A long time ago in a downtown that no longer exists some enterprising artists and film buffs decided opening an arthouse style theater with a nice restaurant was a solid idea-- and they were absolutely right.
Full disclosure; I knew many of the people involved with running this business, I was a frequent customer. No one ever asked for my suggestions despite having run a very successful multi million dollar retail business and when I dared to criticize them I was often derided for being too negative. More on that in a minute.
The Bijou Cinema was a great concept-- an upscale arthouse theater built in the existing Galleria Cinema's complex but with enough taste and style to redecorate it with a very pleasing albeit slightly hipster look but it was a winner when you walked in the door.
The Cinema had three screens and would show movies like AMERICAN SPLENDOR which would otherwise not get play (at the time) in the booming Metropolis of Wootown Massachusetts. They had a nice restaurant area outside the cinema where you could sit and enjoy your meal, or, and this is when the first of many bad decisions came along that would sink it, you could have your meal brought into the theater while you watched the movie.
Places like THE ELM DRAUGHT HOUSE in Millbury have been doing this for years-- the big difference is that they only have one screen and set between every 2-3 chairs is a table, and I think (It's been sometime since I've been there) they have trays in the seatback in front of you-- so you can actually eat a meal.
The BIJOU idea was better, at least restaurant wise, because do you really want to sit and eat a meal in a dark theater?
The trouble with a restaurant attached is how do you seat people, serve them and then get them in to see whatever movie they want to see? In order to do that you would need a high functioning machine with military like precision to carry it off. Something along the lines of a countdown clock for each screen to show when a particular film is going to start might have worked, putting the responsibility on the patron to finish their food and get into the film, but said patron has no control if the service is ridiculously slow and despite arriving 45 mins early they still don't have their food as the movie starts-- which led to the performance art known as in theater delivery of food that the Bijou decided to offer.
It's going to sound to you like I'm making this next part up, I'm not, nor am I embellishing even one bit.
You would order your food, if you were going to eat it in the theater and they would tell you they will bring it out to you.
How did they accomplish this bit of magic? Glow wristband with corresponding numbers? A light up number you placed on your seat? Even those Olive Garden style pager boxes so at least you could look up to see your poor server trying to make their way down a pitch black walkway struggling to figure out where you were sitting?
If your answer is none of the above you would be correct. Now I cannot speak for everyone, but I can testify that EVERYTIME I took part in this function they NEVER even asked me which of the three theaters I was going to be in. By the fourth or fifth time doing this (I really wanted them to succeed) and being tired of getting cold food I would tell them which theater I would be in but no one wrote it down and it made little difference.
On at least THREE occasions I watched as the server walked into the dark theater and then dropped the tray spilling the food contents everywhere.
When they would walk down the aisle successfully, you had no idea what was on the tray, so if you raised your hand thinking, "Hey- I ordered something fifty minutes ago maybe this is it!" they would bring it over and show it to you and you'd have to try to remember if this is what you ordered because, you guessed it, they didn't even take a name.
Realizing that the eating in the theater system was doomed to fail-- and I confess I still watched and laughed when they would wander up and down the aisle looking for the person who ordered a particular tray of food-- I opted instead to eat in the restaurant.
My favorite interaction there, again, I'm not making this up.
Our salads came out, excitedly we placed our napkins on our laps and as the waitress asked if we needed anything else, I smiled and said "How about forks?"
The waitress gave me a sympathetic smile and head tilt and said;
"I'm sorry--we're all out of forks." AND WALKED AWAY.
I looked at my dinner companion, I looked at my salad. I looked around the restaurant certain I hadn't heard this correctly when the woman at the table next to me said;
"You're welcome to mine when I'm done. I got it from the man at that table over there."
When I mentioned this at a crowded party filled with many equally enthusiastic patrons of the Bijou as well as one of the owners I was harshly told that the dishwasher had either broken down or walked out that night and they were doing the best they could and that by sharing this story I was hurting them.
No, the only persons hurting them was them. You know what you do when you run a restaurant and you're out of forks? You wash some more forks. You wash them across the street at the gas station if you have to. You run out to a Wal*Mart and you buy a 10,000 pack of forks, you put straws together for people to use like chopsticks, in other words you find a solution.
Having your wait staff apologize and then do nothing, like they've run out of the Salmon is unacceptable and the reason you're now closed.
The support for this business was so strong that it stayed in business for some time despite continued complete inept business practices like those above.
But the bottom line is if you're going to run a business, you need to either need to learn how to run that business or bring in someone that does.