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Tips for Buying a Bowling Alley

Posted On: / By: John Davies
Buying A Business

No matter your age, bowling alleys are a popular leisure activity that appeals to the masses. From family-style alleys to bar-centric bowling hotspots, bowling alleys are a great place to have fun with friends and family. However, there are a variety of factors that determine the success of a local bowling alley. If you’re considering buying a bowling alley, refer to Sunbelt Business Brokers’ buyer resources to find the perfect business opportunity for you.

1. How much money does a bowling alley make?

According to a report by Bowling.com, the average bowling alley can expect to make approximately $36,750 per lane annually. Though bowling alleys have seen a decline in popularity, the industry is currently in a rebuilding stage and is beginning to grow once again.

In fact, as of 2019, industry reports concluded the bowling industry in the United States was responsible for $4 billion in revenue and expected to grow. To ensure your bowling alley falls in line with this average, one of the best factors to consider is location. Be sure to look at the accessibility of the prospective bowling center as well as the surrounding population. The most successful bowling alley businesses are located in areas where the average household income is more than $100,000 per year. The bowling alley should be proportional in size to the surrounding community.

2. What sets this bowling alley apart from nearby competitors?

In such a crucial time for bowling alleys to be adjusting to market changes, business owners must find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition successfully. To help set your bowling alley up for success, think about how it compares to local competitors. Most bowling alleys are owned independently, so be sure to consider how you can stand out from the crowd with your own personal touches. Ways a bowling alley might stand out include but are not limited to:

  • Offering other arcade games and activities;
  • Replacing typical concession food items with an upscale menu;
  • Developing party packages for birthday parties, fundraisers, and corporate events;
  • Starting bowling leagues for bowlers of all ages;
  • Including bar services; or
  • Investing in a signature look.

Current bowlers are interested in spending their time and money at bowling venues that have adapted to the market changes and appeal to millennials. Ensure the bowling alley you are considering to purchase is known for delivering a memorable experience that is current with today’s demands.

3. Why is the current owner selling the bowling alley?buying a bowling alley near you

One of the most crucial questions to ask the bowling alley owner is, “Why are you selling?” Some frequently-used reasons bowling alley owners place their business for sale include retirement, burnout, illness, poor performance, financial issues, and new opportunities.

If a seller indicates that he or she is selling the business due to performance or financial struggles, take it as a sign that the business is not performing well. Though improvement is always possible with changes to ownership, you should heavily consider the potential consequences of accepting ownership before making your final decision.

Financial Considerations for Buying a Bowling Alley

Like every business investment, opening your own bowling alley is a serious business move that requires extensive planning. To help prepare for a potential transaction, ask these questions about cash flow, real estate, equipment, and valuations.

4. Does the sale include real estate?

To begin evaluating the bowling alley’s financial details, you first need to inquire whether the building is leased or owned. If the current tenant owns the existing building, you’ll need to ask if they are interested in selling the real estate as well, and if so, determine the cost of rent per month. For leased buildings, it’s important to understand and discuss with a professional the lease agreement and parameters for transferring ownership.

5. Is the equipment included in the sale?

Bowling equipment– especially bowling ball return machines, bumpers, pinsetters, and automatic scoring systems– are quite costly. While discussing the sale parameters with the current owner, determine what assets are included in the sale. For example, installing new bowling lanes can cost anywhere between $18,000 to $45,000 per lane depending on if you purchase used or new equipment. Depending on the bowling alleys needs and your vision for the business, these costs can add up rather quickly.

6. What are the business expenses?

One of the best ways to get an idea of how much running your bowling alley will cost is to ask the current owner about his or her current expenses. Use these details to determine the average cost of bills, materials, employee compensation, general building and equipment maintenance, and more.

7. What is the bowling alley’s value?

One final fundamental question you’ll need to ask the current owner is, “How did you determine your asking price?” By learning how the owner valued the bowling alley, you will have more bargaining power. Always remember that an asking price without a sound valuation behind it is likely negotiable.

To obtain the most accurate valuation of a bowling business, you should rely on a professional. Sunbelt Business Brokers proudly provides our clients with the most accurate and timely business valuations and other information for a favorable business deal. Begin working with a Sunbelt business broker at a location near you.

If you’d like to begin searching for bowling alleys for sale, consider working with the professionals at Sunbelt Business Brokers. We hold our brokers to the highest standards to ensure we help you close a successful business deal from start to finish. Find a Sunbelt office near you for assistance with buying a bowling alley.

Article updated on December 20, 2019.


After obtaining his MBA, John began his career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the international accounting and consulting firm, and subsequently joined Progressive Corporation, a large U.S. based insurance company. John was a Division President at Progressive and subsequently became the CEO of a New York based private equity investment company. In 2001, he founded MMI as a platform investment company and MMI has subsequently acquired 15 additional companies.

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