A growing number of movie theaters are adding in-theater dining options, but Bill Barstow doesn't want to go that far.
The owner of Aksarben Cinema wants to provide his customers more food and drink choices, but he doesn't like the distraction that ordering and delivering a meal in the theater can create.
So he's opening the Aksarben Cafe, an expanded menu of meals, snacks and beverages that moviegoers can take into the theater or eat at new booths he's installing in the lobby at the multiplex in Aksarben Village near 67th Street and West Center Road.
The cafe is expected to be open by Nov. 29, the busy day after Thanksgiving. It's under construction now in the space formerly occupied by one of two private party rooms, next to the traditional concessions stand.
The cafe will serve casual entrees like cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, tacos, wraps and salads, in addition to the pizza and fried green beans Aksarben already has sold.
With movie admissions flat or declining nationwide in recent years, movie theaters, including Marcus Theatres' Midtown Cinema, are generating new revenue by adding dining options. Many have a focus on gourmet food, but Barstow said he's not especially trying to be gourmet.
“We're everyman's place,” he said. “We're not aiming to be anything other than what we are — a quick, casual dining experience.”
Barstow's Omaha-based company, Main Street Theatres, owns eight movie theaters in Nebraska and Iowa, including the Pioneer 3 in Nebraska City and the Main Street 7 in Fremont. No concessions changes are planned at those theaters.
Barstow called the Aksarben Cafe a natural evolution that will serve the area's diverse customer base, including retirees who enjoy coffee with a matinee, young professionals on a dinner date, and college students looking for late-night snacks and entertainment.
“As good as popcorn is, and as much as it goes along with the movie experience, they want other options,” he said.