Testing different pricing models

I’m fortunate to live in a Great Lakes state, where we enjoy all four seasons. And when spring and summer months arrive in Michigan (and many other states), business general slumps, no matter what you do.

Once you accept that the seasonal shifts will cause different ebbs and flows with your business, you can set realistic goals and even experiment and try new things.

One of the most important areas where you can experiment is with your pricing. People are always price-sensitive, but these days, my experience has shown that customers are even more “time-sensitive” than they are “price-sensitive.”

Most centers have a game price for open bowling, but many of us use that as our main price. When people call to inquire about pricing, they are often told it is $4 for a game and $3 for shoes (for example), but think about that: if you are new to bowling, do you even have any concept of how long a game will take? Likely not.

When you think of it from the perspective of a “newbie,” charges by the game and by the shoe rental are clunky. Some centers use a slightly improved model of charging by the hour. But what I have found to be even better is an all-inclusive 90-minute “Drink and Play” package charged per person.

Ninety minutes is the perfect amount of time, and it allows everyone – from staff to customers – to know how long the lanes will be used. For those customers who wish to continue bowling after the 90-minute window is finished, I have an additional charge for the next hour. Customers really appreciate being able to budget their time.

Here is an example of the pricing model, so you can see how it could work:

Drink & Play Packages | Based on 4 games bowled per hour (Average)

Mon – Friday | 3pm to 8pm

$6.95 per person | 90 minutes of unlimited bowling | Incl. Shoes | Soda or domestic Draft

  • Breakdown – 1 person – $1.15 per gm | 2ppl – $2.31 per gm | 3 ppl – $3.47 per gm | 4 ppl – $4.63 gm

Mon – Thurs. | 8pm – Close

$8.95 per person | 90 minutes of unlimited bowling | Incl. Shoes | Soda or domestic Draft

  • Breakdown – 1 person – $1.49 per gm | 2ppl – $2.98 per gm | 3 ppl – $4.47 per gm | 4 ppl – $5.96 per gm

Friday – Saturday Cosmic | 8pm – 2am

$10.95 per person | 90 minutes of unlimited bowling | Incl. Shoes | Soda or Domestic Draft

  • Breakdown – 1 person – $1.82 per gm | 2ppl – $3.65 per gm | 3 ppl – $5.47 per gm | 4 ppl – $7.30 per gm

Saturdays Noon – 8pm | Sundays Noon – 11pm

$8.95 per person | 90 minutes of unlimited bowling | Incl. Shoes | Soda or domestic Draft

  • Breakdown – 1 person – $1.49 per gm | 2ppl – $2.98 per gm | 3 ppl – $4.47 per gm | 4 ppl – $5.96 per gm
  • Add 60 minutes to any 90-minute package for $3 per person per 60 minutes

I find these packages to be extremely user-friendly and easy for the staff to execute without a flaw

People love the transparency and the all-inclusive offerings, and it allows them to more fully understand the price and the time involved.

My packages include a small soda or small domestic draft beer. This offering is optional, of course, but I highly recommend it, as I think it can be a huge value if your staff members are prepared to sell and serve. The staff can be trained on how to use the free drink as an opportunity to discuss the snack and bar menus. Right away, you are looking at additional revenue sources without much additional effort.

And, it’s worth mentioning that the beverage cost for an 8-oz drink is about 50 cents. Turning that 50 cent investment into an opportunity for increased food and beverage sales is a key part of this business model.

I have found three bowlers per lane to be a safe group size average, and that it is safe to assume they will bowl four games in an hour.

If we use this formula, we see:

  • 6.95 rate = $13.98 per hour per lane less beverage cost
  • 8.95 rate = $17.88 per hour per lane less beverage cost
  • 10.95 rate = $21.88 per hour per lane less beverage cost

(Yes, I know, we will sometimes see that one person who comes in and power bowls a record number of games in 90 minutes, but your games bowled an hour average will work itself out in the long run.)

As spring approaches, consider experimenting with this type of pricing model. I am confident you will like it as much as your customers like it.

In the coming weeks, I will talk about a “2 for $5” special that works extremely well. And have you ever heard of a free birthday party model that yields $6.82 per participant? I filled my house every weekend in July by giving away free parties!


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