A lady doing bowling. Activities

Strategies for Building a Successful Leisure Business: Choosing the Right Mix of Activities

Having bowling as your cornerstone activity, alongside a range of supplementary activities, is a proven, successful model of building a scalable leisure business. However, ascertaining how many lanes and how many other activities you should install is a nuanced art form all of its own. In this post we consider how to select the activities suitable for a large-scale entertainment venue in a small to medium sized town.

Living the real estate dream

Should you be in the unlikely position that real estate options are plentiful then you can allow your activity desires to lead the way. In this dream scenario you would look at the competition in your chosen town, the needs of the town and the money available. Then you can decide which activities you’d like to offer. Once you’ve selected your activity mix you’ll know what space they require. Add half as much again of square footage (for bar, seating, toilets, storage etc). Then you have a specification to use to set about finding a site which meets your needs.

However, very few of us are afforded that opportunity. The more likely scenario is that you discover a good building proposition in a suitable location. You then need to work out what will fit into that space!

It is important to note that, when selecting a venue which will house bowling, the venue will need to consider appropriate ceiling height, floor loading and suitable acoustic tolerance – although any acoustic issues can always be mitigated by additional control measures. Of course, there are many other considerations, but these are a few which should be ascertained during an initial site visit.

Once you’ve identified a suitable venue the fun begins. Which activities to choose?

Choosing the right activities for your venue

When planning out a centre we consider our activities in tiers.

Tier 1 activities – These tend to be larger activities that work best when grouped together. As well as generating the most revenue per sq ft, these activities have broad appeal, a relatively quick throughput and work well to drive F&B sales – of course only when positioned alongside a quality offering!


Tier 2 activities – These activities are more flexible in regard to their location as they don’t all have to sit together. They’re generally great activities to deploy alongside one or more Tier 1 activities, as they tend to appeal more to an adult audience, so don’t generate the ‘all day’ footfall needed to really cornerstone a venue. While they generally generate less revenue overall than Tier 1 activities, their greater appeal to adults increases drinks spend and helps provide a great point of difference to corporate customers.

  • AR / interactive darts
  • Duck Pin Social bowling
Tier 3 activities – These smaller, more moveable, stand-alone activities can then be slotted in around the Tier 1 & 2 items where there is space.
Crucially, these items which don’t have digital scoring capabilities tend to attract a much lower revenue per Sq Ft than either of the other Tier items. As a rule of thumb if you can’t play as a group of up to 6, buy it in hours, and sign into a scoring system, then it’s a Tier 3 activity.
That isn’t to say that these aren’t worth having of course – they’re actually a key part of any centre!
  • Pool tables
  • Shuffleboards
  • Ping pong tables
  • Arcade games


It’s worth noting that in venues of less than c. 10k Sq Ft, Tier 1 activities simply aren’t suitable – in this case, it’s generally better to either embrace a multi-activity mix of Tier 2 items and offer a range, or go all in on a heavily themed venue based around one Tier 2 item. A topic for another post!

Inazawa Grand bowling alley in Japan
Inazawa Grand Bowl, Nagoya, Japan

General guidance

Tier 1 – aim to pick as many as you can, but you’ll usually be limited by space; install as many lanes / holes as you can
Tier 2 – put in at least one
Tier 3 – sprinkle as many as you can in gaps  and around seating areas – but remember to leave enough space for the customers to sit – again, another post all by itself!

If you’re choosing between Tier 1 activities, they interestingly wash out fairly similarly in terms of ROI – assuming a premium mini-golf product is chosen, and in fact revenue per Sq Ft. golf can process more people for the space, but Tenpin bowling is generally busier for more hours of the day, and Batfast generates a very high SpH for its relatively small space.

When it comes to tenpin bowling more is always better because lanes become proportionally cheaper, per lane, the more you buy. Your super-peak times will always be full so fitting in as many lanes as you can maximises your return potential. This doesn’t mean fit bowling lanes in to the exclusion of other items though, the addition of other activities allows you to increase dwell time, therefore maximising peak operations. 

Fun fact: The Inazawa Grand Bowl in Nagoya, Japan has 116 lanes – certified by the Guinness Book of World Records!

To give you a rough idea: a 25,000 Sq Ft (2,300 sq m) venue can reasonably support 12 lanes of bowling, two sets of 9-hole mini golf, four lanes of AR/interactive darts and four lanes of shuffleboard.

Ultimately, the activity mix depends on the space/zones available, what activities you want, your target market, the brand and theme of the venue. For City Centre locations the theming and experience is often just as important – if not more – than the activity choices. However, for small to medium size towns getting the most out of your space is key.

We have an experienced team who are excellent at site planning. So, if you would like any support with activity selection we’d be happy to help.

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