A Strike for Profits
Strategies to Increase Revenues

Many centers with bowling facilities offer the game and much more, such as equipment rental, arcade games and food. So what is the biggest revenue source for owners? A random survey of bowling centers shows the revenue picture is a mixed bag.
Arcade games are the biggest profit source at PrimeTime Family Entertainment Center, in Abilene, Texas, a city with 120,000 residents that is home to five universities and Dyess Air Force base. “Although arcade games might not bring in customers like an anchor attraction such as bowling, go-karts or laser tag, once customers are here they almost always play a few arcade games,” said Daniel Decker, director of Integrated Services.
PrimeTime’s arcade comprises 28 percent or more of the center’s total sales. The arcade’s mix of offerings is a big hit. It consists of 56 percent redemption games, 30 percent non-redemption games and 14 percent merchandiser/instant redemption games. “Customers love winning prizes; that is why 70 percent of our games pay out prizes directly or tickets that can be redeemed for prizes,” Decker said. A variety of attractive prizes entice both kids and adults to play to win. PrimeTime purchases from more than 25 redemption companies.
Another reason why PrimeTime’s arcade fares well is that the games remain fresh. “Every year we invest 15 percent of arcade sales back into our arcade,” said Decker, who noted that the center has approximately 100,000 visitors annually. “Keeping the top games in our arcade keeps customers playing more.”
Steve Mackie, owner/manager, Tenpins & More, Rio Rancho, N.M., said leagues and tournaments accounted for more than 48 percent of total bowling-related revenue in 2012. Last year, the traditional bowling facility had more than 95,000 customers. Rio Rancho is an urban area, about 13 miles north of Albuquerque. It was recently named one of the top 10 towns for families in Family Circle magazine.
At Wow! Zone Family Entertainment Center in Mankato, Minn., food and beverage brings in a whopping 44 percent of the revenue. The standalone facility, high on a hilltop, has a full restaurant and bar, snack bar and servers that wait on customers while they’re bowling. It also does banquet events. Food offerings are not just standard bar fare, the menu includes salads, wraps, burgers, brick oven pizza and entrees such as steak, pasta and walleye (a popular fish).
Bowling is also a big source of revenue, amounting to about 26 to 27 percent of earnings. “A league generates most of these profits,” said Allison Jennings, senior manager. The center offers 30 and 32 week leagues, Sunday through Thursday, which is guaranteed business from September through April. An estimated 125,000 guests visit annually.
At Lightning Strikes in Birmingham, Ala., bowling represents about 70 percent of earnings at the 40-lane center. “We have a variety of leagues that bring in customers,” said Audrey Swafford, manager. “Some teach people how to bowl. A few even award special prizes at the end of the season, such as money or a trip.”
Jason Altman, president, Gage Bowl, Huntington Park, Calif., said bowling produces the biggest profits at the 22-lane facility, which is less than 10 miles from Los Angeles. This represents 60 percent of its earnings.
Efforts to Increase Profits
PrimeTime is always looking at different areas to turn a profit for every square foot of its facility. “We are currently upgrading our laser tag equipment to Delta Strike,” Decker reported. In addition, the center is adding a new 40,000-square-foot building to house a full-size indoor soccer field as well as a 10,000-square-foot trampoline park. The new facility is set to open next spring.
Gage Bowl plans to remodel the building’s exterior to increase its curb appeal and ultimately profits. The standalone building is surrounded by a mix of commercial and residential properties. It’s also looking to remodel its restaurant and restroom facilities.
“In the immediate future, we will concentrate on building our league base as well as providing more programs for customers who frequent us once or twice a year,” said Altman, who estimated that more than 1,000 customers per week visit. “We have a lot of different packages and promotions to help drive in casual bowlers.”
Whitney Elson

Initiatives have included a $2 Tuesday program, in which bowling shoes and some beverages were discounted to $2 from 9 p.m. to midnight. Gage Bowl also participates in a national program called Kids Bowl Free, in which kids can play two games for free, every day except Sunday, from May to September, by registering at Kidsbowlfree.com. In addition, it has offered a bowling, pizza and soda package for $50 on certain weeknights and $60 on weekends.
Gage Bowl promotes its offers on its website and through social media such as Facebook and twitter. Front desk staff hand out flyers to in-house customers and asks guests to join its e-mail database.
To generate more revenue, Tenpins & More will improve its food service with different seasonal and cultural specials as well as catering not only to birthdays and company parties but also to youth sports group presentation events. “Last month we ran our first spaghetti and meat sauce party for more than 90 children and adults,” Mackie said. “Any dish with spaghetti or rice is very profitable.”
In addition, the center recently installed new LED lighting throughout the facility, which should reduce electricity costs by more than 10 percent.
Wow! Zone Family Entertainment Center, located in a metropolitan area that has several colleges, plans to offer shorter leagues and bowling clubs in an effort to boost profits. “Some people have a difficult time committing to 30 weeks,” said Jennings, “But they may be interested in 8 to 12 weeks, and later decide that a longer time is OK. We are making this effort to get more people interested in bowling, which is a lifetime sport you can enjoy anytime of year.”
Lightning Strikes recently expanded its food choices in an effort to generate more bucks. The walking taco consists of Doritos, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, salsa and sour cream served in a Doritos bag. Some chicken entrees and a signature “Striker” burger, a double cheeseburger with bacon and horseradish sauce on a toasted corn-dusted Kaiser bun, are now offered as well.
In addition, Lightning Strikes offers the Kids Bowl Free program. The promotion allows children to bowl at no cost with a shoe rental. It is a welcoming strategy for the center, which is located in a quick-growing community of 20,000 with a small-town atmosphere. –

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