Changing Trends in the Industry
They say the one constant in life is change, and that’s certainly true for the bowling industry. Consumer needs are constantly evolving and bowling centers need to embrace change and adapt if they want to remain profitable and strengthen their businesses. We asked bowling industry expert Andy Bartholomy, owner of Andy B’s Entertainment, which are the top-of-mind trends and strategies that bowling owners and operators are leveraging as they plan for growth.
#1 – The next generation’s tastes are different than their parents.
League night has been a long-time staple for many bowling centers, and has represented a great product for the industry for a long time. Players commit to weeks at a time, and you have an opportunity to build real relationships with ‘the regulars’. The problem is that the younger generation doesn’t quite view league bowling as the quality social activity their parents did. With that said, they still love to bowl! The new challenge is re-thinking product options and offerings to suit a younger demographic with different tastes.
#2 – Combining other activities with bowling.
As league bowling declines, there is not as great of need for a long line of lanes. Many operators are pulling lanes out to add game rooms, laser tag and virtual reality. Most new construction starts with a smaller footprint of lanes with the other activities already drawn in. By creating alternative entertainment opportunities in your venue, you’ll encourage people to stick around longer, and you’ll set your business up with more revenue stream opportunities. People might come for a game of bowling and end up in the arcade or playing a game of laser tag, or if you’re venue is located in a thoroughfare, they might pop in to kill a few minutes in the arcade and end up getting some food or trying your new VR experience.
#3 – Improving the food piece.
Whether you operate a traditional bowling center or a full blown FEC, making sure you are serving high quality food is not only an opportunity, but a necessity! Food has always been tied to social experiences, and as society continues to eat out more, it just makes sense that they will eat where the food tastes great. Great food can also cover up an otherwise average entertainment experience. Also consider that if the food is average or sub par, the perception is that the overall facility is average or sub par.
#4 – Renovation.
Whether it’s a full blown conversion, complete with lane removal and added attractions, or taking one’s traditional center and making sure it shows well inside and out, it’s worth putting some money into your facility from time to time. Locations that don’t provide a clean updated facility will struggle in the marketplace. If you decide not to take advantage of the opportunities that adding additional entertainment options brings, consider some small housekeeping renovations to make sure your facility looks and feels new and modern. This could be replacing carpet, painting walls, or even just adding a few games to the foyer.
#5 – Utilizing Technology.
There are a number of ways to integrate technology into your venue if you’re not doing it already.
- Auto scoring systems. Today’s customers enjoy modern auto scoring. It speeds up the game play and allows guests to focus more on the game itself.
- Online reservation systems. Many people now organize their activities before they leave the house, and an online reservation systems puts the power in the hands of customers to book their spot. It also removes manual tasks from your employees so they can focus on guests and other business requirements.
- Cashless Debit Card System. Get the most out of your arcade game room by leveraging cashless payments with the latest in swipe card technology. You’ll save money and labor on managing tokens or quarters and be able to make informed decisions through game reports.
- Touch screen F&B. Equip your staff with touch pad system for taking food and beverage orders to speed things up and reduce mistakes.
There are so many big opportunities for technology to improve profitability!
Many thanks to Andy B. for contributing to this article and sharing his insights into the key industry trends for the years to come!