Undercover Boss: Lucky Strike Lanes’ Steven Foster Rolls Through the Recession


December 17, 2010

by Marshall Goldsmith and Kelly Goldsmith

In an interview with BNET, Steven Foster, co-founder and CEO of Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge, acknowledges that it’s difficult to keep an entertainment-based business growing in a recession. Foster appears on CBS’ Undercover Boss this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.*

Steven and co-founder Gillian Foster founded Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge to give people of all ages a place to go where they can enjoy an active, fun experience together, that’s more than just food and drink. They’ve been creating these types of spaces since the late 70s when they founded Spinoff, an upscale roller disco, and Jillian’s, a billiards lounge.

Ready for a new challenge, the Fosters founded the first Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge in Hollywood in 2003. Bowling fit their mold of “fun, active, social” perfectly as it is a group sport that you don’t have to be particularly good at to enjoy. Steven is especially pleased that bowling offers “simple, wonderful entertainment full of childlike moments” to people at a time when these experiences are harder to come by.

In the last year or two, the primary struggle for the company has been one that most of the rest of the country is facing-economic. Fewer families are hosting large get-togethers, and people in general have less income to spend on entertainment. Corporate budgets are also tighter:

We offer the opportunity for companies to throw parties, and companies were tight with their wallets. Even if you had money, it was almost unseemly to throw a party on a Friday if you had just laid people off on a Tuesday.

This has meant a leaner year for Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge. But, Steven isn’t discouraged. Though it’s been a tough year, the company as a whole, with 1700 employees at 19 locations across the United States, has made it through what Steven believes to be the hardest times. He’s looking forward to opening location #20.

Before going on Undercover Boss, Steven’s focus was prioritizing. As a CEO, scores of issues crossed his desk on a daily basis, and he rated them in order of what he thought was important. Steven saw that going on Undercover Boss would give him the opportunity to see how those priorities played out on the front lines of his organization. Did they reflect the priorities of his employees? At his 8-year-old company, it was time for a reality check.