This content was originally published by Bowling Center Management.

Applying tenets from other businesses proves to be a recipe for success for the venues of the Diamond Hospitality Group.


Bill Diamond is the co-founder and president of Diamond Properties, a commercial real estate business located in Mount Kisco, New York, that focuses on the acquisition of commercial properties with potential for substantial improvement through hands-on property management, market repositioning and capital upgrades. Today, the entertainment division of Diamond Properties — Diamond Hospitality Group — operates more than 20 venues in five states, including Spins Bowl locations in New York, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

You are involved in several other businesses outside of bowling. From a business fundamentals standpoint, what are your favorite aspects of the BEC business?

We started Diamond Properties as an owner and developer of commercial real estate. While we’ve expanded our portfolio to roughly $1.4 billion, we’ve also grown to operate a few different business classes. These include RV parks, BECs, an FEC and self-storage facilities. While there are positives and negatives for each of these verticals, what we love about the bowling business, in particular, is the community engagement and being able to become an important part of the local community. We focus on creating social and enjoyable atmospheres where people can come together for fun and create lasting memories.

In terms of operating the business, have your priorities shifted over the years? Have the keys to success changed?

We’ve continued to upgrade our centers, adding such things as modern scoring, self-ordering kiosks, reservation systems, arcades, et cetera. We understand that to stay relevant we need to keep investing, not only in the buildings and facilities themselves, but also the business processes and technologies we rely upon, including our corporate accounting and budgeting programs.

Are bowling, food-and-beverage and arcade the “big three” at the GPNY and Spins locations?

Across the portfolio, bowling activities still make up the majority of revenue, slightly north of 50%, with food-and-beverage and arcade making up the balance. In some of our locations with larger arcades, the gaming revenue typically surpasses food-and- beverage. By summer, every one of our locations will have an arcade, some larger than others. But gaming is certainly a very important part of the business. When looking at arcade revenue, it’s important to note that we compare only to open bowling and not league bowling. Typically, our arcade revenue equals roughly 64% of our open bowling revenue. In a few centers, with very large arcades, our arcade revenue even surpasses our bowling revenue, but typically it’s in the roughly 64% range.

How about the challenge of operations? What should proprietors understand about each of the segments?

Bowling centers have a few challenges, of course. Some of these include the seasonal fluctuations, changing demographics and the growing list of competition, not just from other classic bowling operations but other compelling out-of-home experiential offerings. There is also the need to keep layering on technology so your business can stay competitive. All of this — combined with continued increases in cost, especially with the cost of labor — certainly creates challenges. Oh, and staying in compliance with all the regulatory issues.

At your Spins Bowl locations, how important are the lanes as a venue for bar and restaurant sales, and are there any special challenges there?

Most of our food-and-beverage is served on the lanes. We’ve added self-ordering kiosks to every one of our venues, which we believe enhances the customer experience. We are rolling out kiosks throughout all of our venues and have had nothing but positive feedback from them. They allow us to track food-and-beverage revenue from corporate headquarters, which SKUs are selling, and we can centrally control pricing displayed on the kiosks. In addition, this facilitates our goal of minimizing cash and eventually becoming cashless.

Most operators would say food-and-beverage is the most challenging part of the operation. Agree?

Food-and-beverage is always the most difficult. But we’re putting a lot more focus on this category. We hired an executive chef and we’re making a big attempt in 2024 to grow this revenue, focusing more on presentation, consistency of SKUs across the portfolio, cost of goods, et cetera. Technology is also playing a big role in how we’re improving the food-and-beverage side of our business. [In addition to installing] kiosks at all of our venues, we also utilize a cloud-based application where we can monitor what is being purchased across the entire platform. We can monitor down to what SKUs are being ordered in each kitchen, quantities and what pricing we’re being charged from the distributors. All of this info flows seamlessly up to an online portal that our executive chef can monitor from corporate. In addition, we are now instituting branded plating and cups across the portfolio, as well as standardizing how all items are plated.

“Food-and-beverage is always the most difficult. We’re putting a lot more focus on this category. We hired an executive chef and we’re making a big attempt in 2024 to grow this revenue, focusing more on presentation, consistency of SKUs across the portfolio, cost of goods, etc.” — Bill Diamond

I know you’re an arcade fan. Do you operate any other complementary FEC attractions?

Yes, our flagship location is the Grand Prix New York Racing. That 120,000-square-foot venue has a massive arcade. And we have a great venue in Peekskill, New York, on the Hudson River that relies heavily upon its arcade. In addition, we have a new concept launching in Harford (Connecticut) that will be heavily arcade dependent.

Is there anything you do for arcade operations today that you didn’t do back at the beginning? How did that evolve?

We’re focused on branded merch in our E-Claws and redemption stores. This past year we became very focused on merchandising our plush for our cranes and now we exclusively use branded products — whether Marvel, Mario, Barbie, et cetera. We find it dramatically helps with generating revenue.

Is redemption as important a part of the mix today as it was then?

Absolutely, and we put a lot of effort into making sure our redemption stores are properly merchandised.

What are your thoughts on virtual reality? Is there a format that you prefer?

For our operations, we like attractions that do not need to be staffed. We generally fail at it if we need to staff the attraction. For us, at least for now, we’re only interested in new attractions that do not need to be staffed.

What is your league profile at GPNY and Spins Bowl locations? Is it a big part of the mix?

What’s surprising is that, even with our bowling centers so focused on league bowling, league revenue makes up only roughly one-third of bowling revenue and only about 17% of revenue overall. The important part of this revenue, of course, is it is almost entirely during off-peak hours, which is why it is so important to maintain and to keep a good relationship with the leagues.

As with any community-based, family entertainment business, keeping them coming back is a key to success. What do you do to keep your guests returning?

We try to focus on providing a positive and engaging experience. We do this through customer service, clean and well-maintained facilities, special promotions, a strong social-media program managed by corporate, and a compelling food-and-beverage offering.

Any specific plans or strategies for 2024?

We are focused on continuing to fine-tune aspects of our business. For example, this involves the cloud-based accounting and budgeting platform we use to track our actual sales against forecasts. In addition, we want to continue improving the branding of our food-and-beverage, consistency across the portfolio and generally working to maximize profitability across all departments and all of the venues.

Your entertainment division is a part of your bigger company. Do you apply the same principles of success across all your operations? What are your top principles for success in business?

We’ve always believed in a few concepts: continuous 1% improvements, turning negatives into positives, there is no shame in failing, and make 100 mistakes once, not the same mistake 100 times.

See anything coming down the pike? How does the BEC stay relevant for the next five years?

I think BECs need to continue with technology integration, including modern scoring, online booking, mobile apps and other improvements that continue to improve the experience while simultaneously eliminating labor, like self-ordering kiosks for food-and-beverage. We all need to get a lot better at social-media marketing, which is such an important and surprisingly complex part of the process. And, as always, we need to be cognizant of customer feedback and willing to adopt a continuous improvement mantra.

Thank you, Bill, for your friendship and for taking the time to share your perspective with our readers.

George McAuliffe is president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. He began his career in location-based entertainment in 1979, and over the past five years has performed consulting work for 300 family entertainment centers, including a significant percentage that utilize bowling as an anchor attraction. McAuliffe can be reached at [email protected].