When you go to the Marco Movies, are you going to see a specific movie and have dinner while you’re there? Or are you going primarily for dinner and the film is of secondary importance?
Marco Movies owner Nick Campo says he gets both types of customers at his four screen, full food menu establishment.
“Some people come in and say, ‘We’re here for dinner, what movie do you recommend?’ Or they say, ‘We really came for dinner but we’d like to see a movie while we’re here.’ That makes us feel really good about our food.”
When the Marco Movies opened in 1993, the food offerings were simple and few.
“The menu really has evolved,” Nick says. “At first we had grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers along with the traditional popcorn and candy, but we tried new things, added on and upgraded the menu again and again and now it’s a full-blown restaurant menu.
“That’s what sets us apart from other food theaters, since we opened. They are mostly movie people trying to do food so their menu is pretty bland, but I’m a restaurant guy doing movies. I’ve been in restaurants all my life, off and on.”
The ink is still wet, so to speak, on the latest, upgraded version of the Marco Movies menu.
“I decided on my Italian food for the premium spot on the menu because I’m really proud of our Italian food. It’s my Mom’s sauce, we make it fresh, and we make our own chicken Parmesan. What catches people off guard is that we do things that a movie theater would never do. Everything is really fresh and we try to put the best quality product out there.”
When is a chicken sandwich not just a chicken sandwich?
Nick says another example is the grilled chicken sandwich.
“Our earlier one had been a huge seller but I wanted to give it something more. So one day I started putting things together. Now with great new bread, it’s grilled chicken with avocado, provolone cheese, tomato and mango salsa dressing. That’s how these products evolve.
“The Sirloin Steak Sandwich is new too. We make our own horseradish sauce and reduce our own balsamic. We do things that you’d find at a fine dining restaurant. As a restaurateur, that’s the fun part of the business.
“We can offer good stuff, from popcorn to baked tilapia. It boils down to the fact that people don’t expect our food to be fresh because it’s a movie theater, but once they realize it’s all fresh and made here, they want to try new things.”
Some customers phone in food orders for takeout, wanting dinner from the Marco Movies but not always at the movies.
Nick also has changed the choices of wine over the years and right now is having friends sample an array of wines with an eye to upgrade the wine list.
“It’s difficult to do a wine presentation and open the bottle at the table and do what you would normally do with a good quality bottle of wine. So I’ve always stayed with the carafe and I’ve wanted the best I can get in a large bottle.
“But that’s not good enough for me anymore. We may try to start opening a bottle at the table to give people something they will really enjoy.”
We asked Nick what menu item is especially enduring in popularity. There are many, as it turns out, but always a contender for the top spot is an order of sweet potato fries.
“They’re wildly popular and we sell a ton of them.”
Our nominee for dumb thief of the month; maybe the year
This item also involves the Marco Movies. As you may know Nick Campo recently upgraded the headset earphones moviegoers may use.
They’re popular, so much so that two of the headsets were stolen recently. That’s the bad news. The good news is that those earphones work only with the Marco Movies system. Anywhere else they’re as useless as an art history degree at a job fair.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail email@example.com.
Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.