Bowlero is thriving as bowling alleys have reopened from lockdowns and bowlers have flocked back to them.
CNN Business spoke to Bowlero president and chief financial officer Brett Parker about what’s next for the company and why bowling remains uniquely popular. (Cue your favorite “The Big Lebowski” line.)
Bowlero getting bigger through acquisitions
Parker said that even though Bowlero is already by far the largest owner of bowling centers in the US, there are plenty of opportunities for growth. He noted that there are still roughly 3,500 independently owned bowling alleys in the US, many of which could be potential acquisition targets.
“This industry is still fragmented and ripe for roll-ups,” Parker said, noting that acquiring existing bowling centers and upgrading them tends to be a quicker and less capital intensive way to grow the business than building new facilities.
The company is also in the unique position of owning the PBA, which gives Bowlero a TV platform to promote the sport and drive more customers to its lanes.
“There are substantial advantages from our PBA ownership,” Parker said. “We’re increasing production values and developing bowlers so more people get to know them. That’s raising awareness.”
And that’s where Bowlero’s new partners at Isos come in. George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, the founders and co-CEOs of the SPAC, were both previously co-presidents at the WWE before being ousted in a surprise move by CEO Vince McMahon in early 2020.
Could bowling be the next WWE or Formula 1?
Parker told CNN Business that the PBA will look to the expertise of Wilson and Barrios to try to make bowling more entertaining to watch — without going overboard.
“Nobody is going to walk up behind anybody getting ready to bowl and hit them with a chair,” Parker said. “The sport needs to maintain its integrity. But we can make it more engaging. And they know how to take something that is more of a niche product and bring it mainstream.”
The PBA already has at least one personality who seems like he might fit right in with the WWE.
PBA champion Kyle Troup, who previously worked as a Wendy’s manager and is the son of a former champ, is known for wearing flamboyant outfits and sporting a hairdo reminiscent of the late painter and TV star Bob Ross.
Parker said the PBA is currently in talks both internally and with outside media companies about how to develop a show focused on Troup and other professional bowlers.
Bowlero did not have any involvement in the development of that program, but Parker said he loves to see the sport referenced in pop culture. He added that cult classic comedies like “Kingpin” and “The Big Lebowski” help raise bowling’s profile — and he’s happy about that.
“We want bowling in the front of peoples’ minds as a way to possibly spend their leisure dollars. It’s okay if the movies are a little bit ironic. If ‘The Big Lebowski’ gives people a warm feeling and they then go bowling, that’s okay,” he said. “Bowling is really fun.”