing a full-service bar and made-to-order food that customers can enjoy in the theater while watching a film. Based in Dallas, the chain has a total of seven locations in Texas and Georgia.
 
Serving food and drinks to moviegoers has unique challenges. Unlike in a typical restaurant, customers arrive at the same time for each film, and one film auditorium might seat more than 300 people — the capacity of an average restaurant. As a result, Studio Movie Grill needs to record and dispatch hundreds of food and drink requests at the start of each film, necessitating an extremely efficient and dependable ordering system.
 
Originally, the company used pen and paper, but it proved to be too slow. To switch to wireless handhelds, the company worked with Dallas-based technology consulting firm Network Advisor to set up wireless infrastructure and test different device options. First, the company tried consumer PDAs, but they had small screens, short battery life, and weren’t rugged enough for fast foodservice operations. Additionally, their weak Wi-Fi radios dropped connections due to the spacious film auditoriums, as well as interference from computers, projectors and other equipment. Studio Movie Grill also considered industrial grade handhelds, but they were too expensive for the company’s sizeable deployment.
 
After much trial and error with different hardware and software combinations, the company found an effective and reliable ordering solution in the Socket Mobile’s SoMo 650 handheld computer and Digital Dining software from MenuSoft, which they procured from hospitality technology provider CRS Texas. The SoMo 650 features a durable exterior, large screen, long battery life, and reliable wireless connections. Digital Dining works well on handhelds, unlike other applications better suited for large touchscreens. The company has 250 handhelds deployed, with up to 30 actively in use per site at any given time.
 
Don’t forget about payment options
When Studio Movie Grill shows live sporting events, handhelds are also used for tableside POS. A Socket credit card swipe is plugged into the top of each SoMo, and foodservers wear wireless receipt printers. The company does not use handhelds for POS during movies because the sound of printing or tearing off a receipt can ruin enjoyment of a film.
 
Using the handhelds, each Studio Movie Grill location serves an average of 1,300 customers per hour. The mobile technology has enabled the company to drastically reduce its number of fixed POS terminals. Additionally, the company has been able to reduce foodservice staff by about 30% while also experiencing an increase in the average amount of money each customer spends — even during difficult economic times.
 
This improvement in the per person average partially results from the company’s ability to better understand customer desires, but primarily stems from the greater efficiencies in order taking that wireless handhelds have provided. Without the use of handhelds, Studio Movie Grill might not have grown as efficiently as a company or be experiencing as much continued ongoing success.
 
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