The drive-in theater that I help run has always been a blast. Built in the 50s, it’s one of the last in the country. But when a pandemic suddenly slammed us with a mass influx of customers, we suddenly found ourselves at something of a crossroads.

In the face of this unexpected adversity, I decided to try to gamify our concession stand by giving out prizes for guessing which movie was showing in each theater. Suddenly everyone was engaged and you could hear laughter all across the grounds as people played games and enjoyed themselves while waiting in line for food or drinks.

But there’s more to gamifying your service business than running fun contests or trivia nights. Earlier this week, I discovered a site called Love struck that was created by a Los Angeles-based marketing agency called Fueled.

Here are some ways how a drive-in theater owner pivoted amid pandemic :

1. Automate the toll booth : 

Instead of having attendants manning toll booths at every booth, you can have a computer system do all the work. Instead of calling an attendant over to run your card, you can link it up with your concession stand.

2. Offer WiFi for those outside the window : 

You can use WiFi in your concession stand so you can purchase and scan in and out without having to stop and talk.

3. Stay open:

 People in crisis don’t want to spend money on entertainment they can’t enjoy in the comfort of their home, so staying open is a big help. You may consider offering up one or two windows at night to provide nighttime entertainment via the drive-in projection system.

4. Make sure all employees wear protective gear and sanitation supplies : 

A starlite drive in theatre  should not be a germ factory. Pay attention to sanitation, and make sure all employees dress appropriately, including gloves.

5. Turn your concessions stand into a game center : 

Games can be fun there! Offer bingo cards with prizes for game selections, let people play arcade games in the stand so they spend time waiting in line, or even offer prize tickets that can be redeemed inside.

6. Develop your concession stand into something that’s more than just food and drink :

 Think about adding areas for lights, sounds, equipment rental (if you don’t already), ice cream carts/trucks/shades/ice, etc.

7. Keep the atmosphere light :

 People visiting the drive-in theater want to be entertained, and they don’t want to worry about how they’re going to pay for their concessions. It’s a tough thing all by itself, and it’s even tougher when you’re trying to keep people safe. 

So maybe if you can find a way to provide snacks and drinks (for free!) and try to keep your word of mouth marketing up for business—maybe that’ll help cover some costs.

8. Don’t forget children :

 I know, I know—it’s hard sometimes, but kids are an important part of any business.

9. Make it part of your disaster plan :

 There’s usually more that you don’t know until something happens than what you do know. You can use downtime to try some new things—or even reevaluate some old stuff after the fact.

10. Find ways to monetize :

 Just because you’re out of business for a few months doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start thinking about how to make money again.

11. Focus on social media : 

Don’t be afraid to start helping people at home or to let them know that you’re still there for them.

12. Start offering products and services via your concession stand :

 If you can, think about making your concession stand into a one-stop shop where you can offer up light snacks, power, water in water jugs or even propane in exchange for cash or credit cards.

13. Make the experience something people won’t soon forget :

 What’s it like to be in an apocalypse? How do people interact? Work together? Survive together? People love seeing relationships blossom amidst disaster, so make sure they feel loved during this time of need.

14. Offer up a holding area for supplies :

 If you can, try to set up a holding area where supplies can be dropped off. People who are running their own neighborhood watch or refugee camp are going to need supplies—and they’ll probably stop by the drive-in first.

15. Make sure everyone is working together : 

This might be the most important tip of all, because it means you won’t have any fights over ownership of anything. I know people who’ve lost relationships over drive-in movie theaters, so take this very seriously and try to keep everything in one happy, loving family.


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