A chef cooking pizza

A guide to hiring staff for your bowling centre

The Retail & Leisure Outlook Report 2024, produced by RetailEconomics, describe the last three years as a ‘permacrisis’ for the leisure industry. A period of “prolonged and overlapping challenges” which left businesses “grappling with unprecedented uncertainties”. One of these significant challenges has been the recruitment and retention of staff. It’s a phenomenon which has been experienced by the majority of businesses working within our sector.

Having managed bowling centres (and other leisure/hospitality venues) for many years we have developed a good understanding of the skills and aptitudes required for the various posts within your bowling/activity centre business. We are also mindful that recruitment and training costs a lot of money, so with this guidance we hope to help ensure that you make the right hires that will stay with you for the long run.

In this post we outline some simple pointers to assist you in recruiting to a range of roles, top tips to help you shortlist and key attributes you should be looking for.

Receptionists

For a detailed analysis of the pivotal role undertaken by your Centre Receptionist please read our post on “Unlocking the power of effective lane management”.

During trading your receptionist is the most influential team member in the building. The success of your business depends on you having an excellent receptionist.

When recruiting to this role it is essential to be very clear that the skills and role of a bowling receptionist are completely different to those of an office receptionist. If an applicant’s only experience is being a traditional receptionist then they are not guaranteed to have the skills required.

Key Skills

  • Solid understanding of maths – excellent mental maths ability
  • Good spatial awareness (e.g. how blocks of time can be moved and fit together)
  • Ability to visualise & think many steps ahead
  • Calm under pressure
  • Professional customer service skills – they are usually your first point of customer contact

Requirements

Availability – you want your best people to be working at peak times (Friday & Saturday nights, Saturday and Sunday day and during school holidays).

Who to look for

Due to the lack of regular hours this unfortunately doesn’t tend to be a career role. Therefore, it will be important to be prepared to pay well for a good person/people, with the right skills and availability.

You’re ideally looking for someone who is demonstrably intelligent in the way described above. They may be studying at a Sixth Form college or University or has held a senior position in a different role/industry and is now returning to work either part or full time after a break. You may also be able to find a receptionist who wants to take on an additional role outside an existing job – if they are only available at peak times outside the Mon-Fri, 9-5, this should be embraced!

Bar

Key Skills

  • Friendly – especially if you’re hosting regular events, your bar tender needs to be able to build rapport with your regulars.
  • Committed, reliable and tidy – bars tend to be small spaces where everything needs to be kept in its place and be clean and tidy. Good bar staff tend to be fastidious about organisation and cleanliness.

Requirements

Availability – work evenings

Physically robust – able to stand up throughout a shift as well as lift and move heavy product.

Who to look for

The easiest thing to do here is hire from a branded background (bar/restaurant/coffee shop) and pay them more than the brand operator. They will be well trained and have a good understanding of product quality.  As your business will likely have slightly different peak trading hours than most hospitality venues, it might be possible to take people in second job roles here also.  Having said that, for the right candidate, specific expertise in a bar environment is not strictly necessary as the processes and products can be learnt – it just increases the onboarding process.

Kitchen Staff

Kitchens in bowling alleys are very different to those in restaurants.  In a bowling alley there are no “services” but a constant flow of tickets which can start from the moment you open until the moment you close. Therefore, you’ll need to be very clear about this with applicants from a more traditional restaurant kitchen background.

Key Skills

  • Familiar with process cooking to a Specification Manual
  • Experience with kitchen health and safety and Food Safety
  • Good communication skills
  • Work in an orderly and calm manner

Requirements

Availability – work evenings and weekends

Physically robust – able to stand up throughout a shift. Lots of bending and lifting required. Note: equipment is often a fixed height and adjustments may not be feasible given the associated Health and Safety regulations for a kitchen environment.

Who to look for

Cooks with experience of working for a branded restaurant chain, without “services” would be ideal. You need cooks who are used to following steps and procedures and who are comfortable with outputting large volumes of food over a long period of time.

Chefs who would like to get involved in menu development and offer creativity to the role will likely become frustrated – no matter how premium the offering in a leisure venue is, by it’s nature the kitchen process must be highly regimented and the product able to be simplified to be prepared at a high level of quality by the lowest ranking member of the kitchen team working solo at times.

Should you have a more premium venue and food offering then you may be able to afford to use kitchen porters. This should be someone who is physically robust and willing to learn.

Party Hosts

This is often a very popular role but also has a fairly fast turn over as the post attracts people coming and going for studying purposes.

Key Skills

  • Communication, communication, communication – this role coordinates between the customer organising the party, the party guests attending and all the other departments throughout your business so they need to have excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Friendly – parties are stressful for parents so the host needs to be calm and in control with a positive attitude. Hosts need to be engaging, welcoming, warm, friendly and have exceptional customer service skills. Parents talk and a good party equals more parties.
  • Problem solving – party hosts need to be good at thinking on their feet especially when it comes to trouble shooting.

Requirements

Physically active – the role involves lots of quick (but safe!) moving around, carrying trays of food and responding swiftly to the needs of the customers.

Availability – evenings and weekends

Who to look for

When shortlisting applications for a party host we advise sorting by GCSE exam results first. People in this role need to be quick thinking, smart, articulate and so having high English and Maths GCSEs is a good leveller when you’re faced with a large number of applications – which is often the case.

Sales

When your business is of an adequate size for you to employ sales managers then you want to get the best you can afford.

Key Skills

  • Good maths skills – these people will be having to work largely unsupervised, and will often need to create bespoke offers for group bookings
  • Written and verbal communications
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Success driven individuals who respond well to remuneration built around a bonus scheme

Requirements

Availability – the role mostly deals with corporate sales and birthday party sales remotely and in person, so is primarily undertaken during the week

Who to look for

People with target-based sales experience, ideally from a brand background.

Managers / Senior Managers & GMs

You may find that you have excellent receptionists or bar staff who know your business well and can step up into a managerial position. However, we advise that you only pursue this option if the member of staff expresses an interest in doing so. It might be that the reason they are so good at their current job is that it suits their personality and lifestyle and moving them into a management role would be counterproductive – so, proceed with caution.

Key Skills

  • Collaboration – works well with other people
  • Management – can lead and manage staff
  • Organised and methodical – good at following processes
  • Committed – there’s a lot to do
  • Conflict resolution – a failure to tackling employee conflict can lead to more significant issues

Requirements

Availability – evenings and weekends

Who to look for

A background in bowling is not necessary however experience in a brand hospitality or leisure business would be an advantage.  However, if your manager has little to no experience in bowling they will benefit from having a support contract with a bowling supplier who can advise and respond to significant issues with your venue operations or your equipment (of course we’d be happy to help with that).

To conclude

For the last few years it has been incredibly difficult to recruit into the hospitality and leisure industries. The tide has turned slightly in the last 12 months, however you will need to ensure that your employment package is attractive enough to pique the interest of the right people.

A willingness to offer flexible working hours, higher than minimum wage salaries, excellence rewards and benefits may be necessary to get the right person into post. However, for many of these roles the additional salary and occasional perks will be worth it if you’re able to get someone fantastic in to ensure your centre is running at maximum efficiency, creating the best customer experience and generating return visits.

Due to the physical nature of some of the work and inherent height restrictions of the kitchen, bar and bowling equipment you should consult with your HR advisor to ensure that any advert and recruitment process is compliant with employment and/or equality laws.

Source: https://www.retaileconomics.co.uk

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