TAP Magazine eNewsletter Original Story
Industry Perspectives: Trends in Bowling Centers for 2017 & Beyond
Bowling centers nationwide are making changes. 2017 brings plenty of both new and traditional features as centers “spare” no expense to get patrons in the door and coming back for more.
At Palos Verdes Bowl in Torrance, Calif., Manager Charlotte Melsh sees many bowling centers “turning into party centers. Open plays and parties are really the direction many are headed,” she stated.
However, as for Melsh herself, she said, “Our center is really going to stay pretty much the same, focusing on leagues and regular bowlers. We have great leagues and good people with us that form our customer base, and we like our base. Other lanes may be looking more to parties, and that type of entertainment, but we like our league bowlers. They’ve been loyal to us throughout the years.” While Palos Verdes Bowl frequently upgrades “a little here and there,” no large scale changes are planned.
To encourage more patrons, Melsh relies on community involvement. “Word of mouth is also important. People come to us and see that we are customer-focused and family-owned. This is a very nice place to come. We do a lot with the various chambers of commerce in the community as well, specifically Torrance.” Other members of Melsh’s staff, such as the bartenders, utilize social media. “They let people know what we have going on here, such as live bands and karaoke in the lounge. Our business development person also promotes us on social media.”
Also located in Southern California, Gardena Bowl Owner Sam Amenta said his center has already made some significant changes.
“We were ahead of the curve a year and a half ago. We made an upgrade with automatic scoring, the latest scoring system that AMF offers. That upgrade has kind of flooded the bowling center market in the last year and half. The screens are larger and more customer friendly. It has its own built-in games that appeal to younger people, and it even includes a Facebook app, so they can post directly from the scoring area to Facebook,” Amenta explained. “It’s just an overall more modern flat screen, touch screen, type of technology that appeals to kids, while the larger size also makes it easier for seniors to read. It’s a very customer friendly application that AMF has come up with.” Amenta said he compliments AMF for designing it. “New scoring technology is really taking over the market, and it’s helping our center as a matter of fact.” Besides keeping up with that technology, Amenta focuses on simply “offering a clean product at a reasonable price, and having positive word of mouth,” to drive more customers through the door.
“We also have a restaurant here that serves an Hawaiian-American menu. It’s a strong draw. When their customers come into the bowling center and see our modern technology, they’re interested in bowling too, and it often draws them in to play a game or two. We also have a billiards area in the center, nine pool tables. While pool players don’t necessarily spill into our bowling, we’ll find that our bowlers will also explore that area. Having the additional attraction keeps customers in the center longer.”
Overall, Amenta noted, “New technology is where it’s at for bowling centers.” However, Amenta has also remodeled to accommodate league players with large bowling bags. “I’ve configured the seating to make it more accommodating for them to fit their gear.”
In Tempe, Ariz., David Reese, district manager at AMF Tempe Village Lanes and a total of six Arizona locations in all, sees renovation and technology upgrades as key for bowling centers. “Industry-wide we are seeing this as important to do. You need to look at the facility and wherever possible reinvest back into it if you want to continue to attract frequent visitors,” he said.
At his centers, such renovation has recently occurred. He has just completed a full center-refresh at the Brunswick Via Linda lanes in Scottsdale. “We put video projection on the back wall, showing movies, music-videos, and television shows. We made a major capitol investment to modernize that facility. Here in Tempe, we recently did an arcade renovation,” he explained. “We are very close to ASU, and college-age students are our primary customers. We focused on adult-oriented games that would appeal to that demographic, bringing in new games such as the World’s Largest Pacman game and large monster cranes. It’s an outstanding renovation.”
Along with these renovations, Reese said his top tips for improving business is based on two things: “Making sure you have a quality team on-board and all your associates are engaged in your operation, and that your leadership is strong at each location, that is all very important. Second, it’s not about meeting but about exceeding expectations. Customers may come in anticipating what they got from old bowling centers of yesterday in terms of service. Today, it’s really a full entertainment center. Food is not your typical snack bar quality food, there is true quality food at our bowling centers. We can cater events, for example. We do large corporate events and center buy-outs, we offer just a great night of entertainment,” he asserted.
At KingPins in Portland Ore., Owner Jon Tang agreed. “Technology and food and beverage quality are the big changes industry-wide. You win your guest through their stomachs with full, restaurant-type food, not just snacks,” he noted. “We just opened a complete remodel of our entire facility, and we put in new Brunswick pins, center lanes, everything, all state of the art brand new equipment from furniture to audio and video to pin setter.”
To get even more customers, Tang said the use of social media and the KingPins website both work well to stimulate business and announce specials and changes.
