Opening a bowling alley can be very profitable. With proper planning, execution and hard work, you can enjoy great success. Below you will learn the keys to launching a successful bowling alley.
Importantly, a critical step in starting a bowling alley is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.
15 Steps To Open a Bowling Alley:
- Choose the Name for Your Bowling Alley
- Determine the Type of Bowling Alley You Will Launch
- Develop Your Bowling Alley Business Plan
- Choose the Legal Structure for Your Bowling Alley
- Secure Startup Funding for Your Bowling Alley (If Needed)
- Secure a Location for Your Business
- Register Your Bowling Alley with the IRS
- Open a Business Bank Account
- Get a Business Credit Card
- Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
- Get Business Insurance for Your Bowling Alley
- Buy or Lease the Right Bowling Alley Equipment
- Develop Your Bowling Alley Marketing Materials
- Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Bowling Alley
- Open for Business
1. Choose the Name for Your Bowling Alley
The first step to opening a bowling alley is to choose your name.
This is a very important choice since your company name is your brand and will last for the lifetime of your business. Ideally you choose a name that is meaningful and memorable. Here are some tips for choosing a name for your bowling alley:
- Make sure the name is available. Check your desired name against trademark databases and your state’s list of registered business names to see if it’s available. Also check to see if a suitable domain name is available.
- Keep it simple. The best names are usually ones that are easy to remember, pronounce and spell.
- Think about marketing. Come up with a name that reflects the desired brand and/or focus of your bowling alley.
2. Determine the Type of Bowling Alley You Will Launch
The next step is to determine the type of bowling alley you will launch. The four main types of bowling alleys are:
- Traditional bowling alleys. These are the most common type and feature 10 lanes for bowling, electronic scoring systems, food service, and pro shops that sell bowling supplies.
- Bar/lounge bowling establishments. These typically have fewer lanes than traditional alleys but also feature a bar or lounge area where patrons can enjoy drinks and snacks while bowling.
- Family/youth bowling centers. These establishments typically have 10-20 lanes, an arcade area and other activities like laser tag or mini golf. They are designed to appeal to families and children of all ages.
- Luxury bowling alleys. These boutique establishments offer a high-end experience with luxury amenities like plush seating.
3. Develop Your Bowling Alley Business Plan
One of the most important steps in opening a bowling alley is to develop your bowling alley business plan. The process of creating your plan ensures that you fully understand your market and your business strategy. The plan also provides you with a roadmap to follow and if needed, to present to funding sources to raise capital for your business.
Your business plan should include the following sections:
- Executive Summary – this section should summarize your entire business plan so readers can quickly understand the key details of your bowling alley.
- Company Overview – this section tells the reader about the history of your bowling alley and what type of bowling alley you operate. For example, are you a traditional bowling alley or family/youth bowling center?
- Industry Analysis – here you will document key information about the bowling alley industry. Conduct market research and document how big the industry is and what trends are affecting it.
- Customer Analysis – in this section, you will document who your ideal or target customers are and their demographics. For example, how old are they? Where do they live? What do they find important when purchasing services like the ones you will offer?
- Competitive Analysis – here you will document the key direct and indirect competitors you will face and how you will build competitive advantage.
- Marketing Plan – your marketing plan should address the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotions and Place.
- Product: Determine and document what products/services you will offer
- Prices: Document the prices of your products/services
- Place: Where will your business be located and how will that location help you increase sales?
- Promotions: What promotional methods will you use to attract customers to your bowling alley? For example, you might decide to use pay-per-click advertising, public relations, search engine optimization and/or social media marketing.
- Operations Plan – here you will determine the key processes you will need to run your day-to-day operations. You will also determine your staffing needs. Finally, in this section of your plan, you will create a projected growth timeline showing the milestones you hope to achieve in the coming years.
- Management Team – this section details the background of your company’s management team.
- Financial Plan – finally, the financial plan answers questions including the following:
- What startup costs will you incur?
