Ten pin bowling operators have been providing fantastic value for money experiences for friends and families since the sixties. While large scale FECs continue to expand their reach across the country a new breed of smaller boutique centres, focused on competitive socialising, are opening every month.
Bowling is a robust and lucrative business, particularly when executed to a high standard. So, what do you need to have in place to ensure that the significant initial investment returns?
Having worked on successful projects with many business owners in the last 40 years we know just about all the highs and lows, hurdles and quick wins involved in launching a successful bowling venue. In this post we outline six of the fundamental areas which need to be considered to ensure you start off your venture on solid foundations.
High Quality Equipment
The most important feature of a successful ten pin bowling centre is having robust and reliable equipment throughout the business, but particularly with your bowling equipment. Every customer will experience this equipment, and it will go a long way to creating their value perception of their visit. Equally, more than 50% of your revenue will likely come from the bowling activity, so uptime of the equipment is absolutely critical in maximising revenue and profit.
It can be tempting to go for the cheapest option available to minimise the initial investment, however it is critical to consider the longevity of your business in addition to the expertise and support that comes as part of the package. Your supplier should be able to provide you with a bespoke offer for your business that includes – at least – a scoring and centre management system (looking after online bookings, lane ordering, marketing etc), top class equipment, a professional installation, staff training and an ongoing service package.
Investing in high-quality lanes and equipment will allow your venue to charge top rates for the activity, ensuring that you return your investment as quickly as possible. Just £1 of additional revenue per game charged will allow most centres to recoup the cost difference from a low-end package to an industry leading solution.
Fun and Exciting Atmosphere
You need to decide on a unified and premium concept for your centre and follow this through in all your decision making. Once you have a clear vision then it is easier to select appropriate décor, signage, lighting, branding and furniture to solidify your identity in your customers’ mind and ensure that value is added through every step of the customer journey. Clearly identifying your target market will help with your theming. A carefully curated playlist, a food and drinks menu which appeals to your target audience and additional activities to enjoy all add to establishing the vibe of your venue – while also leading to crucial additional customer dwell time, increasing Spend per Head and profitability.
Professional and Friendly Staff
A huge part of a successful venue is a great quality team. Friendly, responsive, engaged and professional staff will be the cornerstone of a great business and it is often a customer’s memorable interactions with staff that have the greatest impact on their enjoyment of a venue. Consequently, well planned recruitment and selection, backed with good staff training and robust systems and processes is essential. Wherever staff are working in the business they need to be equipped to respond to act as ambassadors of your brand in every interaction.
Food and Beverage Options
Whether you have space for a cafe, full-service restaurant, or just a bar it is essential that you provide quality food and drinks. A premium food and beverage offering is a big point of difference between comparable activity venues – not only making the experience more enjoyable but driving profitability and increasing dwell time. One popular option to ensure a cutting-edge food offering is to partner with one or more popular local street vendors and work together with them to create a suitable range.
Special Events and Leagues
Managing a comprehensive events programme, including leagues, if possible, is an effective way to boost your off-peak sales. Birthday parties are a constant success story in all bowling venues – whether aimed at families, adults or both – and corporate events increasingly seek activity venues which can provide a point of difference over pubs, bars and restaurants. These events will not only generate revenue, they will actively promote your venue to a wide range of prospective regular customers.
Marketing and Promotion
You need a strong marketing and promotion strategy to both attract new customers, and keep people who have visited engaged. This begins with the development of your brand identity which permeates your venue’s aesthetic, your signage and any onsite point of sale materials – from menus to monitor graphics. However, pre-opening, you first need to establish a pre-launch strategy which could include advertising in local newspapers, social media marketing, email marketing, registration to online databases & platforms and word-of-mouth marketing. You also need to plan for ongoing promotion activities – which is where a good centre management system can come in handy!
The only way your business is going to succeed is if the community know you exist and when they visit, they have a fun time. The strategies outlined above seem simple enough and obvious, however you would be surprised at how easily they are neglected, to the detriment of the business. Our closing tips: invest wisely, care for your team, look after your equipment, choose one theme and stick to it and be brave with your socials.