If you live in Ohio, RollHouse Entertainment needs no introduction. It has seven locations throughout the state, and under the expert eye of CEO Glenn Gable, the brand has become a household name in local hospitality.
“My dad started making bowling centers in 1949,” Gable explains over the phone from his son’s truck. He’s let his son borrow his car for the day, a minor detail that stood out to me as we spoke about how his own father influenced the industry. “That’s how we got into business.”
From traditional to modern
RollHouse is in the midst of a transformation from a traditional bowling chain to a modern family entertainment center. Newly renovated locations have what Gable describes as a steampunk aesthetic, featuring a kind of darker nightclub vibe.
“It’s still a varying product at the moment, but something that will stay the same is the great bar, and we have really good food—all on plate service, all from scratch—at all seven locations.”
They don't skimp on the burgers at RollHouse Entertainment in Fairfield, Ohio.
While excellent food and drink contribute heavily to the RollHouse brand, Gable makes sure he dedicates significant time and consideration into designing the entire guest experience like a director of a movie.
The unique guest experience at RollHouse
Your adventure at a RollHouse begins from the moment you open your car door. “That’s the first time you’re going to hear music: in the parking lot.” Gable takes me on a descriptive tour:
RollHouse Entertainment in Mentor, Ohio: Google Street View
“As you walk into the bowling center and as you walk in from outside hearing one song, hopefully by that time you hear a song you like, and you’ve got a pep in your step. You open the back door, there’s a long hallway and there’s music in there … and you’ll walk through the game room experiencing the same music." So guests don’t feel like they’re missing out, the same music will even be playing in the bathrooms!
Gable obviously knows how critical music is when it comes to fashioning the right atmosphere. “We’re installing sound systems that allow us to play the music at a level that you can feel using techniques through bass and smaller speakers,” he reveals. “The larger thumping sounds are coming from further away so that you can actually have a conversation, but you still feel like dancing.”
Choosing the right partner
RollHouse is one of our longstanding subscribers, having signed up for our music video playlist software service back in 2005. “Tell Jim he owes me a watch!” Gable jokes, mentioning our CEO, Jim Juniper, by name.
The RollHouse Entertainment in Solon, Ohio, has a variety of activities that guests can choose from.
Before choosing Control Play, Gable was in the digital music business right before iPods were a thing. “We used to carry around portable hard drives and we’d load them up—and that got old, ’cause it was hard to refresh your content, and there was no official content management.”
Content management is still a pain point felt by some companies today, but it was one we were able to solve for Gable back in 2005 and have continued to manage today. “When we came across Bowling Music Network, it just seemed like the way to go.”
The perfect fit for a unique and growing brand
Bowling Music Network is the sister company of Control Play and FEC Music. While they all provide seamless and customizable software, each network is specialized to the needs of different industries.
We’ve begun incorporating elements from Control Play, which caters to bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, and FEC Music, which services family entertainment centers, to Gable’s subscription with Bowling Music Network as the RollHouse brand has evolved. Each location enjoys the flexibility of the software and the versatility of song selection.
“They're all controlling their own destinies as far as what’s playing.” Gable says of individual RollHouse locations. “I think that’s very important because we like to bill ourselves as a little more local flavor, so we pay more attention to where our guests are coming from, who they are, and we think it makes us more authentic to not have every center playing the same music."
RollHouse Entertainment in Wickliffe, Ohio, hosts a VIP event in their Kingpin Suite.
Customization and hitting the right notes
His staff is very attentive of who their guests are at any given moment of the day. “You don’t know who you’re going to have in there, bowling—it could be anyone from a Fortune 500 company, where they’re shedding their ties, to an inner-city group that plays basketball—so you’ve gotta be aware, y’know? Two different audiences.”
The main audience RollHouse attracts are partying families. “They want to come out and have a good time, and that’s why the music is so important to me. Because if you can find music that transcends generations, then everybody’s having more fun.”
