Maximizing profit centers at bowling lanes means a mix of promotional activities. For this article, staff members at bowling centers across the country offered examples of their top money-making areas and explained how to boost sales.
In Silverdale, Wash., Jim Monahan, general manager of All Star Bowl, said his profit centers include an espresso stand, restaurant, lounge, arcade, and mini-casino, along with his bowling lanes. “On weekends, we have bands performing at the lounge,” he noted. “Bowling itself is our main profit center, but the restaurant is pretty steady as well. With five revenue centers, it’s profitable for us across the board. The casino also does really well for us, and the lounge is a very busy place on weekends. Our espresso cart is probably one of the busiest around the area,” he added. Monahan has no plans to add new profit centers. “We’re pretty maxed out at our 50,000-square-foot building. We just added the arcade four years ago, and we own that ourselves. That was our last big re-model. We also have a pro shop but we lease that out and someone else runs it for us.”
To increase earnings, Monahan offered this advice. “We do a lot of social media and we stress good word of mouth. After all, we only have two bowling centers in the area; we’re across the water from Seattle. We don’t get into large advertisements, just local ads.” Bowling promotions also help. “I think our increase in our league for kids is the area we struggle with, so we are trying to get kids interested with lots of different things. We’ve tried after-school leagues, Saturday morning programs. We do a scholarship program on Saturday morning. If they show up, they get a chance to win a $35 scholarship. It’s simply for showing up; it’s not performance-based. We have a lot of kids off to college now and they are starting to take advantage of the scholarships they’ve won in the past, so people are hearing about it.” He noted that the program has been in effect for 12 years. “We do our $35 dollar drawings four times a week. We transfer the money to the Smart program and activate it when they are going to college.” While the scholarship program is attractive to kids, Monahan would like to see the program expand. “We would like to pick up the program to 60 to 100 kids like it used to be, but we are fighting other sports and activities through the fall season.”
At Monahan’s location, visitation has been steady this year. “It’s been a good summer for us; a lot of it has to do with the different promotions we offer.”
Kendra Garcia, sales manager and bar co-manager at Cooperfield Bowl in Houston, Texas, said her profit centers include a full café, a small arcade, juke box, and bar area. “Food-wise we offer everything from burgers, pizza, and quesadillas, to salads. We do a lot here with food. For the most part, our customers are dining while they bowl, but sometimes we get others who come in just for a burger and beer. Our dining is very popular.”
As to the arcade, she said the center is planning to expand the small area. “The arcade expansion is going to be our first big venture. There have been requests for more games, and we can incorporate them into our birthday package, and incorporate the arcade as an attraction across the center.”
She offered this advice to increase profit center earnings: “Good, old-fashioned word of mouth is something that will help the bowling industry overall, particularly among experienced bowlers and those in a league. In the community itself, we make sure we have a strong online presence, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We utilize them to their highest extreme.” Along with social media, Garcia related that “We also use Constant Contact for emailing and sending monthly coupons to subscribers.” The center also does well working with a company called FetchRev. “It’s a newer company that we discovered at the bowling conference last year. They’re really great; to me, it’s as if Constant Contact and Groupon got together and had a baby. We have a great promotional working relationship with them,” she attested.
Copperfield Bowl’s visitation is up, Garcia stressed. “This year, our summer was great, really booming, particularly during the day, with our Kids Bowl Free program. The rest of the year I can’t completely say yet, as we don’t do our fiscal year until January. But overall I feel like we’ve had a great year, we’ve had an increase even on nights that are generally slower.” The reason? “I think our name has gotten out more, and people are seeing us more as a bowling center, not just a bowling alley. I think that is due to a combination of all the food items we offer, and the coupons, and online presence, making sure our brand and name are out there – that all really helps. Some people who have been in the area 20 years now are coming to us, and saying they had not heard of us before.”
At Bowl Arena Lanes in Fort Lewis, Wash., General Manager Janet Foster said her profit centers are simple: bowling itself, a snack bar, and a separate bar area, as well as a pro shop. “We’re planning on adding an arcade, because people always enjoy playing games,” she noted. Foster does not offer coupons or Groupons to increase traffic to the center, but she said, “Our marketing department does a lot of promotion with Facebook and Twitter. And we participated in the Kids Bowl Free program that was a big draw for families over the summer.” Foster related that the center’s annual visitation appears to be up so far this year. “I would credit the summer Kids Bowling program in large part for that.”
In Phoenix, Ariz., Cassie Magee, events coordinator for Let It Roll Bowl and Entertainment, has a wide range of profit centers. “We have a bar, a newly renovated restaurant, an arcade, and many party offerings,” she reported. “We’re planning on expanding our party rooms and outdoor patio, and renovating them so we that we can offer even more events. And we just set up a pro shop this past weekend.”
Her best advice to increase the earnings in profit centers is to offer a mix of a strong website that is kept current, coupons, customized packages for schools and fundraisers, and to provide themed events at the bowling center throughout the week. “We have a really cool mix. You can book events and party packages for corporate or birthday parties as well as adult parties, where you can choose and customize packages,” she explained. “We do give out coupons, and during the week, Tuesday through Thursday, we have timed bowling, while Friday and Saturday we offer Cosmic Bowling from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., where strobe lights and a DJ turn the center into a real party atmosphere with unlimited bowling.” On Mondays, Let It Roll Bowl offers by-the-game rather than timed bowling. “We also have a live band in our bar on Friday and Saturday nights, and that draws people in.”
Magee said, “The center’s visitation is steadily progressing, as it has been for the past eight years. This year with all our new renovations – we added hardwood floors and new carpeting, too – there has definitely been a strong increase in business.”
At Capitol Bowl in West Sacramento, Calif., Manager Steve Felshaw’s center has a full restaurant, a bar/lounge, arcade, catering, and both company and birthday party packages as profit centers. All do well for Capitol Bowl. “In the future, we’d like to expand if we’re allowed by the city. We’d like to add other venues such as laser tag.”
Capitol Bowl relies on Facebook, flyers, and word-of-mouth among bowlers to increase earnings in his profit centers. “We also give coupons to visitors; we have our employees hand them out. And we try to reach out to schools directly such as with our summer Kids Bowl Free program which was offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., five days a week.” Felshaw said his summer visitation was “great” and definitely up from the previous year; he won’t tally overall visitation until the end of the year.