- How will your bowling alley make money?
- What are your projected sales and expenses for the next five years?
- Do you need to raise funding to launch your business?
4. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Bowling Alley
Next you need to choose a legal structure for your bowling alley and register it and your business name with the Secretary of State in each state where you operate your business.
Below are the five most common legal structures:
1) Sole proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is a business entity in which the owner of the bowling alley and the business are the same legal person. The owner of a sole proprietorship is responsible for all debts and obligations of the business. There are no formalities required to establish a sole proprietorship, and it is easy to set up and operate. The main advantage of a sole proprietorship is that it is simple and inexpensive to establish. The main disadvantage is that the owner is liable for all debts and obligations of the business.
A partnership is a legal structure that is popular among small businesses. It is an agreement between two or more people who want to open a bowling alley together. The partners share in the profits and losses of the business.
The advantages of a partnership are that it is easy to set up, and the partners share in the profits and losses of the business. The disadvantages of a partnership are that the partners are jointly liable for the debts of the business, and disagreements between partners can be difficult to resolve.
3) Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A limited liability company, or LLC, is a type of business entity that provides limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners of an LLC are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The advantages of an LLC for a bowling alley include flexibility in management, pass-through taxation (avoids double taxation as explained below), and limited personal liability. The disadvantages of an LLC include lack of availability in some states and self-employment taxes.
4) C Corporation
A C Corporation is a business entity that is separate from its owners. It has its own tax ID and can have shareholders. The main advantage of a C Corporation for a bowling alley is that it offers limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The disadvantage is that C Corporations are subject to double taxation. This means that the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and the shareholders also pay taxes on their dividends.
5) S Corporation
An S Corporation is a type of corporation that provides its owners with limited liability protection and allows them to pass their business income through to their personal income tax returns, thus avoiding double taxation. There are several limitations on S Corporations including the number of shareholders they can have among others.
Once you register your bowling alley, your state will send you your official “Articles of Incorporation.” You will need this among other documentation when establishing your banking account (see below). We recommend that you consult an attorney in determining which legal structure is best suited for your company.
5. Secure Startup Funding for Your Bowling Alley (If Needed)
In developing your bowling alley business plan, you might have determined that you need to raise funding to launch your business.
If so, the main sources of funding for a bowling alley to consider are personal savings, family and friends, credit card financing, bank loans, crowdfunding and angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who provide capital to early-stage businesses. Angel investors typically will invest in a bowling alley that they believe has high potential for growth.
6. Secure a Location for Your Business
Having the right space can be important for your bowling alley. The ideal space should have enough room for the bowling lanes, a coffee shop/restaurant, and enough room to accommodate your guests. It is important to consider how much traffic the area gets and how accessible it is to your potential customers.
To find the right space, consider:
- Driving around to find the right areas while looking for “for lease” signs
- Contacting a commercial real estate agent
- Doing commercial real estate searches online
- Telling others about your needs and seeing if someone in your network has a connection that can help you find the right space
7. Register Your Bowling Alley with the IRS
Next, you need to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will result in the IRS issuing you an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Most banks will require you to have an EIN in order to open up an account. In addition, in order to hire employees, you will need an EIN since that is how the IRS tracks your payroll tax payments.
Note that if you are a sole proprietor without employees, you generally do not need to get an EIN. Rather, you would use your social security number (instead of your EIN) as your taxpayer identification number.
8. Open a Business Bank Account
It is important to establish a bank account in your bowling alley’s name. This process is fairly simple and involves the following steps:
- Identify and contact the bank you want to use
- Gather and present the required documents (generally include your company’s Articles of Incorporation, driver’s license or passport, and proof of address)
- Complete the bank’s application form and provide all relevant information
- Meet with a banker to discuss your business needs and establish a relationship with them
9. Get a Business Credit Card
You should get a business credit card for your bowling alley to help you separate personal and business expenses.
