I recently had some email exchanges with Joe Schumacker, one the bowling industry’s most respected, knowledgeable and insightful operators. Joe owns SpareZ in Davie, Florida.
Joe was at first commenting on our recent Leisure eNewsletter article The importance of food and beverage and some discussion about it that had taken place in a Linkedin group. Joe’s comment was, “I am surprised that anyone would not recognize the power of F&B in an LBE [location-based entertainment].”
Joe then went on to point out that for decades bowling centers were third places for league bowlers who came on a weekly basis. The concept of the third place was first written about by Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book The Great Good Places, a classic in the sociological literature on social and cultural geography of America. In his book Oldenburg describes third places as public places where people gather outside their home (1st place) and their work (2nd place) to hang out simply for the social pleasures of good company and lively conversations.
Joe went on to say; “In the case of league bowling it [the third place] actually became a negative where the customer bonded with other like kind customers to complain about the business. They kept coming to the center if no other reason than to complain some more. In its worst form I referred to this condition as ‘chronic league bowling fatigue syndrome.’ I do believe however that we can nurture the “third place’ mindset [for today’s open play customer] without the dysfunction brought on by league bowling.”
Joe has a great point. Contemporary bowling centers as well as other types of LBEs can have great success if they become third places for regular customers (non-league), as that is what will create a loyal and repeat customer base and positive word-of-mouth.