Maybe this is cheating a bit, but this news report is a great illustration of an idea that more drive-ins should use. It’s from WBOY, Clarksburg WV’s news leader, and it’s all about the Ellis Restaurant on US 19 south of Shinnston. As much as we like restaurants, the only reason we care about this story is that the Ellis started as the snack shack for the adjacent Sunset Drive-In Theater, which is still operating. You can see both the restaurant and the screen in the Google Street View image embedded below. (It might help to zoom in a little.)
Anyway, this just shows that a great way to make a drive-in profitable is to make its restaurant popular all day and all year round. Since most of the ticket money goes to distributors, what’s left makes the business model of a drive-in theater look more like a seasonal, evening-only restaurant. So find a way to make that food wonderful (it often is) and find a way to make it convenient to buy even when the movies aren’t showing. If you can manage that, your place may be as successful as the Ellis, where the Sunset is reduced to second billing.
Update: Just after I posted this, I noticed that WBOY also ran a story about the Sunset, and they posted a video of that too. Too much multimedia for one story? Leave a comment and let me know. View Larger Map