View Full Version : Questions about working in a bowling alley

06-14-2015, 07:23 PM
Hey there! Several questions to anyone who has ever worked in a bowling alley:

1. What are the various responsibilities of someone behind the main counter/reception area?
2. What are the various responsibilities of people behind the food counter?
3. Are people hired for either of the above position hired only for that position or do they ever cover each other's positions?
4. Is there a separate cleaning crew to wipe things down, clean bathrooms, vacuum, clean the food area, etc? When does the cleaning get done and how often?
5. When the place is opening for the day, how is all the stuff turned on (ball return machines, video games, lights, lanes, TV monitors, automatic scoring cameras, music, etc? Where is it located (is there a special room that houses all the electronic stuff that needs to be powered up)? How is music played/chosen (CD? Pandora? MP3? Computer? Radio?)?
6. How early before the bowling alley opens to the public, do employees come in to set up?
7. When do bowling leagues and competitions usually take place? What are the different kinds of leagues (old-timers, schools, juniors leagues, etc) that come and when do they usually compete/play (weekends vs. weekdays, morning or nights, etc)?
8. Is the owner usually/ever there or do they hire managers to run things for them? Do owners ever choose to be there regularly or is it uncommon?

Thank you. That's all the questions I have. For now. :D

06-16-2015, 08:07 AM
1. Front Desk - Responsible for cleaning shoes, assigning lanes, handling money from patrons and league bowlers, keeping lanes reserved for said (often anal) league bowlers, calling to the back when a lane malfunctions to the mechanic, setting up birthday parties, counting the register if the manager trusts them, mop the floor, vacuum the carpets, handle the kids turning in prizes, add tickets to machines, fix (basically jiggle) broken ones to get them going again, ...
2. Cook the food, restock food/supplies from fridge, freezer and stock room, take orders, run the food out to lanes if there are no servers (or late and servers went home), clean out oil from fryers as needed, clean/mop their stations, clean dishes, take trash out to the dumpster at the end of the night ...
3. Front Desk is generally just front desk...maybe sometimes server. Cook and mechanic often become cross-trained. This heavily depends on what the worker wants to do and how willing they are to say no to learning another skill to the boss. Cross-training means you can cover more shifts or you become the last person with the manager at the end of the night because he knows you can cover the whole alley while he goofs off in the back (try not too read too much into the resentment here).
4. 50/50. Some have whoever is left at the end clean out all the trash, vacuum, mop, wipe down tables, clean off lanes, clean restrooms and others have a service that comes in...so you get to choose this one.
5. Music, lights, electronics are generally found up at the front desk and in a room near the front desk. Several rows of switches turn on all the lane lights, TVs, music, fans (which sometimes can be locally adjusted by patrons).
The computers turn the bowling lanes on and it is best practice to make all the lanes run a few cycles to make sure they have enough pins in each (23 is the magic number...two sets plus a few extra just in case). Lanes can also be manually turned on/off in the back above the machine as well so the mechanic can shut one off and fix whatever issues arises. Music varies, you can put in CDs, run Pandora, satellite/local radio. When the lane is turned on the cameras for scoring start up, that isn't separate.
6. For morning shift you'll have the manager and the mechanic show up first, usually 45min-1hr before opening. The mechanic has to clean and oil all the lanes (there's a lane machine (very heavy) that runs down the lane cleaning first, then sprays oil on the way back up the lane). Cooks show up 45-30min before opening, usually 30min if the manager turns the fryers and grill top on. Front desk show up like 15minutes before since managers usually come in and turn everything on and cycle the machines at the beginning (the mechanic can know how to do this as well).
7. In a successful bowling alley leagues are every day. Typically they will have an early league and a late one in the day. The early leagues don't often take up all the lanes, but include a buffer lane between them so they don't have to deal with the common folk. The afternoon league (generally 6-9...and they are always 3hrs or a little longer) will take up a lot of lanes. There can be a weekend league that is more about the drinking and having fun, but the leagues hosted M-F are always too serious considering most bowl in the 150s. League bowlers aren't the same everyday. Usually you can have a MWF league and Tues/Thurs league. The morning/early afternoon league are generally the older crowd. The afternoon/evening league mixes from mid-20s to 60+. Weekend leagues are usually younger, more than one frat can show up. Unless a school has a team you may not see a kids league except during the summer and that would be around midday away from any other leagues/parties/patrons.
8. If the owner isn't the same as the site manager (like if they have several businesses or are part of a chain), then it depends. Part of a chain you probably will never see the owner, but the regional manager will stop by every few months to make sure it is being run well. If you have a local manager (where I worked they owned a skating rink and bowling alley) then you may see them every now and then during the day checking in when it isn't chaotic. The only time the owner stopped by at night was to have a party or drink to his heart's content since he owns the place. Unless the owner wants to do the day to day (they don't) they will hire someone to run the place for them and take care of the hiring/firing. They are like a producer for a show...they put the money up and everyone else does the work to make more for them.
*Special note, the family of the owner are 90% awful since they feel entitled to all the luxuries of their parent/sibling and will boss the staff around. To stay hired you have to hold the swearing until they leave or you can find an excuse to make a stockroom run.

...Hitting "post quick reply" just doesn't seem right after all that, lol.

ETA: I worked in 2 bowling alleys while in college because I liked that I didn't have to think and did the mindless work. I was the sap at the end of the night that was running the whole show with the manager in the back or coming in early on the weekend with the manager and starting everything up. Aside from payroll I knew all the ins and outs of my two jobs by the end.

06-17-2015, 02:24 AM
Keep in mind that the time era can modify this. Though I'm pretty sure Darron must have worked in any of the alleys I frequented in the late 70s to early 80s. :)


06-17-2015, 03:27 AM
Jeff's right that I should add context. It was actually late 2000s.
One was an older building and then I worked in a brand new one. Both had the systems controlled from the front desk and the newer one even gave error codes when something jammed like a pin in the ball return, misaligned pins dropping, issues with the table dropping or the sweep, etc.

06-17-2015, 04:01 AM
I bowled in one that still had pin setters. Yep, boys that reset pins. It was more an attraction and an antiques place than a real alley though. In the 70s/80s though there were still people who worked the back room, fixing equipment, retrieving balls that were stuck and so on. Everything was mechanical and needed constant attention and oiling. Back then, there was also a cigarette girl, an arcade attendant and an entire kitchen and bar staff. The only place I've been recently is really a bar with an attached bowling alley, so it doesn't count, but full service restaurants are starting to come back as well.

There are also some variants, such as duck pins, candle pins, nine pins and so on.