When hosting parties and events, bowling centers kick it up a notch, or two or three – offering a variety of package specials and oftentimes customization. Profits reflect their efforts.
A popular party special at Laurel Lanes, in Port Angeles, Wash., is one lane, free shoes for two hours and a family size pizza for $45. Vern Elkhart, owner, said that 85 percent of customers who book birthday parties for children or young adults choose this package. The center also offers a two-lane package for $70 for two hours, which includes shoes for two hours and two pizzas.
Elkhart believes this is a popular special because, “Bowling is a sport for everyone. The whole family can participate – whether you’re 3 or an 85-year-old grandpa. Customers with young kids can choose to use bumpers, so the ball won’t go in the gutter and they always get pins down.”
Laurel Lanes, a rural 16-lane center serving a town of 16,000 that’s 70 miles from Canada, uses radio ads, newspaper ads and its website to promote specials. “Since we’re a small community, word of mouth works well too,” said Elkhart, who reports that about 600 people frequent the center every week during its busy season.
Customizing Is Key
For children’s birthday parties, Lynnwood Bowl & Skate, Lynnwood, Wash., offers a “bowling bash” for $14 per guest that includes a birthday table behind the lanes for two hours, two hours of bowling (with shoes), one large pizza and pitchers of soda.
Grown-ups get a private section for a group up to 30 people. Guests can upgrade to the private party room for up to 50 people that includes a server, food choices and two drink tickets per guest. After the first hour of dining, parties move to the bowling lanes for an hour and a half of bowling followed by a session of open roller skating for up to two hours. The cost is $355 for the first 10 guests, and $35 per person thereafter.
Larry Matlin, general manager, said the most popular bowling party features flashing colored lazar lights with age-specific music. The center aims to please – customers can customize events to suit their needs. “Many companies push for automated bookings; we believe that every party should be tailored to meet customers’ needs. An in-person conversation is required,” he said.
Matlin said bowling bashes are the most appealing events. “Parents like them because the kids are entertained and we clean up after them. We take care of everything.”
Because Lynnwood Bowl & Skate has existed since 1956, Matlin said there is no need to advertise – although it does have a website and Facebook page. “We live in a highly-concentrated area and draw from a three to five mile radius,” he said. “Anyone who wants to go bowling or skating already knows about us, or will find us.”
All-inclusive Packages Are Ideal
At Brunswick’s, in Norcross, Ga., a variety of packages are tailored to different event types. “Our guests want something all-inclusive – activities plus food and beverage options – so we design our packages with that in mind,” said Brian Dobson, general manager. Its “B Social” package has a bowling and mingle theme, which is popular for adult birthday parties. Corporate groups enjoy the “B a Team” package, which involves teambuilding exercises moderated by its associates.
Brunswick’s event services are promoted through awareness driving channels such as advertisements and organic placement in industry publications, participating in strategically-selected trade shows and expos, and networking with an extensive list of event clientele, local associations and networks.
All of Brunswick’s events feature bowling at their core, coupled with American pub fare from its in-house restaurant, Tavern ’45. Drink packages are also available, featuring local craft beer and handmade cocktails. Event packages are customizable. Hosts can reserve a private room or lanes, loft bar, Tavern ’45, outdoor patio or the entire venue.
Affordability is Appealing
Jupiter Lanes, Jupiter, Fla., offers several different packages for kids, adults and corporate events at its 60-lane facility that serves a moderately affluent community. For a children’s party, “The 300” packages includes two hours of unlimited bowling, shoe rental, a meal with soft drinks, signable bowling pin, invitations and four complimentary arcade tokens for $14.95 per child during the week and $1 more on weekends. For adults, options include a premium open bar and menu platter choices. Gourmet cuisine is available for corporate events.
“Due to the economic crunch nationwide, the packages that generate the most are those that are reasonably priced,” said Christine Vitolo, owner. “Once the birthday group is in the building, we can upsell additional products such as food, beverages and tokens to our redemption arcade.” To spread the word about its event specials, Jupiter Lanes uses the Internet and e-blasts. Last year’s annual visitation was around 100,000.
Something for Everyone
For kids, Big Al’s primarily hosts bowling birthday bashes, but it also has arcade game packages for those wanting more active activities. “Parties typically include pizza, soda, themed décor, a party host and can include FUN Cards to use throughout Big Al’s, birthday cupcakes and other cool add-ons. For parents, our favorite offering is that we clean up afterwards,” said Todd Moore, chief operating officer of Big Al’s, which has locations in Vancouver, Wash., Beaverton, Ore., and Meridian, Idaho. Each of the facilities is located just outside a major city, close to residential and corporate businesses. “This way, our birthday parties and events are easy solutions for personal or professional party planners.”
Big Al’s, headquartered in Vancouver, is also a corporate events playground as businesses enjoy a casual atmosphere to conduct meetings, host team-building events and celebrate milestones or staffers. “We coordinate bowling tournaments, manage custom team-building activities based on a business’ objectives and offer lounge-like experiences with quality cuisine for more high-end events,” Moore said. “We also do huge grad night parties for local school students that feature all-you-can-eat pizza and soft drinks, photo booths and mechanical bulls.”
Corporate events tend to generate more revenue simply due to availability, said Moore. “Weekends tend to be heavy with birthday celebrations while corporate events typically happen during the week. Our mid-range packages tend to be the most popular as they feature customizable add-ons.’
According to Moore, birthday parties tend to stem from walk-in business with people experiencing Big Al’s and then choosing it as their next birthday bash location. “We leverage an outside sales team focused on marketing and selling events to local businesses,” he said. –