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From App To Lap - Will Theatres Embrace At Seat App Ordering?

At seat ordering

Last year, Bristol Hippodrome announced plans to trial at-seat app ordering for food and drink, allowing audiences to enjoy refreshments delivered directly to their seats without the risk of missing a moment of the performance.

The initiative, as reported by Bristol Post, suggests a departure from the customary interval rush to the bar or concessions stand, offering patrons the luxury of seamless ordering through their smartphones. With just a few taps, audiences can indulge in a curated selection of snacks and beverages, creating a more personalised and convenient experience. This move aligns with broader trends in the service industry, where digital integration aims to streamline transactions and improve customer satisfaction. 

This trial may seem an innovative approach to enhance convenience for theatre-goers, however, the ability to do this has actually been present in quite a few theatres for a while now. Our audience engagement app has a popular pre-ordering feature which can be used to place at-seat orders. At-seat app ordering was even a necessity at some venues when emerging from the pandemic period. And yet, it has not become a mainstream practice. 

Is it merely that larger venues have not widely adopted the initiative? Could it be that communicating the capability to audiences is taking time? Or, are there inherent issues with this service? 

The concept of at-seat ordering could bring about a revolution in the way theatres cater to modern audiences. However, it also raises questions about the future of in-person hospitality services within these cultural venues and comes with its fair share of challenges and considerations. 

Let's delve into the potential pros and cons of this slow-emerging trend: 

Advantages Of At Seat App Ordering 

Convenience is certainly a driving force behind the initiative of at-seat app ordering. It eliminates the need for patrons to leave their seats during crucial moments of the performance, ensuring uninterrupted enjoyment. However, there are some other advantages: 


By integrating with ticketing systems, pre-ordering apps can offer tailored recommendations based on past preferences or the specific show attended, enriching the overall experience for theatre-goers. 


Streamlining the ordering process can reduce congestion at concessions areas, leading to shorter wait times and improved operational efficiency for theatres. 

VisitOne have had a steady stream of positive feedback from theatres regarding the ability for attendees to pre-order through our platform. The Royal Shakespeare Company, for instance, have seen a significant increase in preorders for drinks since utilising the VisitOne platform and have found the interval period far more manageable for their bar. Some of our clients also utilise the VisitOne platform to streamline their at-seat ordering service. 

Revenue Generation 

Offering premium services such as at-seat app ordering can open up new revenue streams for theatres, potentially offsetting losses in off-peak seasons. 

Disadvantages Of At Seat App Ordering 


While convenience is paramount, there's a risk that constant smartphone use for ordering could detract from the immersive nature of live performances, leading to disruptions for both patrons and performers. Of course, none of our theatre clients enable app-enabled ordering during the performance. 

Technical Issues 

Dependence on digital platforms introduces the possibility of technical glitches or connectivity issues, which could hinder the smooth execution of at-seat app ordering and frustrate patrons. Without the fail-safe of preordering, technical challenges on the day - which can be common in some theatres due to connectivity issues in older buildings - could result in failure for at-seat app users to complete orders in time. 

Staffing and Logistics 

Implementing and managing at-seat service requires additional staffing and logistical considerations, including training staff to navigate the app interface and efficiently deliver orders within the theatre. 

Cultural Impact 

Some may argue that the traditional theatre experience, including the anticipation of the interval and communal interactions at concessions stands, holds an intrinsic value that should not be replaced by digital conveniences. 

Should Theatres Embrace At-Seat App Ordering? 

Despite the challenges, the potential for at-seat app ordering to become a lasting trend in theatre-going is significant, especially if theatres can effectively address the associated concerns. 

In-app pre-ordering balances the advantages of convenience and personalisation with the need to preserve the essence of the theatre-going experience. Moreover, it aids, rather than disrupts the audience experience. 

Through our experience, integrating with existing ticketing systems, VisitOne has seen first-hand the opportunities that streamlining operations can offer to the overall customer journey. When theatre-goers can access their tickets, pre-order food and drinks and find key show information through one platform, the going out experience is simpler and therefore enjoyment is enhanced. 

Using technology to support theatre-goers also has multiple benefits for the theatres. Aside from streamlining the visitor journey, they may also leverage data analytics to gain valuable insights into consumer preferences, enabling targeted marketing efforts and further personalisation.

But, are theatre-goers and venues going to embrace at-seat ordering, or was it just a post-pandemic plaster?

Logistically, app-to-seat ordering is going to be a challenge for theatres and concessions to manage if the trend is adopted on a large scale. Getting drinks and snacks to those in the centre of seating rows, or requiring them to leave and then return to their seat, may well become dependent on other audience members assisting or at least being tolerant. Then there are issues of risk assessment, crowded aisles and the danger of unintentionally supplying alcohol to minors. It’s possible that in-app ordering may be better suited to certain areas of the theatre or to art houses and independent or modern venues that may have been designed with more space in mind.

Ultimately, as society increasingly embraces digital solutions for everyday transactions, the demand for convenient, on-demand services is likely to persist. Theatres that adapt to these changing preferences and invest in innovative technologies stand to attract a wider audience base and remain competitive.

Thinking of trialling at-seat ordering in your venue?
Book a demo with VisitOne and we’ll show you how our app can enhance your attendee experience and encourage food and beverage pre-ordering.