If I was a Restaurant Owner, here’s what I’d do . . .

Restaurants and Theaters have a lot in common.

  1.  They both have “perishable inventory.”

If a table or seat is empty, once you pass a reservation time or a curtain time, that table/seat goes from being worth a pretty penny to worth absolutely nothing. (It’s why the cheapest way to get a great seat to Hamilton is to hang out at the Starbucks at the Marriot Marquis across the street from the theater, with your laptop open, refreshing StubHub every few minutes in the half hour leading up to curtain time. Just watch how the brokers reduce their price . . . and then snag one right at 8. You’re welcome.)

  1. They share investors.

There’s a big crossover with people who invest in Broadway and people who invest in restaurants. There’s the cool factor, the access factor, and the high risk/high reward factor. Find a restaurant investor and I’d bet you could turn them into a Broadway investor, or vice-versa.

  1. They’re both “experiences.”

Fine dining . . . even non-fine dining ain’t just about the food. I don’t watch Top Chef or any of the 873 cookin’ shows on the air, but even I know it’s just not about how something tastes. It’s about the ambiance. The service. The presentation. Or all of the above. The diner who drops $100 a plate wants expects something more than happy taste buds. And the same is true from Broadway, especially looking towards 2019. “Experiential Marketing” is the buzzword du jour, and I’m hearing it pop up more and more in our audience’s conversation.

In fact, a recent focus group for Once on this Island led us to push the experience of being at Circle in the Square surrounding the sand, water, fire (not to mention a Goat) and other elements that you don’t normally experience at a Broadway theater.

What does this mean?

It means that as theater evolves over the next several years, more weight is going to be on the Director’s (and his/her Designers’) shoulders, even more than the script. Gone are the days when audiences will want some simple staging of some spoken lines. That’s just not enough anymore. So Directors will have to think more experiential as they interpret scripts.

Don’t get me wrong, Writers can help the Directors along with what they put on their pages, but those Directors are going to have to see more things that aren’t on the page than ever before.

And it also means that if I was a restaurant owner? I’d not only hire theater designers to dress my house (David Rockwell has done a bunch), but I’d actually hire a Broadway Director to stage the whole experience.

That’d be a restaurant I’d frequent often.

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Want to hear what Broadway’s best Directors think about the current state of Broadway? Click here to listen to Diane Paulus, Jack O’Brien, Susan Stroman and more tell you how they got to be where they are and where the industry is going.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.