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How Much Do Bowling Alleys Make A Year? A Breakdown of Bowling Alley Profits

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Bowling remains one of America’s most popular recreational pastimes and competitive sports. Over 70 million people go bowling at least once per year in the United States.

However, operating a profitable bowling alley business requires mastering a complex array of revenue streams and expenses. With large facilities, plenty of equipment, and diverse staffing needs, bowling centers have a high overhead.

So how much do bowling alleys make on average per year? What are their major sources of earnings and costs? This article will provide a deep dive into the annual revenue and expenses of a typical bowling alley to estimate overall profitability.

Key Bowling Alley Revenue Sources

Bowling alleys generate income through these main channels:

Bowling Games

The core revenue driver is money collected from bowling games. Estimating annual earnings requires looking at:

  • Cost per game – The average bowling alley charges $5-7 per game today. High-end upscale centers charge over $10 per game.
  • Games bowled per lane – On average, 15-20 games are played per lane daily. Higher volume alleys will have 25+ games.
  • Number of lanes – Most centers have 20-40 lanes. Large facilities have 50+ lanes.

Given these factors, a typical 40-lane bowling alley charging $6 per game with 20 games bowled per lane daily would earn:

$6 x 20 games x 40 lanes x 365 days = $1,752,000 annually from bowling games.

Food and Drink Sales

Bowling alleys also generate strong profits from food and beverage sales:

  • Food prices are marked up 300-400% over cost. Alcohol has an even higher margin.
  • Food and drink sales account for 25-40% of bowling alley revenue.
  • With average food/drink spend of $8-15 per bowler, a center hosting 100 bowlers daily, at 300 days annually can expect around $1 million in food and drink sales.

Rental Income

Additional revenue comes from facility and lane rentals for corporate events, birthday parties, and more. Average rental rates are $50-100 per lane per hour.

With a moderate assumption of 10 lane hours rented daily at $75 per hour, that’s $27,375 annually per 10 lanes. A decent side income for most alleys.

Pro Shop Sales and Services

On-site pro shops that sell balls, shoes, accessories and offer drilling services produce incremental revenue streams:

  • Ball drilling earns $30-60 per ball
  • Shoes, bags, towels, and grips generate strong retail margins
  • Maintenance and resurfacing services for $10-30 per ball

Even a small pro shop selling 20 balls monthly at $50 profit each plus services can easily surpass $150,000 annually.

Arcade and Vending

While not a massive profit center, arcade games, and vending machines provide additional earnings:

  • Arcade games earn $100-$300 per machine monthly.
  • Vending machines dispensing soda, snacks, and even bowling products generate steady hands-off income.

A typical 40-lane bowling alley with 10 arcade games and 10 vending machines can expect around $50,000+ per year from these sources.

Key Bowling Alley Operating Costs

The major operating expenses involved in running a bowling alley include:

Employee Costs

With diverse staffing requirements, employee costs are a top expenditure:

  • Front desk staff earn $10-$15 per hour.
  • Cooks average $15 per hour, with servers earning $10 plus tips.
  • Mechanics make $15-$20 per hour.
  • Janitorial staff earn minimum wage or higher.

For a 40-lane bowling alley with at least one manager paid a $45,000 salary, plus payroll taxes and benefits, total employee costs often exceed $500,000.

Lane Maintenance

Keeping lanes properly oiled and conditioned to prevent breakdowns requires supplies and mechanic time:

  • Lane oil costs $9-$12 per liter.
  • Cleaning and stripping lanes monthly has labor and material costs.
  • Mechanics invest 5-10 hours weekly for preventive maintenance.

With 40 lanes oiled 3 times weekly and stripped monthly, expect around $30,000+ in annual lane care expenses.

Food and Drink Costs

Cost of goods sold must be accounted for from food and drink sales:

  • Food costs average 30% off menu prices.
  • Alcohol costs around 20% of the drink price.
  • For that $1 million in food and drink revenue, up to $300,000 goes just to COGS.


The space and equipment needs of a bowling alley rack up big utility bills:

  • Electricity to power racks, lights, arcade games, etc. can easily exceed $5,000 monthly.
  • Gas for heating, cooking, and hot water also runs $5,000+ monthly.
  • Water and sewer costs are lower but still $500+ per month.

An energy-intensive bowling alley can face $150,000 or more in annual utility costs.

Insurance, Licensing and Taxes

Basic business operating costs like insurance, licenses, and taxes apply:

  • General liability insurance averages $3,000-$5,000 monthly.
  • Food service alcohol licenses, and amusement taxes all apply.
  • Federal taxes at 21% for corporations reduce net profit.

These costs can total over $100,000 annually for a full-service bowling center.

Marketing and Promotions

Attracting repeat bowlers has marketing costs for advertising, social media, and promotions like:

  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Coupons and discounts on slow days
  • Group party packages – kids’ birthdays, corporate events
  • Giveaways – free game coupons, food/drink specials

Promotional expenses can run $50,000 or more every year.

