How to Start a Bowling Alley Business

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Did you know that bowling has its roots in ancient Egypt? This popular game has been around in some form or another for more than 5,000 years. Today, there are over 70 million bowlers in the U.S. alone. With some planning and thought, you can open a bowling alley franchise or start a bowling alley from the ground up and build your own brand.

Conduct Market Research

This beloved game has changed a lot over the past decades. Old-time bowling alleys are no longer as popular as they used to be, especially for young customers. Today's bowling centers combine this game with other fun activities, such as virtual reality and laser tag games. Technology is shaping the industry – bowlers now have access to modern features like online reservation systems, auto scoring systems, touch screens for ordering food and beverages, cashless payment systems and more.

Consider these factors when drafting your business plan. Make sure you can provide lots of entertainment options in a fun-filled environment. Research the market and define your target audience.

Do you plan to start a bowling center for youngsters or families? Perhaps you want your bowling center to have an old-school flavor? Popular venues like Action Duckpin Bowl in Indiana, The Spare Room in Los Angeles and The Garden Bowl in Detroit retain that old-school feel – and customers love it. Check your competitors and try to come up with something better; let your creative juices flowing and brainstorm ideas for your bowling alley.

Write Everything Down

Draft a business plan that aligns with your vision. Determine whether you want to open a family entertainment center, a boutique bowling center, a hybrid center or a traditional bowling alley. Try to figure out how you're going to make money. In general, bowling alleys charge hourly rental fees on equipment and lanes; some also rent space for anniversaries, birthday parties and other events. Food and beverages are a source of revenue as well.

Decide whether you'll rent or purchase equipment for your bowling alley. At the very least, you will need a cutting-edge music system, scoring systems, bowling lanes, furniture, bowling ball retrievers and machines, lockers, accessories and more. If you're planning to offer food and beverages, you'll need a commercial bar setup too. Make a list of suppliers that can provide what you need for your bowling center.

Another option is to open a bowling alley franchise. As a franchisee, you'll receive training and state-of-the-art bowling equipment at discounted rates. Plus, your business will get more exposure right from the start. Brunswick bowling franchise, Bowlski's and 810 Billiards and Bowling are some of the most popular franchise opportunities, so check them out.

Bowling Alley Cost

Your business plan should also include a brief overview of the costs involved. 810 Billiards and Bowling, for example, requires franchisees to have a net worth of at least $1 million. If you decide to open an independent bowling center, consider the cost of audio and music equipment, bowling lanes, decor, lighting and accessories. Determine how many employees you'll need and how you'll promote your business.

One way to reduce your expenses is to purchase used bowling equipment. A new bowling lane, for instance, will cost you anywhere from $18,000 to $45,000. Expect to pay $150 to $250 for a professional bowling ball. Don’t forget about rent and salaries, business registration, licenses, permits and other costs.

Choose a centrally located facility for your bowling center. Keep your audience in mind. A bowling alley that appeals to young adults and teens, for example, should be located near a mall, sports club, college or movie theater. Rent alone will cost a few thousand dollars.

Develop a Marketing Strategy

Before getting started, come up with a marketing strategy that appeals to your demographic. From live music and karaoke to bowling alley bingo and theme nights, there are endless ways to make your business thrive.

For example, you could offer package deals that include free food and beverages for bowlers who book a game from noon to 3 PM on business days. Host bowling competitions or league-specific nights and spread the news on social media,

Leverage the power of SMS marketing, email marketing and digital advertising to attract and engage customers. Reward new members and large groups with discounts. Another option is to create a VIP package for loyal clients. Provide VIP members with free games and exclusive deals.

References

About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.

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