Bowling alleys have never been known for their cuisine, but Bowlero Corporation is hoping to challenge that perception and transform the bowling experience by employing a team of chefs who developed a "Go Crazy Menu" featuring sharable and Instagrammable items. These unique creations include a five-layer “Pizza Cake," a two-foot-long “Coney Mega Dog" as well as the "Behemoth Burger," a five-pound, 14-inch-round party burger that’s been named one of America’s top burgers by USA Today.
Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine quizzed Bowlero's VP of Food and Beverage Steve Bartek on the process of creating new menu items and the impact of social media.
What was the process of putting together a whole new menu and why did Bowlero choose to have a more elevated menu?
We were given a story board on what the concept should be for Bowlero, so we created a menu to fit the concept. We were able to have some fun with the “Go Crazy” items and also wanted the food to be unique, nothing like what you’d get at a typical bowling alley.
The concept is leading edge so the food has to be the same.
How do you feel the inventive menu is changing the public perception of bowling alley food?
It’s really an amazing transformation, people are just amazed that the food is fresh, mostly made from scratch. I think we are setting the new benchmark for the quality of food for family entertainment centers (FEC’s.)
Who is the target audience for the new menu items?
We go after them all, we have street tacos for the millennials, fresh ground beef burgers for the baby boomers, and a nice selection of appetizers and salads for Gen X. We’ve just added kids meals that can be ordered with real fountain-style shakes, so we are targeting all audiences. Bowling is fun for everyone!
How important is the idea of being considered experiential in food?
Very important, we must match the overall concept. The concept is leading edge so the food has to be the same.
How did you come up with the Go Crazy/Oversized Sharables concept?
At Bowlero Corp, we have a remarkable team that had the imagination and freedom to make the Go Crazy/Sharebles concept a reality. We have an excellent Corporate Executive Chef that made this all possible.
What kind of guest response do they receive?
The guest response is very positive. Our menu is delicious and inventive, and guests are surprised how great the quality and taste of the food is. You won’t find better food in a bowling alley than at a Bowlero Corp. center.
They’re very “Instagramable.” How have you gauged social media response? Has it drove traffic?
Yes, the Bowlero menu is very “Instagramable” and guests can’t get enough of taking photos of our food. We encourage guests to use #BeBowled when taking photos at our centers to track social media responses and often repost our favorites.
Our food has been featured on popular social media sites like Insider and Thrillist which helped garner over 20 million media impressions, so needless to say our food is popular and driving brand awareness and traffic to our centers.
Are the items complicated for the staff to prepare and serve? Was there a learning curve?
There’s always some type of learning curve when it comes to making to new menu items, but we train all chefs and kitchen staff how to properly prepare and serve prior to selling to retail guests. Once new items are mastered, they’ll be added to the retail menu and ready to be served for all guests.
What do you feel are some of the standout food and drink options?
Every item on our menu is a standout which is why they make the cut, but our five-pound Behemoth Burger has always been and will be a standout item for a lot of guests.