You can either apply for a business credit card through your bank or apply for one through a credit card company.
When you’re applying for a business credit card, you’ll need to provide some information about your business. This includes the name of your business, the address of your business, and the type of business you’re running. You’ll also need to provide some information about yourself, including your name, Social Security number, and date of birth.
Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you’ll be able to use it to make purchases for your business. You can also use it to build your credit history which could be very important in securing loans and getting credit lines for your business in the future.
10. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
In order to operate a bowling alley, there are various licenses and permits you will need to obtain.
The most common licenses and permits you will need are:
Business license – This license is required in most states and allows you to conduct business in the state
Health department permit – This permit is required by most states and allows you to sell food and beverages
Fire department permit – This permit is usually required by states that have fire codes and is necessary for any business that uses cooking appliances or has an open flame
Building permit – This permit is necessary if you are making any modifications to the building where your bowling alley is located
Nearly all states, counties and/or cities also require:
- Sales Tax License or Seller’s Permit: for selling products
- Zoning Approval: typically at the city or county level, this provides authorization for construction or use of a building or land for a particular purpose
- Food Service, Processing and/or Warehouse Licensing: to ensure safe food preparation
Depending on the type of bowling alley you launch, you will have to obtain the necessary state, county and/or city licenses.
11. Get Business Insurance for Your Bowling Alley
When you’re running a business, there are always risks that need to be considered. That’s why it’s important to have business insurance to protect your bowling alley from any potential losses.
There are a variety of different types of business insurance that you may want to consider, including:
Property insurance – This insurance protects your bowling alley from damage or loss due to fire, theft, or other covered perils
Liability insurance – This insurance protects you from lawsuits that may arise from injuries or accidents that occur at your bowling alley
Business interruption insurance – This insurance helps cover the costs of lost income and expenses if your bowling alley is closed due to a covered event
Workers’ compensation insurance: If you have employees, this type of policy works with your general liability policy to protect against workplace injuries and accidents. It also covers medical expenses and lost wages.
Find an insurance agent, tell them about your business and its needs, and they will recommend policies that fit those needs.
12. Buy or Lease the Right Bowling Alley Equipment
If you’re starting a new bowling alley, you’ll likely need to purchase all of this equipment. However, if you’re looking to upgrade an existing bowling alley, you may be able to lease or rent some of the necessary equipment.
When purchasing or leasing bowling alley equipment, be sure to get the right sizes and types for your business. For example, if you’re only going to be offering ten-pin bowling, make sure your lanes and pinsetting equipment are set up for that type of game.
13. Develop Your Bowling Alley Marketing Materials
Marketing materials will be required to attract and retain customers to your bowling alley.
The key marketing materials you will need are as follows:
- Logo: Spend some time developing a good logo for your bowling alley. Your logo will be printed on company stationery, business cards, marketing materials and so forth. The right logo can increase customer trust and awareness of your brand.
- Website: Likewise, a professional bowling alley website provides potential customers with information about the services you offer, your company’s history, and contact information. Importantly, remember that the look and feel of your website will affect how customers perceive you.
- Social Media Accounts: establish social media accounts in your company’s name. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or other social media networks will help customers and others find and interact with your bowling alley.
14. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Bowling Alley
There are a few software programs you’ll need to operate your bowling alley. The most important is a good POS (point-of-sale) system, which will handle all of your transactions. In addition, you’ll need accounting software to manage your finances, and marketing software to help you plan and track your marketing campaigns.
Fortunately, many of these programs are available as cloud-based applications, which means you can access them from any internet-connected device. This flexibility allows you to run your business from anywhere.
When selecting software for your bowling alley, be sure to get programs that are specifically designed for the industry. For example, if you’re only going to offer ten-pin bowling, make sure your POS and accounting software are set up for that type of game.
Research the software that best suits your needs, purchase it, and set it up.
15. Open for Business
You are now ready to open your bowling alley. If you followed the steps above, you should be in a great position to build a successful business. Below are answers to frequently asked questions that might further help you.
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How to Open a Bowling Alley FAQs
No, it's not hard to open a bowling alley.
If you follow the steps above, you should be able to open your bowling alley without too much difficulty.
If you're looking to open a bowling alley but don't have any experience, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success. First, do your research and make sure you understand the industry. Next, find a partner who has experience in the bowling alley business. Alternatively, there are many resources available online and in print that can help guide you through the process. Finally, be prepared to put in the time and effort necessary to make your bowling alley a success.
In general, smaller bowling alleys (between 10 and 25 lanes) are more profitable than larger ones. Additionally, traditional bowling alleys (with wood lanes and manual scoring) are more profitable than modern alleys (with synthetic lanes and automated scoring).
So, if you're looking to open a bowling alley, it's important to do your research and choose a type and size that will be most profitable in your area.
The cost of opening a bowling alley will vary depending on your location and the type of alley you choose to open. However, in general, the cost of opening a bowling alley ranges from $50,000 to $150,000. This includes the cost of purchasing or leasing a property, installing the necessary equipment, and hiring staff.
So, if you're looking to open a bowling alley, be prepared to invest some money up front. However, with careful planning and execution, your investment can be well worth it in the long run.
The ongoing expenses for a bowling alley can vary, but typically include things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance, and staff salaries. The ongoing expenses for a bowling alley range between 10-20% of the total budget. Additionally, you'll need to factor in the costs of advertising and marketing your bowling alley, as well as any other costs associated with running a business.
Bowling alleys make money by charging customers to use their lanes. They typically charge by the hour, and prices vary depending on the time of day and day of the week. In addition to lane rental fees, bowling alleys also typically sell snacks and drinks, as well as offer party packages for special events. Many bowling alleys also offer league play, which can be a profitable source of income.
Yes, owning a bowling alley can be very profitable.
Yes, owning a bowling alley can be very profitable. Bowling alley owners can earn between 40-60% of their total revenue. Additionally, bowling alleys benefit from the trend of retro entertainment and nostalgia, making them popular destinations for people looking for a unique experience. Owners can also increase profits by offering special events and discounts to attract more customers.
Some of the key things you can do to make your bowling alley more profitable include:
- Offering discounts and specials
- Investing in new equipment
- Offering league play
- Advertising and marketing your bowling alley
- Optimizing your website for SEO to increase online visibility
- Creating a unique selling proposition
- Providing outstanding client service
Bowling alleys fail for several reasons such as not generating enough income to cover their costs. Other reasons can include competition from other businesses in the area, the cost of repairs and maintenance on the bowling alley equipment, and staff turnover.
One of the main reasons that bowling alleys fail is a lack of planning. This can include not having a detailed business plan, not doing research on the industry, and not targeting the right customers.
Another reason is a lack of marketing and sales skills. This can include not creating a sales process and not have a clear and strong value proposition.
The last main reason is a lack of financial management skills. This can include not having a realistic budget, not tracking expenses, and not investing in the business.
The bowling alley market is made up of a variety of different players, including small businesses, large enterprises, and even individuals.
Some of the key players in the market include:
- AMF Bowling:
- Poncho's Bowl-A-Rama
- Brunswick Bowling
However, there are many other players in your specific target market, and it is important to research the market to identify the key players that may have the most direct influence on the success of your business.
Bowling Alley fees can vary depending on the type of bowling alley services being offered.
However, some common bowling alley fees include:
- Hourly rates for bowling lane rental - $25 - $50 per hour
- Hourly rates for bowling equipment rental - $10-25 per hour
- Hourly rates for professional bowling league services - $60-$100 per hour
- Private party packages, which can include bowling lane rental and catering services - $300-$500
The best way to determine the right fee for your bowling alley services is to research the rates of similar businesses in your industry, and to also consider the value that you will be providing to the client.