Order & Pay for theatres

Order & Pay for theatres

How could Order & Pay work for theatres?

An order & pay system is a type of digital menu that allows customers to browse drinks and snacks and order from their seats using a QR code or a URL.

Below, we’ve explained the case for implementing order & pay systems in theatres, and why Storekit Order & Pay may be the best choice for you. Alternatively, you can also take a look at our list of top table ordering apps here. You can also find information on epos systems for theatres if you want to get a full overview of the relevant point of sale.

The case for implementing Order & Pay in theatres

Due to the UK’s mandatory regulations preventing at-bar orders, theatres have started to adopt order & pay systems as an alternative.

You might be more familiar with the use of order & pay systems in pubs and bars. But how do order & pay systems work for theatres?

theatre seats empty

The main use is that a customer can order their drinks, or preorder interval drinks, before the show or during the interval. Typically, a customer would arrive at the theatre and find their seat, with another 10 minutes before the show starts. There’s a QR code in front of them, so they scan it and browse the digital menu on their phone. Their eyes are greeted with the welcome sight of wines, cocktails, and Häagen-Dazs ice creams. Perhaps they choose a glass of white wine and – ta-da – it’s brought to their your seat minutes later. Then, they sink into the plush softness of their seat, wine glass in hand, experience truly enhanced by digital ordering. Their free hand is reaching out for your phone to order another drink for the intermission later – maybe another glass of wine or a cocktail.

The scenario above describes instances where theatre staff deliver orders to audience members, but theatre-goers can also collect their orders from the bar themselves. Either way, the introduction of order & pay systems has helped drive orders and limit crowd sizes surrounding bars in theatres.

These systems seem to offer benefits that will outlive the social-distancing era. This begs the question – are order & pay systems here to stay in theatres in the long term?

Below, we’ve laid out how the advantages of an order & pay system apply to the context of a theatre.

The purpose of order & pay systems in theatres

We’ve previously discussed whether order & pay systems encourage customers to spend more. The conclusion was that they seem to, and this is something StoreKit’s customers have also experienced themselves.

But it’s important to remember that not all systems are created equal. A good order & pay system can increase spending, but a bad one can prevent it. Make sure to get an effective system in place.

Reduce time-sensitivity 


Ordering food and drinks at theatres is a highly time-sensitive activity, with timings being dictated by shows. Customers flock to the limited bar facilities in small windows of time – which can often feel like a choice between a bathroom break or a trip to the bar – pre-show and during intermissions. The risk of the show starting before you reach the bar can be off-putting and by the time you can next access a bar, the moment may be over. 

This can stop customers from ordering refreshments, or more importantly, enjoying themselves. Even in instances of ‘successful’ ordering, the whole experience can feel rushed and stress-inducing – probably the exact opposite of what you’re looking to get out of a theatre trip.

Digital menus should mean that theatre-goers can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that they can access their food and drinks at the desired timings. Requiring app downloads or account creations can get in the way of that. These actions force a wedge of time between customers wanting to order and being able to order – “I was going to get a drink but this app is taking so long to download that at this rate I may as well give up” (cue frustrated arm throwing). And you can control messaging, so the customer can always know when there’s no longer time to get a drink in this break from the action.

With order & pay systems, queueing, anxious clock-watching, and mid-show entrances can be eliminated – but it’s important to make a choice that can help you harness the full potential of a digital menu.

Reduce friction


Reducing “friction” is a key concept in software design – it’s become prominent as a way of describing any barrier to making a sale. In the non-digital world, for example, there are various obstacles that increase friction for a theatre-goer trying to buy drinks or snacks. Needing to leave your seat and jostle your way past other seated customers, locate a bar, and wait in a long queue has high friction.

As you might imagine, less friction leads to more purchases.

The beauty of order & pay systems is that not only can they naturally eliminate friction, but using one can also provide the data to study friction in your purchase flow, and basis to take further action to reduce it.

When staff deliver orders to seats, customers experience minimal hassle – no jostling and no queueing. Even when customers have to collect their own orders, the smaller queues mean significantly less friction.

Steer clear of high friction software to keep friction levels low. Avoid requiring app downloads and account creations, as these risk putting customers off. Using a QR code or a URL attached to mobile tickets is quicker and easier. An automatic redirect to the theatre homepage for Wi-Fi users can also work. All customers would need to do is browse the menu online, input a seat number (the first two options would remove this step), and order, all from the comfort of their seats. 

But “friction” is also represented by software performance; things like split-second loading delays add subconscious levels of friction for users which have nonetheless been shown to translate to substantial sales drop off. A “progressive web app” is one answer. It simulates the benefits of an app (site performance, push notifications) and can even replicate the marketing benefits after multiple uses (with a home page button) but does not require a download, does not require a signup, and will not leave your customers thinking it would be easier to just go to the bar. 

The in-menu user experience

“Friction” is not the only factor dictating the effectiveness of an order & pay system. Reducing friction amounts to removing hassle, but patrons expect more from a theatre trip than just being ‘not annoying’, especially given tickets tend to be expensive.

A trip to the theatre is an experience, and the digital menu is no exception to this. Beyond being simple and intuitive, a digital menu should also reflect the atmosphere and personality of the venue. Make sure to select systems that allow for customisation, such as images, descriptions, and tags, to appropriately communicate available options.

Wait less, order more 


Time spent queueing to order is time not spent drinking or eating. In short, queues are a source of more stress for customers and reduced profit for vendors. On top of this, there’s only so many times an audience member can queue, buy refreshments, consume said refreshments, and then queue again in a single theatre trip given the time constraints.

