Since its first venue opened in 2003 in Hollywood, California, bowling alley chain Lucky Strike has expanded to 18 locations across the Unites States, including DC, New York City, San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia. Kol HaBirah talked with Lucky Strike’s Director of Marketing, Brandon Thomsen, and National Director of Sales Kirsten Carpenter about the chain’s origins, its expansion to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland, and its collaboration with the Jewish community.
What was the vision for Lucky Strike and how did the chain differentiate itself from other bowling/party venues?
Lucky Strike started as the result of our owner Steven Foster and his wife Gillian wanting to explore something new and fun for people to do.
At the time, bowling venues were run more traditionally, as mom-and-pop-type shops. They wanted to make Lucky Strike more available to the mainstream — to attract anyone looking for a fun time. The name itself is indicative of that. If the average person gets a strike, it is a “lucky strike.” We pride ourselves on our customers having the lowest average bowling score instead of only having skilled bowlers.
How has Lucky Strike been able to expand across the country over the last 15 years?
People are always looking for fun experiences. In addition, as the online world has affected brick and mortar retail, malls have been looking for different ways to attract people and we are a perfect fit. We offer dining, entertainment and great social experiences.
Since we started, there have been similar models popping up, following this trend. All types of groups can benefit — such as friends looking for a good time, companies looking for their workforce to bond in a setting that negates professional status, and dates looking to interact within a social environment.
We had a very upscale model in our first locations, but as we’ve added locations we’ve continued to add concepts. Our Hollywood location has been remodeled and has live music at least twice a week. Some iconic names we’ve had include Gene Simmons of Kiss, David Grohl of the Foo Fighters, and Johnny Depp. These all reflect our vision to have multiple concepts such as gaming, live music, dining, and bowling housed into one venue.
You recently opened a location at Westfield Montgomery Mall. What is unique about this particular Lucky Strike venue?
One of the cool things about Lucky Strike is that we bring uniqueness to each location. For example, our San Francisco location's floor to ceiling open windows. Our New York location even has a different logo. We take design very seriously and our owner actually designs every new venue, from the floors to the lights.
The Bethesda location’s design is a relatively new one: The bowling area is surrounded by fancy shelves full of books. It is completely different than the DC location — that’s what makes it fun.
What kind of parties/events are generally booked at the Bethesda location?
We have all types of parties, including a lot of corporate groups from the surrounding area, kids and teen birthday parties, summer camps, youth sports teams, and social groups on the weekends. We have someone assigned to youth events and another who handles corporate/social events.
The evolution of Lucky Strike is that we want to be mainstream. We aren’t just about the 21 and over crowd.
How have you been able to create a buzz about the location and attract new customers?
We’ve analyzed who our customers are and go out to reach them in various ways. For example, we use social media and target our posts to the audience: youth, corporate, and social.
We are community driven — you won’t see us in national publications but we focus on community newspapers such as yours. We have a strong relationship with the mall and participate in any way we can with their initiatives, and we try to reach people at trade shows and throughout the community.
We like bringing in parties — if 50 people come in for a party, that’s 50 potential new customers. We also developed an entertainment vibe for the weekends, such as having a DJ to draw in crowds.
How does Lucky Strike cater to the Jewish community? What types of kosher options are there?
We love serving the Jewish community and providing them with fun and meaningful events. We’ve partnered with the Jewish community on a number of events such as bar/bat mitzvahs as well as with the local Jewish community center.
In addition, we wish for everyone to experience the joy of Lucky Strike, no matter their dietary needs. We’ve worked with local kosher catering companies to ensure there is kosher food for those guests who’ve requested it.