Socially distanced seating

Socially distanced seating is a subject of much debate in the performing arts industry.

Many find the effect on income to make existing models unsustainable. Some venues and producers are exploring ways to adapt – not every option is open to every producer, and for some we have no doubt that socially distanced seating simply doesn’t work.

1) Introduction

We have been working with a number of venues to explore socially distanced seating. Every situation is unique, but here is some advice which tends to be transferable, and which may be useful to your situation – particularly for UK operators.


2) Context

Socially distanced seating operates in the context of other adaptations, and may be just one part of a venue’s income mix in the future. We don’t yet know whether external support will be available to enable venues to operate at reduced capacity

3) Use offsets for social distancing

In the UK, the social distancing guidelines are currently 2 metres, except between people from the same household – we don’t know if that will still be the case when venues reopen. For many, removing every other row of seats is not enough alone to achieve this distance.

4) Increase party size & use asymmetrical parties

If attendees from the same household are allowed to sit together, without seats left unused between them, then increasing average party size helps to raise capacity. Consider breaking out of rows.


5) ‘Take a Chance’ seats & front-filling

A combination of smaller party sizes and Select Your Own Seats can substantially decrease capacity. Consider Take a Chance seats instead, and talk to your ticketing technology provider to understand how their ‘best available’ algorithms work.

6) Rethink premiums & addons

The things that your audience value as a premium may have changed – embrace new opportunities to add value for those who can still afford to pay more. Consider a ‘click and collect’ approach to ancillary.

7) Adjust price differentiation and re-zone your auditorium

Indiscriminate price increases or decreases are not the answer. Price differentiation is the key to increasing yields while retaining a range of accessible price points, ensuring the arts remain accessible to price sensitive bookers.


8) Smart communication with customers

Communicate with your customers. Set expectations, and help them to adapt. Free staff up to focus on the areas of greatest return and value. Programme a core of work attractive to whole households. Reward members and supporters.

Robin Cantrill-Fenwick
Robin Cantrill-Fenwick

Robin is Chief Executive of Baker Richards

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