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Bowling is a sport enjoyed by millions around the world. Like many businesses in recent years, bowling alleys have been affected by our nation’s economic downturn. It is imperative that small town bowling alley owners and managers properly market themselves and upgrade their services to remain profitable. It is not enough that a bowling alley offers only bowling. Instead, they need to start thinking of themselves as centers of family fun if they want to keep up and increase profits. In this article, I’ll offer some suggestions on what small town bowling alleys can do to attract customers and maintain positive relationships with them. None of the individual recommendations will dramatically increase the revenue of a bowling alley. However, a combination of all of these should deliver significant growth, when operating at an optimal level.

1. Sell your lanes

If a center has 15 lanes, then there should be 15 local business signs hanging above the lanes (preferably at the end of the lane). You’d be surprised how many companies are willing to do this annually for a small investment. Here’s how to do this: Call your bank, accountant, real estate agent, food distributor, and any other business the club routinely works with. Tell them that you will give them a year of advertising for a fixed price of $1000. Of that $1000 dollars, you buy the signage and get the rest. The reason signage is purchased at that rate is so the owner can decide the dimensions of the sign. If all 15 lanes have a sign over them, then a center will raise $15,000 before you buy the signage. All this for doing nothing more than giving the people you work with on a daily basis a place to advertise.

You can also do something on a smaller scale with the ball sweeper. Ball sweepers are located at the end of each lane and sweep the pins after each spin.

2. Arcades and prizes

In an effort to make the bowling alley more of a family fun center, game rooms, redeemable prizes, and birthday party packages for kids are needed. Kids can burn through tokens very quickly, so including video game tokens in the pack is money for the center. If a bowling alley doesn’t have video games or redeemable prize machines in their center, they need to get them, and fast. The more you can pack downtown, the more cash the bowling alley will receive. But where can a center go to get video games to put in their center? Video game distributors can provide games, redeemable prize machines, jukeboxes, and even ATMs to bowling centers with virtually no cost and no maintenance. Once a week, a representative of the distributor counts the money in the machines, token distributor and/or ATMs. Once the money is counted, they split it in half with the bowling alley! For little cost and almost no hassle, the business can attract a lot of people with video games for the kids to play after bowling or during a party. Also, the games and machines are changed every few months to add excitement and potential players. As a result, the bowling alley receives a substantial amount of cash with little effort.

3. Nightlife and adult birthday parties

Alcoholic drinks and bowling go hand in hand. It’s rare to see league bowlers not have a beer or two while they play. However, why can’t the bowling alley offer nightlife to adults? This is especially relevant in small towns where there can be a lack of entertainment after dark. If space is available, bring in a DJ and clear a spot for a small dance floor and the crowd will come. Offer to throw adult birthday parties in the evening and offer drink specials to partygoers. Also, adults like to play video games, especially when they are with their friends and having a good time. To ensure responsible drinking is adhered to, the owner and manager may need to provide security to ensure safety and the ability to properly handle a noisy situation. If this measure is applied, the center will attract the right crowd night after night.

Doing all three of these things is relatively inexpensive, requires little labor, and is ultimately very profitable. Incorporating one of these things into a bowling alley that is currently not doing any of the three will increase revenue. If a center can pull them all together, there is great potential for further profit.

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