Wine at the Opera

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At the opera last night we pre-ordered a glass of wine for the first intermission.  We paid before the opera and the glass was at the prearranged place after Act 1.  We’ve done this many times in Germany and increasingly in the U.S.  Why do the opera houses do this?

Competitive pressure is absent—they have a monopoly on drink/food at intermission.  Despite this absence, providing this opportunity raises the house’s profits.  Without the usual long wait at intermission, more customers will buy food/drink—so revenue increases.  This policy puts less pressure on workers—they don’t have to rush during intermission to serve people; in the long run this reduces the wage the opera house has to pay for equal-skilled labor—costs are reduced.  Everybody wins—and I’m surprised this policy isn’t more widespread.

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  1. Seminymous Coward says:

    I’d rather like to hear the implementation details of such a scheme. From experience attending other large events, I am having trouble guessing how orders and payment are taken and how glasses are matched to customers at fulfillment time. Is the honor system involved? Are the only time savings on bottle opening and pouring?

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    • Jim says:

      @Seminymous Coward
      I too am interested in the implementation, but I can add that I was at a Broadway play last week and waited in line at the bar at intermission. Before I even got to place my order (still about 5 people ahead of me), the lights flashed indicating that we had to return to our seats. You can’t bring drinks back to your seat, so even the people just ahead of me would have had to order, pay and chug their drinks before running to their seats. There are only a few bartenders, and many people order mixed drinks, which are relatively time consuming to prepare. Even if you just want a cola, you are waiting in the same line.

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    • dand says:

      At the Kennedy Center recently, it was an honor system. Filled glasses were placed on a table along with the order sheets we had filled out prior to the performance and customers just looked for their names on the table.

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  2. John says:

    Another benefit is that fewer patrons will bring their own flasks. (By removing the argument that it’s necessary to bring one’s own, if the house lacks the capacity to serve everyone during the intermission.)

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  3. Summit Rider says:

    I was at Lincoln Center for a play where they did this method to great affect. Implementation was easy. You get a receipt when you pay and simply show it when you pick up. Quick and easy and lots of people drinking/munching quickly. The best was that a lot more people had a pleasant experience which, in the end, keeps us coming back.

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    • James says:

      Exactly. It’s long-term competitive pressure: no one has to spend their money on going to the opera, so an opera company that wants to stay in business has to keep people coming back, and creating an enjoyable experience helps to do this.

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  4. Steve Nations says:

    When I’ve done this here in Chicagoland they usually write your name and order on a napkin and leave the drinks on that.

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  5. Eric M. Jones says:

    I would be more interested in how the taxpayers subsidize your wine and your opera experience.

    Opera would vanish overnight if there were a law to prevent you from telling people about your “going to the opera”. That’s why, what you saw, was never mentioned.

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    • RGJ says:

      lol….that’s why you get drunk.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      Some of us actually like opera. I’d pick most operas over most symphony performances. A symphony performance is pure music, but opera was the broadway musical of its day: there’s a plot, scenery, and costumes as well as the music.

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  6. Enter your name... says:

    I’ve seen a number system used: the drinks are set out on a long table with numbers posted, and you can find yours pretty quickly.

    The other wage effect is more immediate: one worker can spend an hour filling orders during the first act, instead of hiring four workers to stand around during the first act and fill orders during the intermission.

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