The bowling industry is comprised of a diverse group of bowling centers that range in size from the intimate eight-lane centers to the mega family entertainment centers. Bowling centers’ food and beverage operations range in size from snack bar settings to sports bars and even fine dining. But no matter the size of the center, they all share the common goal of providing a quality, value-added experience to their patrons. The food offered in the centers has become more of a focus as operators have realized that good food can become a major profit center, not just a convenience for the bowlers. Food service has grown to encompass casual dining, children’s birthday parties, corporate team-building events, outside catering and banquets. Throughout this transformation “fun” has been the predominate theme and “fun food” certainly plays a pivotal role.
Over many years as a popular participatory sport, bowling has developed its own unique language. Big split, five bagger, gutter ball, kingpin, match play and turkey all refer to a specific event or technique in bowling. With creative thought, these terms can easily be used to make food fun by incorporating them into menu offerings:
“Big Split” – Pizza with the choice of two toppings
“Caesar Bowl” – Caesar Salad
“Cobb Bowl” – Cobb Salad
“Five Bagger” – Combination of five different appetizers or salad sampler
“Gutter Balls” – Chicken stuffed with a variety of cheeses and/or meats
“Kingpin” – A hamburger with all the trimmings
“Leadoff Man” – The heading for an appetizer section on the menu
“Match Play” – Heading for a “luncheon combo” section of the menu
“Perfect 300” – The ultimate onion ring tower
”Perfect Game” – The ultimate pizza with all toppings
“Sixpack” – Appetizer combination plate
“The Big Spare” – A full rack of barbecue spareribs
In addition to the bowling jargon, bowling balls and pins can also feature prominently to create fun food concepts. Our Java Bowl™ brand has been very successful with centers around the country. The program logo and point of sale pieces feature a bowling ball as the cup and the outline of a bowling pin as the steam rising from the cup of specialty coffee.
Java Bowl™ allows centers to compete in today’s coffee market with flavored coffees their customers seek. The single cup brewing system also removes the risk of wasted product. Java Bowl™ point of sale materials such as counter menu mats, danglers, recipes and customer frequency cards complete the brand.
As part of a yearly holiday program, centers participate in the “Bowl a Turkey, Win a Turkey” rebate promotion. Bowlers enter the promotion, and for a small fee, have a chance to win a holiday turkey. Plus the extra cash generated by the rebates can help the centers reward their staff members during the holiday season.
Food service vendors can also be of assistance in helping to promote fun food. Kelly Eisenberg features a 100 percent Black Angus Mini Hot Dog that has excellent applications in our industry. This mini dog can be used for children’s meals, as an appetizer, or in combination with ground beef and pulled pork sliders. To draw attention to their products, Kelly Eisenberg also offers merchandising items such as a variety of mobile hot dog carts.
The psychology of food begins with the eyes. As we all know, people “eat with their eyes” before tasting their food. An essential part of making food fun is enhancing the presentation at the table. A variety of companies offer specialty products that bring life to the average food item. A simple order of onion rings comes to life when stacked into an onion tower. Rather than a handful of French fries on a plate, arrange them into a mini fry basket for an outstanding and fun presentation.
Bowling centers understand the importance of presentation and can partner with their foodservice vendors for fun food ideas. King & Prince Seafood offers a 6-ounce mini popcorn box to uniquely serve their Pop Corn Shrimp. The shrimp is also utilized in fish tacos, Po’ Boy sandwiches, and as a topping for salads.
Always mindful of the children in their establishments, proprietors realize that items like onion rings and popcorn shrimp may not always be the appropriate choice for smaller children. A great fun food alternative is McCain’s “Smiley Face Fries,” which also resemble miniature bowling balls.
By using creative ways to make food fun, bowling centers have enhanced their patrons’ experience and driven incremental sales. Patrons appreciate the efforts made to upgrade the menu offerings, creating a fun and exciting atmosphere within their centers’ foodservice program. –