And what does “more fun” look like? “Moms are dancing. Kids are dancing. No one’s looking at their phones. That’s when I consider that we’re a success," I can practically hear him grinning. “When their phones are sitting on the back table and they don’t even care what happens to ’em. They’re fully immersed.”
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The right songs for the right moment
When it comes to choosing what to immerse his guests in, Gable especially likes being able to select songs by genre. “You guys do a good job in the genre selection. When I go to a genre, even if I don’t like the genre I’m selecting, I can find tunes that are familiar to me and that I like.”
“We have our own playlists that you allow us to make and the custom ones that you’ve also made for me.” Premium subscribers across all our networks have access to our team of Mixologists, who work with restaurateurs and brand owners to produce the perfect sound for every hour of the day.
While some of the businesses we work with prefer to let us handle their playlist schedule once they know what music works for different times of the day, Gable likes to use the Player to personalize the music for whoever is currently in the room.
“[The Player] always allows us to change the genre until we get people moving. And that’s what we do! If we see a genre that’s really hittin’ it, we leave it alone, and if it’s not and we don’t see a lot, we pay attention to what we call ‘the buzz’—what are people doin’? Are they moving? Are they talking? Are they laughing? What is it that they’re feeling?”
Paying attention to the vibe
Gable will experiment with the tunes until he gets it just right. “I like that you can change from genre to genre. You can go from ’60s to ’70s, to ’90s, to pop, to pop-adult.”
He’s also noticed a small shift in preferences among his usual clientele. “It’s also nice that families are becoming less offended by adult-style music … We’re finding that we can play that more and play it earlier and earlier—gettin' away from the mom-approved.”
The Mom-Approved rating is a feature that family entertainment centers really appreciate. Our playlist teams will rate songs and music videos separately based on lyrics and video content, which then allows our subscribers to filter or generate playlists that fit into the desired ratings.
Gable's views on music are pretty progressive, “I think of music as artform in its true form with whatever lyrics [the artist] wrote … But you try to comply because you don’t want to be playing [adult-rated music] at birthday parties on a Saturday afternoon, y’know?” He laughs.
The evolution of music and human bias
As recent music trends continue to see rap, hip hop, and R&B triumphing alongside general pop music, Gable addresses the different views on the genres, saying, “When hip hop or rap comes on, mainly my generation—not me, but mainly my generation and within ten years either way of me—can’t stand it.”
Gable and I both participated in the Face 2 Face Entertainment Conference in Colorado Springs this year, and he makes reference to a talk on human bias we attended, “[My generation has] a lot of biases from those 70,000 thoughts we have a day, remember that? The cognitive iceberg—a lot of biases come through. [They say,] ‘Oh, it’s rap. It sucks. It’s bad. It’s sex...’ It’s like what my parents said about rock ‘n’ roll when I was a kid, y’know? That’s the new cycle.”
Our music database has over 100,000 songs, 70,000 of which have accompanying music videos. To satisfy the diverse tastes that customers of our subscribers have, the playlist team is constantly adding songs from every genre—whether they’re hidden gems from decades past or hot new releases from today’s leading artists.
The music videos that work for RollHouse
Even as RollHouse guests are becoming more adventurous with their preferences, Gable reveals the most popular sound that works for his venues: “For some reason, my biggest genre that will stick is ’60s and ’70s with videos.”
S RollHouse Entertainment in Parma, Ohio.
We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to contribute so significantly to RollHouse’s distinct sound. At Control Play, we measure our success based on our subscribers’ success, and we’re passionate about elevating the guest experience for anyone who works in the hospitality and entertainment industries.
If you are a Control Play, Bowling Music Network, or FEC Music subscriber and would like us to write a feature about your restaurant or bar, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Feature Me,” and we will reach out to you.
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Picture used in Feature Image taken by @cozyincle on Instagram at RollHouse Entertainment Solon.
Photos provided by RollHouse Entertainment.