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Beyond Bowling

It is an undeniable fact that the bowling industry is in a state of change. While there will always be a place in our society for the traditional bowling center, many proprietors are realizing they need to ex-pand their product offerings in order to maintain and grow their customer base. As a result, we are seeing business models for centers that are hybrids of different attractions, games, food offerings and themes to create the modern day Bowling Entertainment Center (BEC). Beyond Bowling is the new quarterly publication from International Bowling Industry magazine that highlights the great stories of bowling center owners and operators who have found success through the BEC concept.

Members: 15
Latest Activity: Oct 12, 2013

Discussion Forum

Volume 2 of Beyond Bowling due in August Edition 1 Reply

We are preparing the content for Volume 2 of the Beyond Bowling section which will show in the August edition of International Bowling Industry (IBI) magazine. The August issue will feature a profile…Continue

Started by George McAuliffe. Last reply by Joe Schumacker Jul 10, 2012. proof of concept. What do you think?

Lee Zavakos, a third generation bowling proprietor, has teamed with me to develop an idea that may revolutionize the bowling industry. I will leave it to you to pass judgement on that statement, but…Continue

Started by James L Yeatrakas May 18, 2012.

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Comment by Heinz Gress on October 12, 2013 at 7:43pm

Hi Joe, Sorry I haven't been on this forum for some time but like to catch up.

I know that our Australian bowling centres charging considerably more as in your country, but I think that this reflects also in the higher wages and salaries. Our minimum wages here is $16.37 per hour and you get 4 weeks annual leave and 7 days sick leave. This puts an enormous cost onto the operator. The other overhead cost is power which has increased by 100% during the last 2 years. The salaries that you have to pay for a good mechanic, if you find one, is around the $1,000 per week as a minimum. So, you can see that if you compare costs to lane it is probably very similar. The other very restrictive cost is the rental of the property and building. In general, our local authorities require you to have a minimum of 2 car parking spaces per lane plus staff and disabled parking. This makes it nearly impossible to operate a large facilities close to the centre of is nothing that we can do regarding property costs, either as rental or outright owning. However, in my opinion, the largest overhead on a day to day basis is the power and salaries costs, especially when there are no paying customers around. I know, operators are adding turnover with other things like laser games, etc. but this also needs space and in my opinion is not complimenting the bowling side to much.

O.K. lets look at Tenpin bowling itself. There are a number of issues that impact negatively. First of all, the size of the balls; if you would redesign it today, you would not make it so large and heavy. This makes it very restrictive to children and the elderly but it is set and we can not change it. Secondly, the variety of games. In general only one game and the better you are the less amount of throws you get. Lots of things have been tried, 9-no tap, 8-no tap etc., but this only gives the customers less throws for their buck. Lately, some of our centres have introduced novelty games, but they are all directed towards children.

Tenpin has to start to look at other alternatives or they will not stop the decline. Number one is to cut costs for the operator and you know my opinion on this; use string setters which will overcome many issues, such as much lower power consumption, virtual no breakdowns and therefore eliminating the required maintenance and repairs which are costly. The other thing is the variety of games; the industry has to look that the game also appeals to casual bowlers as they are on the increase. Not just kiddy games, but also introduce some competitive games. As an example, they used to play Kegel in Europe with only one game in competitions and the sport has been declining for many years. I took the game to Australia and realising the shortcomings developed a software that offers the customers many possibilities - easy games for the kids and novices right up to a variety of competitive games. We have now established a league that plays 5 different games in one session, everyone very competitive. Nobody gets bored with the same single game. I must admit that as I was the first one to bring this game here, there were no harden Kegel bowlers and I had to educate the public. We have not looked back and to date have not lost a single bowlers to Tenpin, however the reverse has happen.

Please do not take this as a direct attack to Tenpin, but a number of people have come to a similar conclusions. I just recently read an interesting article from Randy White that confirms most of the issues that I mention. His company is actual now introducing duckpin into Asia; naturally with string-setters.

