What’s your background?
Over 40 years’ experience in the hospitality and health and fitness industries, including as CEO at LA Fitness and MD at LivingWell, overseeing strong site growth for both.
My most recent role before Anytime Fitness was running my own hotel management firm, with a franchise portfolio including Holiday Inn, Hilton, AccorHotels and Ramada. This was preceded by my time at Hilton, where I was VP for the North America and Canada territories, responsible for seven corporately-owned hotels and 30 franchise hotels. This role came following Hilton’s acquisition of LivingWell.
Why did you join Anytime?
I joined in August 2017, attracted predominantly by the opportunity to help others to be successful in business, combined with the position of Anytime Fitness as a significant ‘challenger brand’ in the UK health and fitness industry.
Entrepreneurship is thriving in this country and, while franchising in other industries is becoming saturated, Anytime Fitness continues to grow significantly worldwide.
I find that giving our franchisees the platform to run a successful business for themselves is very fulfilling.
What’s the Anytime proposition?
Some things have changed in recent years. For example, where previously our clubs were more suburban, now our locations vary: we have over 30 clubs in London now, as well as central locations in other major UK cities. So we’re currently in the midst of a company-wide branding exercise that will provide a more detailed plan of our future positioning.
However, there are certain differentiators that have always been fundamental to the Anytime Fitness ethos.
First is, of course, our ‘anytime’ proposition. Membership gives access to the club 24/7, 365 days a year, via a key fob which grants entry outside of staffed hours. Members also get the Anytime Workouts app, which provides more than 1,000 workouts that can be accessed directly from a phone.
Then there’s our market positioning. While other brands lead on their low price point, we’ve strategically positioned ourselves as mid-market, with a more premium offering than many of our competitors – a broad range of CV, strength, free weights and functional equipment in a premium setting, as well as a private studio – costing, on average, £35 a month.
Community has always been at the heart of our proposition. This will continue, as it’s incredibly important that members feel they’re part of something. This comes naturally, as the franchise model means it’s often local people owning local clubs. This lends itself to a friendly, community feel. We also encourage clubs to do as much as possible in their local areas, allowing them to become part of the community.
Finally, a very strong USP for us is the option for members to use any of our clubs, anywhere in the world – something no other operator our size is offering. We have over 4,000 clubs across the world, including 144 in the UK, and a membership allows people to visit any of them.
Other UK operators offer multi-club memberships, but it’s often dependent on what you pay, so, for example, if another club charges a higher monthly membership, you can’t visit it. This isn’t the case with Anytime: no clubs are exempt, so whatever your lifestyle and wherever you’re travelling, there’ll be an Anytime Fitness location nearby that you can use.
We believe it’s this combination of customer experience and convenience that’s allowed us to continue to thrive in the notoriously difficult mid-market segment.
Tell us about the Anytime app
We have two apps available exclusively to our members: the Anytime Fitness app and the Anytime Workouts app.
The first app allows you to pair your phone with a wearable, track your gym visits and track calories by linking with other popular apps such as MyFitnessPal.
The second supports our members with over 1,000 different workouts they can access through their phone. This gives members autonomy when they’re in one of our clubs, allowing them to try new things, or alternatively allows them to perform non-equipment-based workouts at home.
Has the Anytime model changed?
The main development has been in how we source and support our franchisees. Previously it was felt that to open a health club, you needed to be an experienced fitness professional. That simply isn’t the case any more. We have franchisees with no previous experience in the fitness sector, but who – for example – have held franchises in the hospitality sector, before opening a club with us.
Each franchisee is then assigned a Franchise Performance Coach (FPC) who will guide them through every stage of owning a club. Our FPCs have years of experience in the field, in roles from general manager through to regional manager, and across both public and private sector organisations.
We’ve recently made key senior appointments too – Ben Dixon as commercial and property director and Neil Randall as sales and marketing director – to help provide additional senior support to franchisees from the very beginning of their journey with us to get them off to a great start.
Finally, we’ve introduced much more robust KPIs – including Net Promoter Score, brand standards, marketing and financial health checks – as well as a clearer road map to success, to simplify the process for our franchisees.
How have you developed the member offer?
We’re looking at the overall experience that we’re delivering to members at club level and have various future partnerships lined up to both attract and retain members.
We’re also looking into better demographic profiling of our members and prospects, with a view to creating different types of membership. We’ll soon be introducing Anytime Prime, for example: a new membership for the more mature market. In addition, a lot of our members are parents, so we’re looking to partner with a leading group exercise provider to white label an exercise programme for children.
Something else we’re looking at is increasing the functional space that is available in our clubs to capitalise on the growth in demand for this style of training and also to create more group exercise opportunities as part of the mix.
An exciting launch that’s coming in the first quarter of 2019 is Anytime Coaching, an app-based platform that will change the way we deliver personal training to members of our clubs. It’s a very forward-thinking development to our model and we’re looking forward to unveiling the full details.
We have several other exciting plans in the pipeline too, which we’ll be able to share in the coming months.
What’s the secret of Anytime’s success?
Distilling the key elements into just one sentence – it’s the combination of convenience, affordability and community feel.
From a business point of view, while there are other fitness club franchise options available, no-one else has the worldwide market position of Anytime Fitness. This global market strength offers reassurance to potential owners.
What are your goals?
For Anytime Fitness to become the biggest fitness club provider in the UK by number of sites, all of which will drive success, both for our members and our franchisees.
A company our size must create more opportunities for ambitious and hard-working entrepreneurs to succeed, and interest from potential franchisees remains high. A lot of our owners also have franchises in other sectors, but they’re finding fitness to be a more lucrative investment at the moment. The sector has proven to be robust, even in times of recession. By our calculations, selling two gym memberships a day is as valuable as getting 100 customers a day at a pizza restaurant or coffee shop franchise.
Site availability will be the biggest obstacle we face: finding and then negotiating locations for clubs is incredibly competitive. Planning in the UK also has its challenges, but we’re working closely with ukactive to improve this situation.
What are Anytime’s global plans?
To be in more countries in the next two years – some recent news includes a new agreement with a master franchisee in Morocco and plans to open several gyms there within five years.
We also plan to open more locations in China, building on the 11 we already have there. China is a special market for us, as we celebrated the opening of our 4,000th gym on 16 March 2018 in Shanghai. We’re the first and only US-based gym operator to get a franchising licence in China and it’s proving successful, so we’re keen to build on it.
Chuck Runyon – CEO and co-founder of Anytime Fitness – is also determined that we should have a gym on every continent, so he’s already been exploring options for Antarctica and he’s in no doubt that it’s going to happen. In a franchise world that includes household names such as McDonald’s and Subway, it would be a notable accolade to be the only franchise with sites open on every continent.
What does the company bring to the market?
Our mission is to ‘improve the self-esteem of the world’ – by which we mean supporting communities across the globe who are invested in living healthier, happier, more active lives.
Specifically, though, Anytime Fitness brings a sustainable, mid-market fitness club proposition to the industry. There’s so much variety now, with budget gyms, luxury clubs, boutiques and dedicated weightlifting clubs that between them they encompass a huge breadth of requirements. However, we believe Anytime Fitness has something for everyone.