In an influential 1998 research paper, the economists B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore coined the term ‘experience economy’ to describe, what they argued, would be the next major economic transformation society would face. They had the foresight to say that businesses would begin to organise memorable events for their clients, creating a situation where memory itself becomes the product; the ‘experience’ that keeps customers coming back for more.
In this case study feature, AV Integration speaks to Trevor Nel, owner of the Lucky Bean Restaurant in Melville, Johannesburg. Nelexplains how his new Epson EB-X05 projector has enabled the business to take part in the experience economy in a unique and memorable fashion – by projecting silent movies onto the wall across the road from where diners sit and enjoy their meals.
“I like to experiment and try new things,” says Nel, when asked about where the idea to project movies during serving hours came from. “I’m mechanically and technically-minded, and I’m always trying something new. The main inspiration came from wanting to utilise the space of the blank wall across the road from us. That, and also the necessity to have another form of entertainment and another talking-point for people to have, as they’re sitting inside the restaurant.”
His quest for the right projector led him to the Epson EB-X05, Nel explains.
“I was looking for something with a good throw distance, high lumen output and affordable price-point. I did a lot of different research into different projectors and their applications –I knew I couldn’t change the colour of the wall, for example, so I went for something that would be more vibrant, even on off-white surfaces. For the amount of features, [the EB-X05] was much more cost-efficient than other projectors in its category.
“It’s also vitally important for me to be able to replace a lamp or a spare part if something goes wrong. It was very easy to set up – completely plug-and-play, I just put a stand on the bottom of the roof and pointed the projector in the right direction. So the ease of use and the safety of knowing I can get the projector serviced easily were also definitely big factors.”
As well as creating ambience for customers, Nel explains that the projector provides a number of additional benefits to the business, “We just use a laptop to feed content to the projector – and so I also have the opportunity to do bits of advertising for the restaurant in between the films. So, while the movie is playing, I can insert content – like to announce a cocktails special or promote something that’s moving fast in the restaurant.
“Therefore, the projector doesn’t just attract people into the restaurant; once they’re inside, I can also communicate directly with them.”
This aspect of the setup has proved so effective, Nel explains that he has “Even had people approach me about using my projector set up for advertising space for their products – but that isn’t my business. This space is mine and I’m going to use the technology for creating an ambience for the restaurant and my customers, as well as for the Melville community.”
Indeed, the response from the Melville community – one of Joburg’s funkiest, most vibrant suburbs – has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The reaction to the films has been incredible. A lot of ‘wow’ responses from the community – people can’t believe there’s something like this going on in the neighbourhood four times a week. It’s also a great format for date-nights – which are traditionally Tuesdays to Thursdays. For us to be able to provide ‘dinner and a movie’ all in one is a fun alternative for our patrons.”
When asked about the choice behind screening silent movies, Nel explains that, “The main reason is that the films we show are open source, and so there are no rights or copyright issues involved. But, beyond this practical element, silent movies go beyond cultural and language barriers; they’re comedic films, it’s good entertainment, and people like having the space to watch and still be able to converse freely while the film is playing.”
Looking to the future, Nel says, “Our business model also creates opportunities for film premieres. We could do something like close off the road and have a screening and then pay for the licence for that film for the night. The licence fees, in this kind of context, are workable. We are also quite closely associated with the two universities in the area, and we want to work with different faculties to collaborate around art exhibitions and other visual events.
“Melville is the melting-pot of Joburg, so it makes sense for something like this – something interesting and dynamic – to emerge here,” he concludes.