Comment by scott stone on November 20, 2012 at 1:43pm

Xbowling as a platform really falls into the "Beyond Bowling" category.  Xbowling is an enhancement and expansion of the game as we know it.  Xbowling provides new ways for bowlers to connect, compete, and interact.  As the functionality of Xbowling continues to expand in 2013 we will be able to provide proprietors with the ability to create and promote tournaments, additional corporate outing add-ons, and in-center contests.  The general idea will always be "more bowlers more often."  We hope to be able to make that a reality as the app continues to improve, and the network grows opening up new opportunities.  As we drive more bowlers, food & beverage increases should follow. We also have spoken a lot in the past about Celebrity and Charity events.  As the network grows and app functionality expands, these types of events will create totally new opportunities for bowling centers to create unique events.  Imagine a real time charity event across 500 bowling centers raising money for Hurricane Sandy relief.  All through the app.  These things will be possible in the very near future.   We haven't spent a lot of time thinking about how to drive more arcade play yet.  But, if we can get mom and dad more interested in getting to the bowling center, they may have a couple kids in tow who will be more than happy to drop a few coins in the claw machine!

Comment by Chris Holmes on November 20, 2012 at 11:13am

Exciting stuff Scott! What a great concept to have user try the challenges for free to realize how easy the app is to use. What are some other ways that X Bowling can help proprietors in other aspects of their business like food/bev, aracade, sales, etc? (i.e. BEYOND Bowling).

Comment by scott stone on November 20, 2012 at 10:02am

Happy to be part of the Beyond Bowling Group! XBowling just launched our first nationwide contest for a chance to win $500 cash or a Brunswick bowling ball, bag and shoes set. The contest started November 16th and runs until November 30th. Whichever XBowler wins the most Frame Challenges, "Strike on Next" or "Spare Some Time" is the winner! We've made those challenges free during this time period and the contest is geared towards all ages and skill levels. So far, people are having a lot of fun with it! Check out our Facebook page for more details

Comment by Heinz Gress on August 18, 2012 at 3:31am

I fully agree with everything that you are saying. The harden Tenpin bowlers will never budge from the free fall pinsetters, but the costs of maintaining them will get more and more expensive. But for the Entertainment centres they are the solution. We found that the Kegel 9-pin format is perfect for this as the game features a large variety of games that keeps everyone entertained. We have installed this discipline in a number of venues and all are very happy due to the simplicity of the equipment and that no mechanic is needed on site. I would love to get a contact in the States and set a few lanes up. We have developed our own software and all can be made venue specific. Anybody interested, have a look at my website:

Comment by Heinz Gress on August 18, 2012 at 3:08am

I fully agree with everything that you are saying The

Comment by George McAuliffe on July 9, 2012 at 4:47pm

Thanks for the update on string bowling conversions in Europe. We don't hear too much about major conversions in the works here in the US. As stated in an earlier post I'm not a "bowling guy" in the classic sense, but based on our experience in assisting bowling operators adding FEC attractions, we do spend a lot of time with guys who are. My observation is that the key to success so far is to maintain a base of traditional and competitive bowlers and use family entertainment attractions to build on that base by complimenting open play, casual bowlers. Good BEC management and scheduling allows centers to trade in more day parts, appealing to a wider audience. I am fascinated by the possibilities that string  pinsetters can bring to traditional (non bowling) FEC's. Just as bowling centers have benefited from adding FEC elements, traditional FEC's will benefit by adding bowling as an attraction. String machines may be a good option for these operators.

Comment by Heinz Gress on June 8, 2012 at 6:39pm

Hi George: It is good to see comments from the family entertainment side of the bowling fraternity. I have been reading this kind of forum for some time but only recently started to join. I have been in the bowling business for the last 10 years now, but I am going down a slightly different direction to the standard Tenpin. The decline in Tenpin has been over some years now and in my opinion has not finished. Even if the decline in clientele were to stop now, many centres would not be able to sustain the ever increasing running costs in the long run. I can see bleak times for Tenpin ahead with more and more centres closing the doors.

European Tenpin bowling centres have seen this trend a few years ago and I personally know of a number of operators that looked for alternatives which came mainly with the use of string pinsetters. I am fully aware of the opinion that the hardened Tenpin bowler has for this equipment. But let’s look at the many advantages that this system has over free fall pinspotters. The machines will run many years with virtual no maintenance, are so simple and have very few moving parts and use only about a quarter of the power. When I speak about this subject to bowlers, the issue always arises that maybe the strings knock over extra pins. I can assure anybody that this is very rare and I also had comments for the opposite that the strings maybe slow the pins down and therefore they will knock less pins over. All of this happens to a very limited extent, but if there are all lanes in a centre the same, it does not matter.

