18 Jul Building a Faster Horse
By: Greg Johnson, Director of Sales and Marketing
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I’m sure we’ve all heard the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford, “[i]f I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” A quick whip around Google will show you there was never any real proof that Ford ever said such a thing, but the debate around listening to the voice of the customer to drive innovation initiatives still remains a hotly contested subject, even here at Flix Brewhouse.
The idea on the surface does raise an interesting point. What is the role of customer input on true innovation and how do you sift through the noise to land on a conclusion that allows you innovate something your customers truly love?
In the cinema industry you will hear the word “innovation” thrown around constantly. It is connected to projection/audio technology, enhancements to the food and beverage experience (which you will read more about in this issue of Flix Entertainment Quarterly), new techniques and even to methods for filmmakers to create and distribute content.
One popular innovation is recliner seats. We see the seemingly strong demand for recliners in the comments left by our guests who patronize Flix locations that do not feature recliners. But, is that really what they want?
In April, we opened our first ever all-recliner Flix Brewhouse in Little Elm, TX. While the results are still a little early, we learned some valuable service lessons through this experience. First and foremost, our service and support teams do not seem to like recliners as much as our previously standard issue Easy-Glider table/seat combination. They can be difficult to serve because feet get tangled when guests are reclined, it is difficult to see what the seat number is in a dark theater, and so on. Secondly, we lose valuable real estate in our auditoriums and cannot put as many seats in the theater. Third, and perhaps most important, we traded into recliners for something that makes Flix uniquely Flix.
Before we get too far, I should point out I personally was a proponent of an all recliner Flix. I have since been converted to the Holy Church of the Easy-Glider. When our guests told us they wanted recliners, what they really were saying was they wanted a more comfortable way to enjoy their movie. Since our guests count on Flix to deliver a full experience with food and drinks at their seats, trading a posher seat with a small tablet arm for the Easy-Glider experience, combined with a less-than-optimal angle to eat (when reclined) did not create a “win” out of the gate for us. While it was not a total flop, it certainly was not innovative, at least for us.
That’s why it has been so exciting to experience our latest location, which opened July 5 in Madison, Wisconsin. We are on a mission to deliver the best aspects of a recliner seat, all while maintaining the functionality of our Easy-Glider table/seat configuration. We began to innovate after our Little Elm experience and have arrived at a seat to pair with our Easy-Glider table that rocks back just enough, while still maintaining the correct eating distance and position. It also features more plush padding and by our El Paso opening, wide upholstered arms, much like a recliner. We installed an “alpha version” of this combination in the primary upper seating area of each auditorium in Madison and stuck with recliners in the lower bowl of each auditorium, as well as in our two smallest auditoriums.
Ultimately, we find ourselves with an innovative seating solution that is uniquely Flixian and which enhances the guest experience on all fronts without trading down the dining experience. While we aren’t trying to change the world by inventing the next horseless carriage, we are trying to make cinema dining a unique experience that resonates with each Flix guest. And while some will continue to opt for recliners where offered, I believe I speak for our operations and marketing teams when I say “long live the Easy-Glider!”