With the global pandemic becoming more manageable in many parts of the world, we are seeing a large surge of people heading back to the social events that were once a mainstay of everyday life. But more than that, competitive socializing opportunities are becoming a more popular trend among friends – especially those looking to make the most of a typical night out on the town. A great example of competitive socializing can be found at the local bowling alley, where groups are brought together to compete casually and in good fun for bragging rights. And for bowling alley businesses that want to keep customers coming back each week, a solid solution would be to expand some current marketing and standalone business strategies.

We’ve put together a list of proven and results-driven ideas you can take to increase traffic at your bowling alley business:

1. Create a karaoke room

For bowling alley owners looking to add value to their space, a karaoke room is one of the most unique, yet wholly original business add-ons available. The reasons might seem obvious at first: karaoke, like bowling, allows friends to truly let themselves unwind and have fun in a judgment-free environment designed for playful competition and socializing. But also, from a back-end perspective, the two platforms are very alike.

karaoke room in bowling alley
Karaoke Booth at Bloomsbury Bowling, London UK

Ten-pin bowling venues typically operate on a pre-book business model: customers select and reserve their lanes while inputting their party size and desired number of plays in advance. Well, karaoke works on the same business model. Private rooms can be pre-booked for a certain period, just like when reserving a lane for bowling. Customers then have the use of that room for a pre-determined amount of time and can even include add-ons like drinks and snacks from the bar, too.

You can easily set up a karaoke room with minimal investment. By converting an old party room or storage closet into a karaoke room, you are just left for the cost of karaoke equipment and room design – a simple set-up can cost between $1,000 - 2,000, but of course more elaborate rooms can also attract more interest! The last thing you need is legal karaoke content, which you can with karaoke software like Singa.

When you bundle karaoke with your bowling packages you can increase the amount of time customers spend at your venue, especially as people will want to continue karaoke into the night. More time spent means more revenue for you! Best of all, by incorporating a dedicated area for karaoke fans, you are opening your business up to an entirely new and regular customer base. Karaoke rooms are inexpensive and safe, and they add seamless value to just about any business – especially businesses that specialize in competitive entertainment like bowling alleys.

2. Modernize your alley

In addition to a karaoke room, maybe your bowling alley business could simply do with a few minor upgrades? A revitalization plan is always a good idea every 10 – 15 years in operation: superior lighting, advanced sound systems, modern displays – including television screens and radio/PA systems – can make a world of difference to new customers who are looking for a permanent spot for competitive gaming and socializing.

bowling alley with tv screens

Businesses that remain in the dark ages, or those with lackluster services and no additional entertainment features, tend to be the last place on people's minds when considering a fun night out. Modernizing is a must for growing awareness and interest.

3. Advertise your lanes (and your karaoke room) online

If your bowling alley business isn't already online, it should be. It's one of the most sure-fire ways to increase revenue and foot traffic while giving you (the business owner) the chance to really show off all your hard work. When looking for a place nearby to get together, new guests may discover your bowling alley by way of online tools like Google My Business. Here, you have the opportunity to post relevant photos, business hours, and consumer feedback and ratings – all of which tend to drive interest. Or, maybe it's as simple as a sleek, modern website that is kept up-to-date and linked to your social media channels.

Speaking of social media…

4. Keep the competitive socializing going on social media

If you are new to the idea of having your bowling alley on social media, you should first consider which specific platforms are ideal for your business. Are you looking to recruit younger groups of socializers? If so, a dedicated presence on TikTok could help. Or, if you really want to highlight your business's professional aspects by appealing to tournament-level players, you can show off your lanes using a more visual app like Instagram. Long-form content, like bowling tutorial videos or highlights of your interiors, is best utilized on a site like Facebook. Whichever platform you choose, tailor your content around that platform's specific audience in order to engage effectively.

Once you've decided on a platform (or a series of different platforms), use their individual insights tools to get a better understanding of who is, and who isn't, engaging with your bowling content. Monitor these metrics over a few months and then compare the results to the growth you've experienced in foot traffic. Try to outdo the previous months' results with your next period. Eventually, you'll pick up on your own missteps and learn to anticipate what your audiences want.

5. Add a sports arcade area

bowling alley with sports aracade

Another great example of competitive socializing, arcade games are traditionally a great group activity. What’s more, the once-retro arcade destination has become an emerging add-on trend in a number of entertainment venues, including sports arenas and movie theaters. Adding a designated arcade area – one that features a variety of competitive-style video gaming consoles – to your bowling alley is a great way to encourage more visitors to your business. The competitive nature of the games aligns with the existing interests of those guests who come to bowl: the perfect pairing, all under one roof!

6. Consider a rewards program

As an entertainment-business owner, there is nothing quite like watching the faces of new customers as they enter your establishment, engage with your services, and leave completely satisfied. It feels even better if those customers are return customers! Repeat business is the bread and butter of most bowling alleys, and as such, if you want to see an increase in this type of audience, you might think about putting together a rewards program that encourages multiple weekly or monthly visits.

Not only are these types of programs low-cost and easy to implement into the most current POS systems, but they are also a great way to increase customer satisfaction, encouraging visitors to choose your establishment over others while also strengthening their long-term loyalty to your brand. For example: building an incentive like a punch-card-style promotion program along the lines of: “play 9 games and your 10th is free”, encourages repeat visits while highlighting the value on offer from your business. After all, people are typically more inclined to bring friends and spend more money at a venue in which they feel more assured of enjoying themselves and having a great time.

There you have it! Some effective and highly engaging ideas to increase revenue and foot traffic into your bowling alley business. With these practices in place, and with the rise in competitive socializing activities continuing to climb, you can now work towards expanding your reach within the entertainment market and, eventually, strike it big.