How I challenged a decade old system and changed our business

| Kirt Strock | Team Articles

“There is always a smarter, faster and better way.”

The belief that there is always a smarter, faster and better way matters so much because it prevents complacency.  If you do what you've always done, how can you ever expect a different result?  Status quo makes you stagnant.  Even when a process works well, study it and approach your analysis with a beginner’s mind. It’s a mindset that allows you to stay innovative.

I was operating a “eatertainment” venue with 14 bowling lanes, and it had achieved a level of popularity that caused our waitlist to consistently exceed 4 hours every single weekend. We were making money because it was so busy, but we were also upsetting tons of guests because we could not allow them to do what they came to our establishment to do. 

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The Status Quo:

We always charged bowling per person, per game.  Our company had successfully utilized this model for over a decade and was viewed as a pillar of our profitability.  The unintended consequence of this model is that the length of time for the game was undefined.  The guests could essentially take as much time as they wanted to bowl.  This led to uncertainty in lane turnover times, thus our inflated wait list times which frustrated both us and our guests who were getting the opportunity to bowl.

The guests hated to wait and the staff was stressed out by the long waits.  This caused weekends to be very stressful.

It would have been easy for us to just accept that we were busy, say “it is what it is”, and do nothing.  Instead, we decided to look at our problems with a beginner’s mind and challenge a core practice of our business model. 

The Hypothesis:

If we changed our model from charging per game, to charging per time, we would be able to get more groups on the lanes and gain wait time certainty.

We started studying how long it took groups of different sizes to bowl games.  We involved our team and our guests in the process as we tried to gauge what was comfortable for groups from 2-12 as we didn’t want our guests to feel rushed or cheated.  Introducing something this new to our guests and team was equal parts terrifying and exciting.

It was a rocky process.  Once we started beta testing.  Team members mistakes were plentiful and guests were a bit confused.  Each night we took our notes, calibrated, coached, and evolved for next weekend's trial.  We kept learning and moving forward.  

After weeks of research and calibration, we found that guests enjoyed being able to play an unlimited amount of games within their paid time.  The data even showed that guests were actually bowling more in this new format.

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The Win:

Our efforts paid off.  We found that with a time limit, our guests knew exactly when they would start, and exactly when their time was up, so it was on them to do whatever they wanted with their time. This allowed us to get more groups on the lanes throughout the night.  Both our sales and guest satisfaction increased!

By challenging a decade old model with a fresh perspective, we solved our problems and improved our business.

Analyzing your business for smarter, faster and better ways of doing things can be scary because you may be looking to change something that's always been done that way.  The good news is that embracing this mindset makes you adaptable if something doesn’t work.  You simply evolve and keep moving forward!




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