Fitness Franchising in the COVID-19 Era

COVID-19 has changed the fitness industry forever. When the pandemic first set in, there were a lot of unknowns. How were we going to keep our members, employees, and franchisees safe? How were we going to keep moving the needle for our franchisees and members? What process would we have to develop for discovery days?

Leaders of fitness franchises had to be flexible, think quickly, and adapt to the circumstances, or their concepts wouldn’t survive. 

COVID-19 pushed fitness franchises to transform the way we communicate the importance of health and fitness to our members. We had to develop ways to keep members motivated without them being physically in our studios or locations.

Though most fitness concepts have had to limit capacity and structure, this doesn’t mean fitness concepts aren’t able to provide their members and the greater community with access to high-energy and motivational workout classes.

At RockBox Fitness, we pivoted quickly and developed RockBox Remote—an online portal that provided our members with access to diet plans, body weight workouts, as well as the opportunity to view live workouts put on by our trainers. The portal also allowed our members to meet one-on-one with our trainers so they could discuss their goals and progress on their fitness plans.

The switch to virtual fitness is key not only right now as many gym concepts across the country remain closed or operating with limited capacity, but also for the future. COVID-19 has changed the consumer mindset, and even once gyms are given the “all clear” to fully reopen, there will be members who are tentative to return to a gym full of people. The virtual fitness offerings are here to stay, and this should absolutely be something that brands continue to innovate and adapt to better suit the needs of their members.

The ability for fitness franchises to pivot to the virtual fitness space will be an integral part of a brand’s success as they move forward. The industry landscape continues to change very rapidly, and those that are willing and motivated to further develop their concept to keep up with the changing times will find success.

One way to optimize your franchise’s performance during these times is to make sure that all departments, from operations, to marketing, to franchise development, are all working towards the same goals. Providing your team with these goals and giving them the necessary resources, whether that be new technology or new services, will help your brand be better equipped to work towards those goals as one cohesive unit. 

The future of the fitness franchise industry remains unclear due to the constantly changing guidelines and mandates, but it is hard to imagine any operations moving forward without brands further developing and expanding their offerings. In addition to virtual workout programs and portals, brands should also focus on making live workouts available through social media channels. This is a great way to not only continue to deliver value to your members, but also to market your brand and increase your following with hundreds, if not thousands of new potential members. After all, what better way for someone to experience your brand than to actually do a workout and see how your concept operates? Think of the live social media workout as the new “free workout” promotion many concepts offer to new members. 

In addition to providing more virtual programs and live social media workouts, brands should also focus on adapting their private training and semi-private training sessions. This will provide an option to those who aren’t comfortable returning to a packed gym, but still want an option for an in-person workout experience. This will also continue to show your concept’s ability to adapt and innovate to potential franchisees and will exhibit your ability to grasp the current landscape and deliver solutions for members.     

Health and wellness will always be a necessary resource for our communities, and given the current circumstances, not only is there demand for fitness concepts, there is a need for them. Franchisors and franchisees alike must be willing to put in the work and invest their time and resources into helping others. Franchisors must constantly be looking for ways to adapt and innovate their concepts to better serve franchisees and their members. Provide your teams with goals to strive for and give them the means to achieve those goals while offering guidance and advice.

These last several months have no doubt proven to be challenging for the fitness industry, but if your brand is able to keep pushing harder than ever before, your members will see that and will be grateful for your services. 

Roger is the co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of the industry-leading group fitness studio, RockBox Fitness. This concept changes lives, and he believes that changing lives is the best feeling in the world. Prior to co-founding RockBox Fitness, Roger worked in the pharmaceutical industry and most recently served as President for a leading contract manufacturer organization.

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