I know personally of one particular 16 lane Tenpin venue in France where the Brunswick pinsetters came to the end of their life and had to be replaced. When the owner went to the bank with his business plan trying to finance the new equipment, he was refused. So he continued for a while and then decided to take the plunge and be one of the first operators that changed to string setters. The business plan past scrutiny by the bank as he was able to show that his operating costs could be drastically reduced. Unfortunately, the two full time mechanics lost their job but the power bill was reduced to less than half.

I visited the same operator after 3 years of operating the new equipment and he admitted that he initially lost most of his competition bowlers but more than half of them returned within a short time. His customer base changed dramatically and now his main income is from casual bowlers. He is now operating for about 5 years and is going great guns. He just opened his second centre in Holland, naturally again with string setters.

I have been told that the FIQ is already allowing string setters in some European countries to be used in lower ranking tournaments. Europe is definitely going this way mainly due to the enormous cost of keeping the free fall pinsetters going.

Bowling will always be attractive as a recreational activity and FEC’s, using bowling as the anchor attraction is definitely the way to go. I would love to see the honest financial breakdown of a struggling Tenpin centre that shows the income and in some details the expenditure, especially things like cost of power, mechanics salaries and cost of spare parts. What would happen if you halve the power costs and take out the expenses for the mechanics and also take out the cost of spare parts and bowling pins? How would this impact to the bottom line?

And putting this together with other attractions would allow them all to feed off each other. Companies like McDonalds and KFC have realised this fact a long time ago; notice how they are always situated close to each other?

I know that not everyone will agree with my way of thinking, but I hope that I have stirred some interest.

Comment by George McAuliffe on June 8, 2012 at 12:29pm

Point well taken. As you've broadened the discussion to "out of home" entertainment, my involvement in adding family entertainment attractions to bowling, and seeing the power of the BEC format firsthand, has led to another conclusion. My background is in traditional (non bowling) FEC's, of which there are many in the US. Many of these facilities could benefit from adding bowling lanes as an attraction. I'll be addressing this with Kurt Harz in a free webinar on the subject. IBI and Beyond Bowling are sponsoring along with Redemption University (Redemption Plus's e learning facility). For those who would like to join us, here are the details:

Title: Best Practices for Combining Family Entertainment and Bowling...
Description: When: Thursday, June 14 from 11:30 - 12:30 CDT
This 30 minute presentation will cover the best practices, attractions, and innovations in today’s Bowling FEC’s. A variety of facilities will be
reviewed, hard numbers provided, and best practices shared.
Register at:

Comment by Joe Schumacker on June 8, 2012 at 8:19am


Thanks for jumping into the discussion.  It is one worthy of being continued.  To a large degree we are framing the future role of bowling as a commercial endeavor.   Your initial comment that Heinz and I may have forgotten more about bowling than you know is interesting.   I believe one of the challenges the Bowling community has is that we have not retired old thinking, that is, we have not forgotten enough.   It is difficult to learn new stuff you are not prepared to move beyond old stuff.  It is even more difficult when the old stuff has a history of success.  Wisdom comes from knowing what is important to hold on to and what needs to be forgotten regardless of its past success.       

The return earned on single venue “out of home” entertainment marketplace is generally too low to justify an exclusive use facility.  It does not work well with laser tag.  It does not work well with classic arcades, indoor miniature golf or carting.  It also increasingly does not work with movie theaters.  Bowling could pull it off a few decades ago when league play was much more robust but not today.  A successful “out of home” entertainment business must be centered on active entertainment and must have multiple options.   Bowling can and should be an anchor but the ability to create a profit stream depends on having a complete package of entertainment venues along with a strategy for getting the most out of each venue.    Getting the most out of bowling requires a balanced product strategy.  Getting the most out of companion venues requires expertise in each activity.   Owning and operating a BEC can be rewarding but it is not either simple or easy.

There must be a lot of thoughts and ideas on how to do both the “Bowling” and “Beyond Bowling” pieces correctly.  Comments are always appreciated.


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