By Karen Appold
For bowling centers looking to quench their guests’ thirst, offering a variety of beverages is key.
Pepsi is tops with customers at East Providence Lanes in Rumford, R.I. “We have Pepsi advertising signs plastered everywhere,” said Michael Sedoma Jr., manager. The center also uses digital advertising available through the Brunswick Sync scoring and management system.
Pepsi is also the best-selling beverage at Southgate Lanes Inc. in Bluffton Ohio. “It’s one of the most advertised soft drinks in the world and it’s very tasteful,” said Brandon Falk, manager.
Slushies continue to do well at bowling centers. In fact, Joe Markiewicz, general manager of Strike and Spare in Clarksville, Ind., said Icees are its top-selling non-alcoholic beverage. “Kids like sugar and the variety of available flavors, including raspberry, cherry and cherry lime,” he said. “They consider it a treat because they don’t get it all the time. They will often order it after eating food, and treat it like a dessert. It’s a nice change from carbonated soda.”
Slushies rule at Rab’s Country Lanes in Staten Island, N.Y., as well. “Adults and kids love them,” said Frank Wilkinson, proprietor. “They are most popular when lots of kids are at the center. Once one has one, the rest follow.” Slushies come in six flavors, which can be seen through the translucent cup. They include cherry cola, lemon lime, blue raspberry, cotton candy, watermelon and cherry.
At East Providence Lanes, Slushies sell better in the summer than winter—which Sedoma attributed to all the summer camp visitors. The center sells two flavors.
Signage throughout Strike and Spare informs patrons that Icees are sold there. Most signs feature a big bright cup that says “Icee.” Another way to promote Icee sales is to sell it in Icee cups, which other patrons see. An Icee machine behind the counter, which allows guests to see the different drink colors, is also a big draw.
Wilkinson recommended offering a variety of Slushie sizes and making sure that options can be seen at all times. The Slushie machine is visible with all of its flavors, along with fountain sodas. Bottled products are displayed on the counter.
For Sedoma, promoting drinks is key. “If customers don’t know that we sell something, they can’t buy it,” he said. “Putting it in their face is important.”
Falk also recommended advertising drink options. “We make sure there are table topers on the tables and counters so customers can see what we sell,” Falk said.
Top-selling Alcoholic Beverages
Regarding alcohol, Markiewicz said bottled Michelob Ultra beer is the top seller. “It’s a light beer, has low calories and has a decent flavor, which appeals to men and women alike,” he said.
Beer is also the best-selling alcoholic beverage at Rab’s Country Lanes. The center offers 14 different beers on tap available in different sizes (i.e., pint, pitcher and tube) along with many other offerings in bottles and cans. “Beer is easy to share with your fellow teammates while bowling,” Wilkinson said.
Beyond beer, Rab’s sells more alternatives than ever before, such as hard seltzers. In the hard liquor category, brown liquors (whiskeys and bourbons) continue to oversell clear liquors.
Bud Light is popular at East Providence Lanes. “A lot of league bowlers have drank it for years, and that’s what they stick with,” Sedoma said.
Bud Light is also tops for Falk. “It is the number one selling beer in the world and also in northwest Ohio, where we’re located,” he said.
Tips to Sell More Alcohol
To boost alcohol sales, Wilkinson suggested offering what customers want and making sure they know about new, available products through bar displays and servers. “Sampling works best when introducing new products,” he said, but noted that certain states prohibit sampling. “Although our regular customers are creatures of habit, they’re the first ones to try something new.”
This was once again proven when Rab’s introduced Jell-O shots on a regular basis, which are made on the JEVO Gelatin Shot Maker. “The product should be displayed at all times,” Wilkinson said. “Our servers walk around with lighted trays to showcase the shots. We change flavors weekly to satisfy customers who want something new.”
Signs around the bar area at Strike and Spare promote the different types of alcohol sold there. “We run daily specials that promote different drinks,” Markiewicz said. “Many people seem to think that bowling and alcohol go hand in hand. When they’re here, they’re looking to have a good time.”
East Providence Lanes has monthly drink specials for both non- alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, which are promoted in digital signage.
Falk suggested offering new beers often. “Customers are always interested in new items and fads, so we have different and new beers every week,” he said.
Water Sales on the Rise
Bottled water sales are up, Markiewicz said, because people are steering away from sodas and high-fructose drinks. “People are more health conscious and are choosing alternatives including flavored water and teas,” he said.
Water sales are also up at East Providence Lanes. In fact, Sedoma said water in vending machines is its most popular beverage. “I think people are moving away from soda and sugary drinks,” he said.
Wilkinson said bottled water sales are steady year-round, and spike in hotter weather. “Hydration is important in sports,” he said. “We have seen a spike in sales over time as guests are choosing water over soft drinks to get away from sugared and caffeinated beverages.”
Bringing in Water
Bringing water inside Strike and Spare is a big no-no. “It would affect our sales,” Markiewicz said. Signage on its front doors, its website and in the eating area state that no outside food is permitted. “If someone violates the rule, we kindly tell them we don’t allow it and ask them to pack it up,” he said.
Rab’s doesn’t permit guests to bring in water, either. “We tend to see more patrons bringing in their own reusable bottles,” Wilkinson said. “We fill them up at no cost.” If someone doesn’t follow the policy, they are politely reminded of it for future visits.
Guests can bring in water from home, Sedoma said. “Most likely, they will buy something after they finish it,” he said.