What Bowling Alleys & Bowling Business Owners Need to Know About the Modern Bowler

Dec 11, 2019 | Bowling Business | 2 comments

From a business perspective, the mentality of today’s bowler has changed. While alleys were built around leagues and the competitive nature of the sport, today’s bowlers are treating it more as an after work/happy hour experience. In other words, it is more about entertainment than sport.

According to data shared by commercial real estate consultancy White Hutchinson, bowling centers once generated roughly 70% of all business from bowling leagues while more recent years how showed that number drop down to 40%. The study went on to say that the modern bowler has shifted from the blue-collar, league bowler to a white collar, entertainment bowler.

To put some actual numbers to this, the study went on to say that in 1997-1998 there were a reported 4.1 million members of league bowling organizations and that number dropped to 2.6 million in 2007. Given the consistency of league-play, bowling centers are faced with the challenge of attracting a new type of bowler.

Between 1997 and 2007 members of league bowling organizations dropped from 4.1 million to 2.6 million

That isn’t to say that competition is no more. There is still a market for that type of bowler, however, bowling businesses need to realize that the alley is just as much a place to meet, connect, and socialize as it is to bowl. Bowling business owners that recognize this and focus on building exciting bowling “experiences” are going to have a better chance at attracting the modern, casual bowler and keep them coming back.

In many cases, today’s bowling alley finds profitability in food and drink. While many come to play a game or two, businesses that invest in a full refreshment offering are better positioned to maximize profitability. Yes, people come to an alley to bowl, but alley owners must think of ways to maximize the value of each customer visit.

While food might drive profits, the bowling experience is what drives return visits and loyalty. Having a great menu, but a poor bowling experience won’t be effective. Today’s casual bowler wants both and the businesses that can deliver on all aspects of the experience will have the greatest chance of success.

Focusing on the bowling aspect, speed of the game is critical. One of the biggest factors that can impact the speed of the game is your pinsetters and ball returns. From an entertainment perceptive, string pinsetters coupled with reliable ball returns enable the fastest possible gameplay.

In Europe and around the world, string is the pinsetter of choice. One reason for that is because free fall pinsetters can often be less reliable and require an expensive maintenance budget.

String pinsetters should be the foundation of your bowling alley business because they deliver a seamless, efficient, exciting and reliable bowling experience. The speed of each pinsetter varies by brand, but the importance is that a faster pin reset means more games per hour, which means more revenue per lane.

String pinsetters should be the foundation of your bowling alley business because they deliver a seamless, efficient, exciting and reliable bowling experience.

Here at Funk for example, our string pinsetters offer the following benefits:

  • 68-75 dB noise range for string pinsetters means a quiet, pleasant atmosphere
  • Save 90% on maintenance and machine service vs. free-fall pinsetters
  • Faster game-play = more games per hour = more revenue per lane
  • 64% less electrical power used vs. free-fall
  • Average replacement costs per machine is only $35 – $55 per year
  • Just 20-30 minutes per machine per week for maintenance and cleaning

A faster, quieter and more reliable bowling lane means a better bowling experience for today’s casual bowler. Additionally, having a variety of gameplay options and interfaces gives your bowlers a chance to enjoy different flavors of the standard 10-frame game. These kind of modern twists to the long-standing sport of bowling allow you to offer new and exciting bowling experiences.

Another key feature than you can’t afford to overlook is the ambience of your bowling alley. From seating and furniture, to lighting and murals, if you attract a first-time customer, you want to leave an impression by offering a one-of-a-kind bowling atmosphere. Combine the environment, with speedy bowling equipment (pinsetters), unique gameplays and a full menu of food and drink, and you’re set up for success.

Every detail of your bowling alley needs to come together to offer today’s casual bowler an exciting, fun and unique bowling experience

There are many other aspects of your bowling alley that require the same kind of thought and care as these areas. Your lane colors, accessories (shoes, balls, etc.), and everything else you need to run an alley requires thought and consideration. Every detail needs to come together to create an overall experience, and more importantly, you need to invest in the right equipment and software. Failures with your machines can destroy the entire experience for your customers.

Today’s bowler isn’t the bowling purist from the past that just wants to compete and bowl. Instead, today’s bowlers are open to new experiences and, more importantly, are looking for places to come together and enjoy the company of family and friends.


  1. Richard Blanco

    So I own my own home and bullhead City Arizona which a lot of snowbirds from back East come and rent out houses in the summer I want to put a single Lane bowling Alley in my house well actually it’s on my side carport

    • Funk Bowling

      Hi Richard. We’ll reach out to you via email to learn more. Stay tuned!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *