Why You Should Consider a Bowling Alley Business Plan

In a time of economic uncertainty, you may be surprised to learn that bowling alleys are one of the few businesses projected to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bowling alleys are already heavily sanitized and are great for social distancing. If you’re thinking about opening a new business but aren’t sure what field to go into, consider drafting a bowling alley business plan.

As of 2019, bowling alleys produced over $4 billion in revenue in the United States alone. This is a lucrative business, and will certainly boom once it’s safer to go outside. People are getting serious cabin fever and will be itching to take it out on the pins!

Your Bowling Alley Business Plan


Like starting any other business, you’ll need to draw up a business plan. This plan will outline the first steps you plan to take while starting your bowling alley and will show investors that you know what you’re doing. It will also outline your projected startup costs, so you’ll have an idea of how much money you’ll need.

You can find tons of examples of business plan formats online, but here are the most important things to include as a future bowling alley business owner.

Mission and Objective


Your mission and objective are similar, but shouldn’t be redundant. Your objectives will build upon the mission statement, but the mission statement will guide everything you do.

Your mission is a simple statement encapsulating why you are founding the bowling alley: do you want to revive the sport? Provide a new form of entertainment in a small town? Create a community hub for bowlers and newbies alike?

Your mission statement should only be one or two simple sentences. You don’t have to go into great detail, especially since people are generally familiar with the purpose of a bowling alley.

Your objectives are more specific. They should be easily measured by quantitative goals, usually relating to sales or membership.

For example, your first objective can be to generate at least $500,000 in revenue in your first year of business. You can also set goals for your food and drink margins, or what percentage of sales you want to earn as income. The rest of your business plan will build upon how you plan to achieve these objectives.

When writing your objectives, remember the acronym SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Differentiating Yourself


How will you set yourself apart from other bowling alleys? This is an especially important part of your business plan if there are other bowling alleys in your area. Even if you plan to be the premier bowling alley in your town, still figure out what will make your bowling business special.

Clearly define what your alley will do to entice people. This will be part of your company summary, where you’ll summarize the basic points of your business plan.

What Will It Cost?


Your expenses will be very different whether you plan to buy an existing bowling alley or build one from the ground up. Calculate how much money you’ll need at every step. Some important expenses specific to bowling alleys include:

  • Construction
  • Ball return machinery & upkeep
  • Shoes and other rentals
  • Advertising
  • Music rights
  • Scorekeeping screens or tabs
  • Food and beverage licensure
  • Other permits & legal consultation

You should be able to identify how much money you will need to spend within the first year in order to have a successful bowling alley.

Hey Man, There’s a Beverage Here!


A lot of your profit will come from a snack bar or a regular bar. Whether you plan on slinging White Russians or just serving beer from the tap, make sure your business plan includes all the necessary licensure and permits you’ll need to get (and how much they’ll cost). These vary from state to state, so brush up on food and liquor laws!

Also include whether you will have any sort of food or drink specials, such as a free pizza when you buy two games. This will show investors that you’re not overlooking additional profit centers for your alley.

Also, include how you plan to employ food and beverage employees vs. other alley employees. Will they be tipped workers, and how do you plan to obey labor laws around alcohol? Will you have a team of bartenders that only serve drinks, or will all employees be cross-trained on different stations?

Branding Effectively


This is part of differentiating yourself. Successful bowling alleys often have a brand identity that extends not only to their decor but their advertising techniques. Your brand can be an overt theme, like “The Wild West” or “Outer Space”. But it can also be as simple as “casual modern bowling”, where you serve craft beer and play the latest music.

Having an identifiable brand will make advertising easy, and give you a guide for other alleys you may plan to open. Your business plan should include a section on branding and themes where you clearly define how you will execute them.

To Franchise or Not to Franchise

Include whether or not you plan to franchise your bowling business. Franchising is a great idea if you have a strong brand identity, and you’ll be able to earn more money from enterprising future franchise owners. You’ll benefit from being at the head of your brand without having to manage multiple locations.

Alternatively, you may consider purchasing from a franchisor. This is a great way to dip your toes into the bowling alley ownership world and be able to work with the franchisor as a mentee.

Let’s Go, Bowling


We hope that this gave some clarity on what a bowling alley business plan requires. They’re not too different from any other small business plan, but there are some specifics you’ll need to hammer out first. Starting a bowling alley is a fun and exciting venture, and we can’t wait to see what you can do!

For more tips on securing a loyal customer base and keeping your alley successful past the first year, flip through our blog. We’re a team of bowling enthusiasts who want to spread our joy and love to the world. We’re on your side, strike or no.

If you’re looking for bowling supplies for your business, don’t hesitate to contact your local bowling alley supply company like that specializes in great bowling business equipment and supplies.

About Maki Voss