Founded in the Netherlands, budget operator Basic-Fit has more than 750 locations across the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Spain.
The brand has cited ambitions to increase its European club network to reach the 1,250 club mark in 2022.
CEO Rene Moos was a professional tennis player in the 1980s, but didn’t reach the top, so became a tennis coach.
He opened his own tennis school which grew into a complex with 24 courts and fitness facilities, before launching the first Total Health Club in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands, however, Moos told delegates at the FitNation conference the club wasn’t much more successful than his tennis career had been.
Eventually, he found success, along with his business partner, Eric Wilborts, in the budget fitness market. “I failed as a tennis player, but succeeded as a businessman,” he told delegates.
Having witnessed the success of Planet Fitness in using a low-cost approach, he was inspired to follow the same route in building his own business.
“Our brand operates with a low-cost model because, although investment is low, the return is high,” Moos said.
The brand recently launched in France and despite concerns it would be a challenging market to enter, Moos described the move as “fairly easy”.
“You have to focus your efforts and resources to succeed,” he said. “Better a market leader in a few countries than number three or four in many countries.
“Time to market is important and you can always improve with feedback,” said Moos. “Better done than perfect!”
In depth insights
Moos gave an in-depth presentation into Basic-Fit’s operating structure. He explained how the brand’s gyms are remotely managed by centralised teams using smart cameras and intercom systems, because the brand has so few staff at clubs and wants to support them.
This method was initially tested and fine-tuned in three locations and then rolled out across the estate.
Basic-Fit has developed its own remote surveillance tool and control-room to observe in-club activity using live-feeds that are monitored by sound and vision by an external, off-site team.
This allows the club to control access to clubs as well as keeping tabs on security and tracking members’ welfare.
To illustrate how this works in practice, Moos explained that – using specialist software – Basic-Fit’s surveillance system also monitors levels of aggression in clubs.
If raised voices or certain verbal intonations that signal aggression are detected, the system alerts Basic-Fit’s remote control-operators, allowing them to intervene if necessary, by sending someone to site.
“We have one staff member per gym and about 20 to 25 smart cameras,” Moos explained. “These cameras are monitored 24/7 in our own control room and everything is data-driven, from opening the doors to operating the assistance intercom.
“But of course, this kind of system is not something you can set up easily and it also involves trial and error,” he said. “These smart cameras detect, among other things, whether someone has been lying still for more than three minutes, so we can tell if someone has become ill. However, you can guess what happened when Basic-Fit introduced yoga classes… the control room went crazy!”
During his keynote, Moos made predictions about the future relationship between the fitness industry and technology, saying: “The fitness world will see VR really take off in a couple of years, and I believe that we’ll soon see Apple and Google enter this industry.
“If this happens, gym operators simply won’t have the budgets to be able to compete against such major brands”.
Megan Whitby, reporting from the Virtuagym FitNation conference in the Netherlands, for HCM
Read our interview with Tom Moos, son of Rene, in the February issue of HCM magazine