In this post we explore lane management; maximising your lane usage and understanding the roles of the people involved.
Effective lane management has a significant impact on your revenue. For every 10 mins, during peak time, that your lane is empty you are losing out on money. Some tactics used to tackle this may seem attractive, but are often detrimental and avoidable.
For the purpose of this post we are assuming that your game intervals are 10 minutes (the industry standard), that you use a reservation sheet, whether that be pen & paper or computer based and that any challenges relate to peak-time only.
Why are we exploring lane management?
We have had conversations with many operators concerned that groups with children often take longer than 10 minutes per game. Some of these operators have been considering extending their games to 15 mins.
Other venues have been struggling with how to manage their reservation sheet and are choosing to alleviate the pressure by requiring all guests to book in advance and not permitting anyone to walk in and play.
We have advised against both of these practices and have devised this post to explain why and to give guidance on how to be successful in effective lane management.
Why 10-minute games?
The 10-minute game was established when bowling centres were busy with league bowlers and traditional pinsetters fully reset after each ball. League bowlers would have to wait for their personal ball to return and the full pin reset delayed the commencement of the next delivery.
Now, peak times are frequented by families or social bowlers, who use a range of balls. The cycling time of pinsetters is quicker and good pinsetters don’t reset when no pins fall. As a result, adults frequently bowl 7-minute games.
Therefore, across your centre, the average game will still be 10-minutes and this is where your stellar receptionist steps up.
The skilled Receptionist
The receptionist needs to be constantly moving reservations around the reservation sheet; reducing / eliminating gaps between games and managing quick / slow games.
At peak time you need to have your very best person on reception managing the reservation sheet. They should not be required to deal with shoes, the bar, answering telephone calls or dealing with lane issues.
A skilled Receptionist will:
- Be keeping an eye on the frame times for each lane. Spotting where games are progressing quicker or slower and moving upcoming bookings accordingly.
- Book in reservations who arrive early and get them on the lanes early.
- Know what they’re aiming to sell – peak times is single games / off-peak will be unlimited bowling
- Input the names of bowlers, so that bowling commences quickly (customers take too long agreeing the order of the bowlers and adding names).
- Communicate efficiently with the lane host about arrival of guests.
- Restack the reservation sheet. If you’re using a paper reservation sheet then your receptionist will need to write out a clean version every couple of hours (if they’re doing a good job) because all the moving around of bookings will make the sheet messy and difficult to follow. Ideally this should be done away from the customers and take no longer than 5 minutes.
Should you often have a large queue at your reception area, at peak times, then you need a second terminal which can be operated by the duty manager. We strongly advise that the duty manager isn’t your main receptionist, as they need to be free to respond to the wider needs of the business.
As the function of the Receptionist is to monetise bowling slots we highly recommend that you reward your Receptionist for excellent management of your lanes. The modern reporting tools allow you to easily track saturation rates of your lanes. If your peak-time receptionist is able to achieve a 95% saturation rate then they should be getting a bonus. The efforts they’ve taken to maximise your resource to this extent should be rewarded.
You don’t need your cheeriest member of staff on reception, you need a calm, methodical and polite team mate. Not everyone can do this role but, find the right person and they will find the challenge thrilling and you’ll benefit financially.
The role of the Lane Host
Lane Hosts are crucial to ensuring bowling games progress in a timely manner. These should be your friendliest staff who like people and are good at waitering. Their role is:
- Greet the guests at the lanes
- Check guests have read the safety information
- Press the start / go button to get them bowling asap
- Once bowling has commenced, take a drinks order
- Monitor for slow bowling and deal with any issues
- Prevent people from going to reception – deal with issues
- Clean down the seating area within one minute of guests leaving
Ultimately, their focus should be on getting people started and prevent them from leaving the lane. Guests who leave the lane slow down the rate of bowling and lead to longer game times. Therefore, your Lane Host needs to be attentive to any reasons they may leave – lanes stop working, need food and drink, want to book more bowling etc.
You will need to experiment with the number of Hosts required to effectively service your lanes, however utilising a lane-side ordering system may reduce the number of hosts required.
The management of shoe hire and technical issues is not the responsibility of the Lane Host.
What can the company do to support?
Setting up your booking system to ensure reservations are staggered is essential. If you fail to stagger booking start times then arrivals can’t be processed in a timely fashion. This will ultimately result in most of your games starting late, irritated customers waiting a long time and therefore choosing not to return.
Allow for walk-ins. There is a temptation to try and fill your lanes with pre-booked reservations. However, this impacts lane management and disqualifies extra revenue. If all your resource is booked then you leave yourself no room for manoeuvring bookings around. Your Receptionist needs to have spaces into which they can move bookings to manage early and late arrivals and slower games. Furthermore, guests who arrive as walk-ins are usually happy to wait a while for a lane, increasing your dwell time F&B spend. It will take time to experiment with how many lanes you retain for walk-ins. (Note: once the day has started the lane which is available for walk-ins will change as reservations are shuffled around.)
Overall centre management impacts on the Receptionist and therefore on lane saturation rates (therefore on your revenue). If you’ve got efficient kitchen management, clean toilets which always have toilet roll, fast bar staff etc then this minimises the issues being brought to the attention of your Receptionist.
Quality, reliable technology across your centre will improve the efficiency of the team as well as reduce lane related problems. For example, centres using Brunswick StringPin pinsetters experience, on average, only two stops per lane per month!
Creating an enticing off-peak offering, can alleviate pressure at peak times. (See our blog on: How to build off-peak play).
The winning formula
Getting lane management right should be a priority, due to the significant financial implications of getting it wrong. As we’ve outlined the key tactics are:
- Employ excellent Receptionists, pay them well and reward them.
- Ensure your booking system allows for staggered starts & walk ins
- Have friendly and effective Lane Hosts.
- Ensure the rest of the business is running well.
- Invest in quality equipment
If you would like any help reviewing lane management at your venue please get in touch. Our Support Team can assist you in evaluating your current practices and identifying areas for improved performance.
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