If you’re considering opening a fitness franchise, how do you know what types of fitness franchises you should invest in? Rick Mayo, Alloy Founder and CEO, shares his description of some of the different fitness franchises and why some are more profitable than others. 

When it comes to fitness franchises, it may seem like there’s just one type. The fact, however, is that there are dozens of different kinds of fitness franchises, ranging from big-box franchises to niche-specific small clubs that cater to certain populations. 

In this blog, we’ll break down the most notable types of fitness franchises, how they differ, and what you, as an investor, should know about each.

The 2 Main Types of Fitness Franchises

While there are literally hundreds of different fitness franchise companies out there, we can divide them into two major categories: big-box fitness franchises and specialty boutique fitness franchises. There are a variety of terms used to describe fitness facilities like fitness centers, health clubs, gyms, and studios. It can be very confusing. 

Here’s a breakdown of each:

Large Fitness Facilities: Multi-Location Chain, Big Box Gyms, and Health Club Fitness Franchises

Big box health club franchises are probably some of the most recognizable in the market. Even if you’ve never been to one, you can probably recall driving past a Planet Fitness or a Gold’s Gym. And it’s not just your imagination that these franchises are popular. Top names like Gold’s Gym, Lifetime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Crunch have all made Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 List in past years. 

While the larger health clubs and gyms may differ by name, they’re pretty similar in their offerings. Most provide a gym area with free weights, selectorized strength training equipment, and cardio equipment, as well as group fitness classes and personal training. Many have swimming pools, spas, juice bars, restaurants, basketball courts, tennis courts and other athletic services as well.

Then there are the more basic, large gyms with large quantities of strength training and cardio equipment at a lower price point like the Planet Fitness franchises. They rarely offer group classes, personal training, swimming pools, basketball courts, or tennis courts.

These franchises are popular because they’re recognizable, predictable, and available in a wide variety of geographical settings and locations. 

Small Fitness Facilities: Specialty Boutiques and Fitness Gyms

Want to invest in a business model that is a bit different from a sweaty weight room? You might look into a small specialty boutique rather than a big box fitness franchise. Examples of these boutique franchises include Orange Theory, F45, Anytime Fitness, PureBarre, SoulCycle, The Bar Method, Club Pilates, and our own Alloy small group personal training studios. 

These franchises are popular because they offer a very specific set of offerings. Instead of just offering a small facility with a weight room and cardio equipment like Anytime Fitness, these boutiques offer sport specific or technique-specific classes and training. These specific offerings can include a focus on functional fitness, HIIT, circuit training, weight training, cycle classes, personal training, small group personal training, large group classes, yoga, pilates, martial arts, and more. 

PureBarre, for example, specializes in barre fitness, which is a toning, body-weight-lifting workout. It engages muscles deep inside your body that squats, lunges and sit-ups don’t reach. With high-reps and low-impact movements, it is ideal for building balance, strength, and flexibility. If you go to a PureBarre gym, you won’t find a treadmill. This very specific business model may be too limited for some people and only attract a small demographic market with fewer potential customers.   

Boutique Fitness vs. Big Health Clubs and Gyms: What’s the Difference?

While boutique fitness centers and the big-box health clubs are both fitness related businesses, they’re very different in terms of location, experience, price points, and offerings. As a general rule, the big box clubs and gyms have more services and are a bit more accessible to a wide range of people who just want to work out at their own pace and schedule with little supervision. 

These gyms offer all-inclusive access to all equipment, facilities and classes like group fitness classes, yoga, cycle, HIIT, Pilates, and other niche-type fitness areas. Some clubs and gyms will offer personal training services for an additional fee.

Boutique studios may offer only niche type services with varying levels of intensity and specificity in their workouts. For people who want to work on a certain skill or master a certain workout, boutique fitness franchises are an excellent place to do it as they concentrate on one fitness discipline, usually like cycling, bootcamp, personal training, martial arts, yoga and pilates. 

Boutique studios run small or specific classes just for members that buy a package or a monthly membership to access. Unlike big box franchises, boutique studios don’t offer unscheduled access to the studio as classes or training occur at set times with appointments with personalized guidance. 

The cost structure between boutique fitness franchises and big-box gyms is also different. Big box gyms usually charge a monthly membership that provides unfettered access for members. Boutique studios, on the other hand, usually sell class packages or access to the small fitness facility, with additional add-ons, like one-on-one personal training or small group personal training.

Which Fitness Franchise Is The Right Investment For You

So you want to invest in a fitness franchise, but you’re not sure which option is right for you. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you compare the two:

  • What can you handle in terms of startup costs? Start-up costs will be part of any fitness franchise you choose to invest in, but the exact numbers can vary massively. Generally, you’ll pay less in startup costs for a boutique gym than you will for a big-box gym, which often requires larger facilities and equipment with a much larger investment of capital. With this in mind, make sure you’ve got your budget worked out before you shop for fitness franchises.
  • What’s your ideal size and location? Boutique gyms occupy a small footprint, while big-box fitness franchises may require a space the size of Walmart. Since every square foot of your facility requires more monthly rent and property taxes, this is an important consideration to keep in mind at the start of your franchise journey.
  • What price point would you like to offer members? Big box gyms are a volume game. They charge less for memberships, but you will have to have many more members to support the business model. The goal is to maximize the number of members per square foot to maximize their ROI. Boutique gyms charge a premium for their memberships and provide premium, personalized services to a smaller number of members. You should be able to reach a ROI with fewer members. The focus here is on quality, rather than quantity. 
  • What is the member retention and churn of the franchise concept? Consider what the average member lifecycle is for the franchise concept. If you have a big facility, with little member guidance, less staff interaction, and a lot of member churn (turnover), you will typically have to attract a lot of new members each month to keep a consistent membership base. 
  • What is the income potential and the ROI opportunity? With many fitness facilities, it can take a while before you build enough membership to generate enough income to pay the bills, much less even ‌consider taking money out to pay investors. As mentioned above, larger facilities that charge less for memberships need more members per square foot to create a ROI, whereas smaller boutique facilities may ‌offer more personalized services and charge more for memberships, making the ROI much easier and quicker. Another factor to consider, larger fitness chains and multi-unit franchises can also offer more economies of scale and buying power by spreading overhead and costs across more than one facility. 

Alloy Personal Training: The Ideal Fitness Franchise for the Smart Investor

Here at Alloy Personal Training, we’re proud to be a boutique fitness franchise that provides small group personal training services for members of the active aging population, which is a  large demographic opportunity with little competition. Each of our locations offers a full gym with weights, TRX equipment, and other items designed to help members become their best selves.

To provide value to members, we offer a team of certified personal trainers, physiologists, therapists, dieticians, and other advisory board behavioral specialists to help members develop a customized personal training program that pulls from cutting-edge science and real-world physical experience.

Today, Alloy’s personal training programs are known throughout the country as some of the best customized personal training programs in the country. Offering optimal coach-to-client rations, customized workout plans, advanced fitness tracking tools, and flexible membership options for clients from all personal and fitness backgrounds, we’re a boutique fitness franchise that puts our clients first, at all times. 

In addition, the Alloy concept has some of the best ROI, revenue per member and retention numbers in the industry. 

Ready to learn more about the Alloy opportunity or how to begin your franchise journey? Contact us today. 

Ready to learn more about the Alloy opportunity or how to begin your franchise journey? Contact us today. 

Article by: Rick Mayo 

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