Boutique bowling is bang in fashion at the moment. It had been simmering for the last five years as venues started to look to the past and a retro theme. Truth is, that format has worked and spawned others. Smaller venues can now enjoy a more attractive capital package thanks mainly to the advances in string bowling. The choice is simple, they offer bowling without many of the additional costs traditionally added to mechanical free fall machines. Shorter lanes and mini bowling concepts are also important when floorspace is at a premium.
We got an invite from Darren Lewis at QubicaAMF to visit and review a small centre in the London suburb of Harrow. The venue started life with four lanes of regular bowling (shorter lanes) with string machines and Bowland scoring. The centre had recently changed ownership and three lanes of highway 66 mini bowling with BES X and Center Punch pin deck lights across the entire 7 lanes.
Now a month after launch the time was right to visit.
Before we get into the detail of the venue have a look for yourself. If a picture is worth a thousand words then video will add the rest…
Ok, so Wow was a word that sprang to mind when first walking into the venue before doing a walkthrough. Bling bowling at it’s best as I smiled and thought to myself, Darren knows we like a bit of bowling bling. He knew the reaction he would get when we visited.
You kind of liken the experience if you are a Sci-Fi fan to when you walk into the Tardis in Doctor Who and it is bigger on the inside. I say Tardis as outside it is just a suburban area with a selection of shops and a supermarket. Walking along the road looking for the venue you could easily walk past as I noticed one parent do bringing a child to the party. The frontage as you can see is perfectly visable and states M18 lanes but just walking from one outside World seems to take you to another World inside.
The first time I walked in the fish were swimming around….Ok, you got my attention.
There was a booking already in the venue as I arrived, A childrens party and the venue was beginning to fill up at the 11am opening. This just meant I would be unable to get close up shots of the new QubicaAMF ball returns and the amazing BesX scoring but those I had seen before. What struck me here was the ability of the new QubicaAMF upgrades to blend seemlessly with the obvious main attraction in the venue. The Harmony ball returns already have that sleek look which seems to mix with any configuration, BesX, well, it is just the best scoring on the market today in my opinion for games and the amount of them. Centre Punch QAMF’s latest innovation on pindeck lighting was an obvious choice for M18 Lanes as it provides a range of colour options and finally Highway 66 which was nice to see in it’s traditional look instead of the more arcade and fun designs the company do which would have obviously looked out of place in a classy venue like this. Highway 66 with BesX just gives the mini bowling an added dimension.
Those masking screens and ones that wrap round the venue are a cool 100k but some might argue and I would have to agree, that gives you the ability to change the venue to whatever theme or taste you choose. Already my mind was thinking of the kids party packages and themes that could be used and the obvious Corporate angle as their company logos flash up at a staff party or product launch.
With others doing retro bowling, boutique bowling with some expensive and some affordable to bowl at, in come M18 with a fresh but exciting take on it all.
Meeting me in Stanmore was the manager of the venue, Dhaval Patel.
“I’m really happy with the QubicaAMF services anyway so it was easy as we already liked the mini bowling concept, we were happy to work with Darren Lewis on what was right for us.” was our inital answer from Dhaval when asked why they chose the upgrades. He went on to add “We are the first in the area to be doing the Mini bowling concept and BESX is already paying off.”
Four weeks into the life of the upgraded look and business is booming. “We only do bowling by the hour and guests have been using a selection of the BESX games chosen from the consoles and logging in on Facebook.”
“Friday, Saturday and Sunday we are full with Kids parties” and indeed they were in fact busy on my arrival. Dhaval who has experience in bowling over many years was most proud to add “We are the only bowling venue in the country doing an Indo-Chinese menu, no-one is doing a menu like ours.”
The menu does look fantastic though and fresh when you consider most venues opt for the American foods in boutiques or maybe some Pizza and Pasta in others. Overall though It is an amazing little bowling venue in a place you would least expect it to be and there are plans for more in the future.
M18 Lanes has a lot going for it, you can easily be as I was dazzled by the graphics but then you see underneath it is a well thought out venue that is trying to give the boutique model a new direction and guests a classy visit. It is one of those really cool venues just to be in, even if you do not bowl which of course you will when you see the fun QubicaAMF scoring system and options. Then factor in Highway 66 mini bowling too and you have bowling that covers many bases. These are not your traditional bowling centres and do not claim to be, Sports fans are not keen on string machines but cannot fail to have fun in them. M18 is THE perfect venue to host an event.
“You have no idea what is to come as you enter”- Dom Gall – Talktenpin.net
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