How to Start Up a Tenpin Bowling Center


Bowling remains a popular leisure activity for people of all ages. Equipped with arcades, pool tables, darts, lounges and lanes, bowling centers are a fun and relatively inexpensive way for seniors, families and young people to pass the time. However, they’re also costly to construct. Each lane may cost about $6,000. If building your center from the ground up, you may need as much as $1 million. Instead, look for an existing center to significantly reduce your costs.

Things You'll Need

  • Liability insurance
  • Business license
  • Zoning approval
  • Building permit
  • Liquor license
  • Food establishment permit
  • Lanes
  • Bowling balls
  • Furniture
  • Cook
  • Menu

Write a business plan. You’ll need a good deal of capital to get your tenpin bowling center up and running. To procure that capital, you’ll need a thorough business plan that you can present to investors and financiers. In the plan, prove there is a demand for your bowling center. If your area is saturated with bowling alleys, visit each one and identify how yours will differ. You might target a different crowd, offer more family-friendly events or singles nights, offer a smoking section or prohibit smoking to set your establishment apart.

Find a high-visibility location. Save thousands on building permits and construction costs by moving into a closed bowling center. Hire a licensed contractor who knows your city’s building code regulations to help you renovate your building. If the renovations are significant, you must submit building plans and receive approval before altering your bowling center. Before submitting building plans, you’ll need to obtain a business license. If your lanes are in bad shape, find a contractor who specializes in constructing bowling centers to replace your lanes. Update scoring systems with more convenient and integrated systems.

Hire an interior design or commission savvy friends and family members to help you select a theme and design your bowling center.

Contact your health department and set up an inspection of your cafe. Apply for your liquor license if you plan to sell alcoholic beverages.

Hire cooks and wait staff for your cafe, as well as a team to service the lanes and work the cash wrap. Ensure each carries a food handler’s permit. Create a menu of popular comfort foods. Visit local meat, produce and dairy farmers. Sticking with local suppliers is a great way to get your name out into the community and garner additional business.

Purchase or rent arcade games and vending machines. Purchase additional equipment and supplies: quality bowling shoes in a variety of sizes, pool tables, stools, tables, chairs, refrigeration, kitchen equipment, bumpers, bowling balls, pins, bowling ball racks and benches.

Tips & Warnings

  • Purchase liability insurance.
  • Contact your local news and radio stations to inform them of your grand opening.
  • Offer a smoking area. With more businesses making measures to restrict smokers from lighting up indoors, being the only business in town to offer a smoking section is a great way to reel in smokers and friends of smokers.
  • Offer league bowling and cosmic bowling. Have family night discounts. Give discounts to college students and military members, which may be your No. 1 clientele.
  • If room allows, set up a pro shop and sell bowling bags and bowling attire.

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