Outside food: feature or menace?

Popcorn machine

© Depositphotos.com / SanHe83

I was doing my usual web prowl, searching for fun stuff and news to share here. I stumbled on the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In (Austin TX), and first of all, I’m unclear whether it “counts” as a real drive-in. As I mentioned a while ago, there are lots of things that aren’t drive-ins that pretend to be drive-ins, and I don’t like to talk about them. Is the Blue Starlite a real drive-in? Is it a worthy facsimile? I’ll have to return to that question in a later post.

When I visited the Blue Starlite web site, I found a quote that inspired me to write down something that’s been bouncing around in my head. On the Blue Starlite FAQ page is the question: “can I bring my own food and drink?” If I were feeling fussy, my reply would be that it’s likely that you have that ability, but perhaps you’d prefer to ask whether you may bring your own food and drink.

But the Blue Starlite FAQ answer is much nicer. “Yes. We don’t like to limit our customers options and enjoyment. As well as their creativity. However we do ask that you patronize our concession stand as well at least for your popcorn, candy and soda’s (sic) if you do not buy a concession package in advance. It really does help support our ability to keep bringing you quality nights of entertainment as only the drive-in can in Austin TX.”

That’s beautiful. I know that when I go to the drive-in, which is as often as I can, I love to bring food and sometimes something to drink. It’s a great benefit and incentive that I can create my own experience in my car while I watch the movie. But I would never visit without buying at least a large soda and a large popcorn from the concession stand. The incremental cost of a large soda is maybe a nickel, and the popcorn probably costs a dime or two, so I figure my cash should go straight to the operator’s payroll and profit.

I’ll make some enemies for saying this, but hey you drive-in operators, instead of treating customers as thieves and cheats for wanting to bring in the food they like, maybe you should look to your own kitchen to make sure you’re cooking something they want. It’s a good idea to explain the economics of running a drive-in as you encourage patrons to buy your food, and if you give your customers a good alternative, your convenience (and sufficient quality) should win their dollars more often than not. The Blue Starlite gets it, and you should too.

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