Rent, Mortgage, and Renovations

For leased spaces, rent averages $20-$30 per square foot annually. Buying a property means mortgage payments.

Renovations to upgrade lanes, interior design, arcade games etc. are also required every 5-10 years, at a cost of $200,000 or more.

Estimating Overall Bowling Alley Profitability

Given their diverse revenue sources but also substantial operating overhead, what total net profit can bowling alleys expect?

Some estimated ranges:

  • Gross annual revenue of $1.5-$3 million or more per location
  • Total expenses of $1.2-$2 million
  • Leading to potential net profits between $300,000-$800,000 annually

That equates to $7,500-$20,000+ in net profit per lane. Or calculated per square foot of space, a net profit of $100-$250+ annually.

Profitability Factors

Of course, actual bowling alley profitability varies widely depending on these key factors:

  • Location – Real estate costs and local demographics determine customer demand. High foot traffic areas earn more.
  • Competition – Highly saturated markets force lowering prices resulting in thinner margins.
  • New vs old centers – Keeping lanes and decor updated attracts more bowlers. But costs are higher.
  • Food and drink menu – Alcohol sales or expanded menus boost profitability.
  • Arcade selection – New games and redemptions keep players engaged longer, increasing revenue.

The most profitable bowling alleys today combine contemporary style and offerings with a prime location. Centers losing bowlers to competition need renovations and improved marketing to stay profitable.

Maximizing Bowling Revenue and Profits

Bowling alley owners use these key strategies to maximize their revenue potential and profits in today’s market:

  • Offer online booking and loyalty programs to build a loyal customer base.
  • Host birthday parties, and corporate team building events, and promote nightlife attractions like DJs, bands, and even nightclub themes.
  • Serve trendy foods like brick oven pizza, tapas menus, and locally sourced ingredients to boost food sales. Add creative cocktail programs.
  • Install upscale lounge areas for adults, with full dinner menus. Separate bar areas also allow for generating more alcohol income.
  • Offer virtual reality bowling games and modern arcade attractions like axe throwing, virtual reality, and interactive digital games.
  • Utilize data analytics on pricing optimization, staffing needs, inventory management, and customer preferences to increase profitability.

The Future Outlook

While the number of total bowling centers has declined over past decades, those remaining are optimizing their facilities and offerings to stay profitable against a wide range of entertainment options competing for consumers’ time and money.

Bowling alleys pour significant investment into modernizing the guest experience. Creative food and drink programs also drive profits. Data-based management tactics help control costs.

With such efforts, well-run bowling alleys can expect to earn annual net profits in the healthy $200,000 to $800,000 range into the future. Adaptability and astute business acumen remain key to thriving in the evolving bowling industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can bowling alleys be profitable?

Yes, bowling alleys can be highly profitable businesses, generating anywhere from $200,000 to $800,000 in annual net profit based on factors like location, offerings, and management. Keys to profitability include maximizing food/drink sales, hosting events, and keeping facilities modern and appealing.

How much money does the bowling industry make?

The US bowling industry generates around $6 billion in revenue annually. On average, a bowling alley with 20-40 lanes can produce $1.5-$3 million or more in gross annual revenue. After expenses, net profits often range $200,000-$800,000.

How do I start a bowling alley business?

Starting a bowling alley involves business planning, securing financing and investment, finding a suitable property, renovating it, purchasing lanes and equipment, establishing operations, hiring staff, and executing marketing. Owners need significant capital and business experience.

How do you value a bowling alley business?

Bowling alleys are valued based on assets like property, lanes, equipment, as well as gross revenue and profitability. Valuation multipliers range from 1-3X revenue or 5-10X net profit. So a 40 lane alley grossing $2 million at a 3X multiple could be valued around $6 million.

Is a bowling alley a good investment?

Bowling alleys remain a fairly stable investment if properly located and managed. Modern facilities with updated offerings can still attract consistent traffic. Profitability makes the required capital investment worthwhile. But bowling faces competition from other recreation options.

Why are bowling prices so high?

Bowling has become more expensive due to high overhead costs for real estate, staffing, insurance, maintenance, and constant renovations needed to stay appealing. Prices must remain high enough for bowling centers to cover expenses and earn a profit.

Where is bowling most popular in the US?

Bowling remains especially popular in the Midwest, Great Lakes region, and New England where bowling leagues and centers first took hold decades ago. But alleys nationwide continue modernizing to attract recreational and league bowlers.

What is the target market for bowling?

Bowling appeals to a wide target audience including families, young adults for late night socializing, seniors, recreational and league bowlers. League and youth league bowling keep the sport popular across generations.

Is the sport of bowling growing?

Bowling participation has declined since its peak popularity in the 1960s-1980s. However, upgraded alleys and new attractions like boutique bowling, virtual reality games, food/drink offerings are bringing new interest and trying to grow the sport again.