In the Silverspot Light: Luis Ginestra brings passion for foodservice to growing circuit

Snack Corner

This month, Film Journal International recognizes Luis Ginestra, a true foodservice professional from Silverspot Cinemas. Luis is food and beverage director for the growing 57-screen exhibition circuit based in Central Florida. Currently residing in Florida, he spent over nine years managing the food and concession operations for Cines Unidos, based in Caracas, Venezuela.

Ginestra has multiple disciplines, but he found his passion for food and beverage while attending University of Nueva Esparta Hotel Management School. His career is founded on the mastery of the restaurant business. Luis earned his Certified Concession Manager (CCM) credentials from NAC in 1999 and was the first graduate of NAC’s Executive Concession Manager (ECM) program. He has orchestrated multiple CCM certification classes in Venezuela for the Cine Unidos managers. His management style is a result of his appreciation of the hospitality industry. Luis Ginestra represents the next generation of superstars in cinema foodservice.

Luis was born in Caracas and attended a French established school at an early age. He decided to continue his education at a college in Venezuela, where he studied computer engineering. He soon learned that was not his forte and developed a fervor for the hospitality industry. “My first job at age 16 was in the first McDonald’s opened in Venezuela. I really like the interaction I had with the customers. I learned I could influence the experience. I carry that attitude with me still today.” Ginestra later received his graduate degree from University of California, San Diego.

Luis will tell you his grandpa was a great influence on him while growing up. But his professional life was furthered by his mentor, Jean Paul Coupal. “Jean Paul taught me to look at things the way the guest sees them first, before you do anything else. Check out the lightbulbs, the cleanliness, the table décor, floors and seats. Jean Paul taught me the rough side of the restaurant business.” That approach continues in his role at Silverspot: He sees thing through the eyes of the patron first.

Luis’ first “real job” was a fortunate turn. He was working as a tour guide to earn extra money when he received a call from the owners of Food Arts magazine. They were coming to Venezuela to interview and visit Jean Paul Coupal and the Samui, an upscale Thai restaurant. “I would take them to the beaches, the various cities, the countryside and got to know them pretty well. After interviewing Jean Paul, they told him about me and introduced me to him. He hired me right then as the general manager. I had to open this new restaurant in less than two weeks,” he chuckles. His experiences at Samui allowed him to travel to Thailand, where he learned firsthand the fare and the culture.

He spent the late ’90s working at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where he again expanded his prowess in food and beverage management and thrived doing what his range of creativity allowed. His roots were fully in hospitality. He never thought he would work in the movie theatre business, but happenstance occurred again.

“I remember I was working for Schlotzky’s deli and our friends from Coke mentioned to me that Cine Unidos was looking for experienced F&B managers for their concessions department at the corporate level. I did not know what to expect, but I was captivated by the industry and almost 20 years later my passion hasn’t waned.”

As for his current responsibilities at Silverspot, he is invigorated by the opportunities to build and develop a boutique-style cinema experience: “Not so expensive that everyone cannot enjoy it, but an elevated experience that will make people want to come back.” His goal is to “keep the overall presentation of food and beverages in line with the cool and hip images that represent Silverspot Cinemas.” He expects to be making big changes in the menu in 2018. The greatest opportunity lies in trying to accommodate the culture of “Create Your Own” that appeals to the younger generations. He intends to offer more personalized services by incorporating techniques learned in the hospitality industry. He explains that in-theatre dining is similar to room service in a hotel; online ticketing is similar to reserving a hotel room online. Now that alcohol, craft beers and specialty drinks are available in theatres, it mirrors lobby bars in hotels as well.

Asked about his favorite movies, Luis says, “There are just too many great movies to choose just one.” But if he had to, it would be the entire Star Wars series. He was influenced tremendously by Verne Harnish’s book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, and he invites all his managers to follow its three key principles: Align with corporate values, be focused on the task, and know your numbers.

Since Luis has worked or taught in nearly every South American country, he would like to visit Europe and explore the French countryside where his ancestry began. His favorite movie snack is popcorn accompanied by a glass of wine, while watching a Tom Hanks film. His enjoys soccer and golf. Luis and his wife Karen have three children: Isabella, 12, Federico, 10, and Felipe, six.