Order & pay systems can reduce waiting times for customers. That time can instead be re-invested in drinking, eating, and reordering. Customers could, for instance, pre-order a drink for the interval, and order another drink during said interval. Choose a system that is compatible with theatres. Make sure it can offer options for delivery or collection timings – here, pre-show and mid-interval – and that these options can be disabled depending on the time.

Avoid solutions that counter the positive time-cutting impacts of digitalising ordering. This rules out app-based ordering systems due to the limitations of time within theatres. Intermissions are too short to comfortably accommodate app downloads and account creations. Simplicity and ease of use are key. The easier to use, the more likely customers are to begin ordering their next drink whilst still on their first.

More opportunities to order

Order & pay systems can help to expand the window of time where customers can order food and drinks. URLs can be attached to online tickets, encouraging theatre-goers to start ordering well ahead of their visits. Customers can choose the timings they want their goods delivered, either pre-show or during intermissions.

Customers can start buying refreshments before they’ve even set foot in the physical space of the theatre. This has the additional benefit of helping bars to prep more effectively in advance. To achieve this, the digital menu needs to be easily accessible. More opportunities to order equals more opportunities to spend.



Choosing order & pay systems that increase upselling opportunities is important.

Traditionally, in a theatre, opportunities for upselling are limited. In a restaurant environment, waiters may have multiple opportunities to upsell – “Would you like to get fries with that burger?” or “Would you like tea or coffee with your dessert?” In theatres, this is usually less feasible.

Choosing a digital menu that can offer upsell options to each purchase – a larger glass of wine, or a packet of crisps to accompany a beverage – can really boost sales. This has the added benefit of feeling very natural – ‘add crisps for £2.99’ – sometimes even more so than a human waiter would.

Order & pay systems can also create opportunities to sell items that can be made more expensive, such as cocktails. Cocktails require more time to prepare than wine or beer, which can pose an issue in the time-pressured environment of a theatre. An order & pay system could smooth things out here. You could create a ‘premium drinks’ list – the cocktails can be prepared during the show and delivered to individual seats in intervals. 

Taking advantage of low price elasticity

Theatre tickets tend to have high price elasticity – consumers are sensitive to increases in prices. Comparatively, food and drinks have low price elasticity, with increases in prices being less likely to negatively impact demand. This holds especially true in the space of a theatre where the bar is a monopoly supplier.

As we’ve discussed, order & pay systems can create more opportunities to order. An effective system can help theatres to achieve maximum gains from the low price elasticity of refreshments. 

Menu engineering

‘Menu engineering’, as the name suggests, is engineering menus in such a way that customers are encouraged to spend. Taking consumer journeys online makes understanding behaviours and taking action off the back of that possible. 

Currently (November 2020), at StoreKit, we already do menu engineering to a certain extent – and the hope is for this to become increasingly developed in the coming years.

Presently, we’re manually optimising our menu designs to drive stronger conversion rates based on the data we’re gathering. We’ll soon launch features like highlighted items to give our customers the ability to customise their menus beyond promotions and discounts. We’ll make sure to keep you updated on progress.

Are order & pay systems a practical solution for theatres?

Smaller theatres

In a small venue, having waiters deliver orders to individual seats should be a relatively simple matter.

Let’s assume bar staff at theatres have traditionally split their time between taking orders, processing payments, and providing refreshments. Digital menus would remove the need for the first two functions to be carried out manually. This would mean that transporting goods to customers shouldn’t pose a significant challenge, whilst having the benefits of elevated customer UX and spend. Even if additional staff is required, increases in staff costs should be modest compared to the uptick in audience spending that order & pay systems can encourage. 

Larger theatres

In more sprawling theatres, it may be less realistic for all orders to be delivered to individual seats. In these situations, customers can pick their orders up themselves. Alternatively, a combination of both systems can be used. Depending on location and pricing, some seats can have delivery services and some can require pick-up. This can help to strike the optimal balance between preventing inflated staff costs and increasing audience comfort by reducing crowd sizes.

Theatres with large bars or restaurants attached

We’ve covered in some detail the benefits of Order & Pay systems for pubs and bars; and the benefits of Order & Pay systems for restaurants. Read them through the links!

Choosing an Order & Pay system

Letting the user experience guide your choice

We discussed earlier that customers will generally choose the easiest path when trying to buy refreshments. If a system is difficult to use, customers will not use them. They will continue seeking out the bar instead.

Apps rank amongst systems that cause resistance. ‘Deepening customer relationships’ and ‘encouraging customer loyalty’ are arguments that have been made in favour of apps. Framed in this way, these ideas seem to make sense.

However, in reality, most customers won’t want your app on their phone. Forcing them to download your app won’t exactly warm you to them either. Customers might also judge downloading an app to be more effortful than heading to a bar, which ends up defeating the purpose of the whole activity.

Additionally, in the context of a theatre especially, making the ordering process a lengthy one is the last thing you want to be doing. By making it simpler and quicker to order, customer consumption and spend can be maximised in the limited time frames available.

Choose an order & pay system that can integrate

Here at StoreKit, we believe in the importance of an integrated tech stack. This means making sure various aspects of your business – EPOS, accounting, payments, inventory, and other softwares – can communicate and integrate with each other so that it’s your systems, and not you or your staff, doing the hard work.

StoreKit Order & Pay includes an integration module which can work in conjunction with over 30 EPOS systems.