In Shoreline, Wash., Jeff Hemer, general manager of Spin Alley, also said that new technology and new dining choices are key for bowling centers nationwide. “Right here, one of our big changes is that in addition to our full-service Italian restaurant and bar, we also added Flying Dragon local Chinese cuisine to our dining options.,” he said. “So now we have two dining choices, and we have full, lane-side service from both. It’s very much like a restaurant with a physical activity involved.”
He added that Spin Alley will continue upgrading their facilities, and has also added the capability of a live Twitter feed to their scoring screens. “It’s a very interactive thing. During our Cosmic Bowl we can talk to other lanes or other bowling centers throughout the country.” The newness of the technology doesn’t faze him. “You have to survive in this bowling business through change. Bowling is far more casual-oriented these days, the old model of three shifts of League play per day is outdated. Any bowling center needs to be high technology and able to provide high tech music and lights, that sort of thing.” To bring in more customers, Hemer said “We use lots of social media, and we really push that our food and beverages are not your typical bowling alley food, and that we can offer a better experience than in the old days of frozen pizza.”
A Tourist Attractions & Parks Magazine eNewsletter Summary:
The November 2016 Issue
The November issue of Tourist Attractions & Parks Magazine included information on amusement and waterparks training and safety, sound and lighting at trampoline parks, and advice for bowling centers among many other topics.
In The Large Park Report, changes and improvements at large parks and resorts were discussed in an article titled The Year in Review: 2016 at Large Parks and Resorts.
Amusement parks were also the subject of an article on Top Tips for Training Top Workers at parks of all sizes, and in a bonus sidebar concerning advice for teaching workers a new skill.
The Waves section included articles on safety in How Waterparks Protect Guests and on Food and Retail – What Guests Want at Waterparks.
The Buzz Boyz section looked at events around the industry over the course of 2016 in It’s a Wrap – Perspectives from the Season’s End.
The Entertainment Center Report featured articles on bowling centers, including Great Advice to Keep Bowling Centers Running and a bonus sidebar, Top Tips for Clean Restrooms. Mini Golf and Go Karts were covered in Lessons From the 2016 Summer Season, featuring interviews with owners and operators nationwide. A bonus sidebar outlined Top Tips to Keep Guests Happy at these facilities.
Laser Tag was the subject of the feature article Gearing up for Winter Business – Changes for the Changing Season, which discussed how laser tag centers adjust to the winter season. Roller Skating -Tips to Keep Skating Along When Business Is Slow discussed creative ways to generate business during slow periods. And sound and lighting at trampoline parks was the focus of The Basics of Better Jumping, and the ways in which lighting and sound systems increase the fun at jump parks.
The Location Profile covered Diggerland, USA in West Berlin, N.J., and it’s unique spin on fun.
The Bumper Cars and Arcades section included an article on Tips to Drive Business to Your Attractions.
Our section on International Perspectives offered the article The Middle East Market Stretches the Imagination for Intercard, covering lessons for business success from the international sector.
In Retail Spotlight, Selling Souvenirs and Gifts – Mementoes Worth Mentioning presented advice on best-sellers with a local connection.
The Company Spotlight focused on Garner Holt Productions, Inc.: 40 Years of Imagination in an article by GHP Creative Design Director Bill Butler.
The AAMA FEC Corner presented Ways to Drive Business to Your Arcade with AAMA Executive Vice President Pete Gustafson looking at the arcade business past and present.
Family Entertainment Centers: Creating the Best Arcade offered tips from the experts on making the best arcade.
In the Street Beat section, articles included Game On – Coin-Op Trends Blast into the Nightlife World, discussing the most popular bulk vending machines, video games and prizes of the season.
Trends in Arcades – Amusement Parks and Family Fun Centers revealed why game arcades are integral to amusement parks and family fun nationwide, with a special bonus sidebar regarding SeaWorld San Diego.
In Food Service Spotlight, The Dish – The Hottest Food Trends at Zoos and Aquariums, included a bonus sidebar on three smart menu tips. Fresh From Scratch – How Amusement Parks Are Raising the Stakes to Offer Better Food covered the ways in which fresh, locally sourced foods and customized menu items are transforming amusement park fare.
Our Location Profile offered a look at popular Dave & Busters in Where the Food and Games Flow Freely: Dave & Buster’s.
The article Best Bets for Better Business – Tips to Keep the Selection of Inflatable Attractions Profitable discussed keeping inflatables competitive, with a bonus sidebar on the most popular inflatable attractions.
And last but not least, in the Haunted Attractions section, Low Gore for High Scares – Why, For Some, Creepy is In and Bloody Is Out looked at new trends in psychological scares.