Now Reading
Crunch Fitness CEO on Franchise Growth, Real Estate ‘Opportunity’ for Gyms

Crunch Fitness CEO on Franchise Growth, Real Estate ‘Opportunity’ for Gyms

Jim Rowley believes Crunch franchisees can step in to fill tenant vacancies that have cropped up across the country as traditional retailers struggle

Crunch Fitness has been redefining the gym experience since 1989. Starting as the original “No Judgments” gym, Crunch has carved a distinctive niche for itself in the fitness landscape. Since the pandemic, Crunch has been expanding rapidly; the company already has 430 gyms open worldwide and is on pace to open 65 this year alone.

Crunch Fitness CEO Jim Rowley spoke with Athletech News about how Crunch drives growth for its franchisees, its approach to evaluating real estate and its push into hybrid fitness.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Athletech News: What differentiates Crunch from other gym chains?

Jim Rowley: Crunch has always been different. We started in 1989 as the original No Judgments gym, and our offbeat brand has a fun, diverse offering that includes awesome group fitness classes, miles of cardio, tons of weights and rockstar personal trainers.  

We knew our success during our first 20 years could be adapted to work in the growing high-value, low-price space that would make us unique and special in that extremely competitive and crowded place. Since launching our model in 2009, we’ve been among the fastest-growing concepts in the country. Crunch Fitness offers a different model than its competitors – more reward, training and ongoing support for our franchised club owners and the best value for members, including proprietary classes, group training and personal training included in one membership.

credit: Crunch Fitness

ATN: How does Crunch support franchisees with signing leases?

JR: Crunch was named one of the nation’s top retail tenants signing new leases in 2021 and 2022 by CoStar. This growth will continue to pick up speed in the coming years. Crunch supports its franchisees in the lease process in several ways. We have an internal support team that provides lease opportunities through our real estate network, we help evaluate sites for excellence and we work with several third-party vendors (including Buxton) to supply the franchisees with an arsenal of information to help support their decision. If there are specific lease questions, we provide experienced feedback as well. Ultimately, the selection, evaluation and final decision rests with the individual franchise owners.

ATN: How does Crunch support franchise growth overall?

JR: Once leases are signed, Crunch continues to provide actionable training, development and support to the franchise network. We aim for as many check-ins or touch points as possible once a franchisee signs a lease, including when they move into pre-sale and buildout and when running a fully operational gym. 

We offer a training program called The Crunch 10 Protocol, a comprehensive, 10-step training process for new franchise owners and executives to all systems, policies and procedures leading up to the opening of their first gym. Through Crunch 10, franchisees learn about real estate, financing, equipment, gym development, group fitness, personal training, training and development, sales, and gym operations and policies. The Training Protocol includes over 200 hours of training delivered through a variety of learning methods like eLearning courses delivered through our world-class learning management system, Crunch Connected, webinars, in-person classroom-style training and hands-on, in-gym training designed to deliver content at the appropriate time and increase retention. Topics cover real estate, financing, equipment, gym development, marketing, branding, pre-sale, group fitness, personal training, training and development, sales and gym operations.

Additionally, there is a social community platform where franchisees can connect and learn from other Crunch team members and content experts throughout our international network.

Moreover, we recently invested in our National Training Center in Jacksonville, which significantly increased the support offered to our franchise partners and teams. As part of the Crunch Harbour Village location, the Training Center provides an in-depth curriculum covering gym operations, including planning, pre-sale, construction, marketing, sales, operations, group fitness, personal training and fitness education.

ATN: What are Crunch’s biggest areas of opportunity?

JR: Crunch has a solid track record of club openings, including more than 430 gyms worldwide, currently in 37 states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Portugal, Puerto Rico and Spain. Crunch is rapidly expanding across the U.S. and around the globe with commitments to open an additional 1,000+ franchise locations.

With the state of the economy and major retail closures like Bed Bath & Beyond, in addition to thousands of businesses that have already sadly closed due to the pandemic, landlords and developers are looking to rebuild these emptied retail spaces. This is an opportunity for Crunch as fitness centers not only successfully fill these vacant spots but drive an impressive amount of foot traffic to the surrounding areas, making them a sought-after tenant. In fact, according to CoStar, gym visits were up 17.6% last summer compared to 2019 — the biggest increase of any retail or business establishment type in the survey.

See Also
Brea Ballard, the new World Gym Marketing VP, smiling

credit: Crunch Fitness

ATN: What have been Crunch’s biggest recent successes?

JR: Crunch is a leading fitness brand and one of the fastest-growing companies in the industry. In the three-and-a-half years since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen our membership base grow by more than 76%. To see this growth during a challenging time is a testament to the great offerings and service provided by Crunch and the ongoing support, enthusiasm and engagement of all franchise owners.

This member growth, a compounded annual growth rate of 17.4%, is unmatched in the category.  And we’re on pace to open over 65 clubs this year. Our growth hasn’t gone unnoticed. Entrepreneur named us to their Franchise 500 10+ Club honoring an elite group of franchisors. Additionally, Entrepreneur listed Crunch at number 30 on their Top Global Franchises list among those successful franchises with international opportunities.

Last year, Crunch was named by CoStar as one of the Top Retailers Signing New Leases.

ATN: What’s next for Crunch?

JR: Crunch is continuing to grow in membership and gym locations across the world and we’re always exploring ways to bring our unique fitness programming and classes to everyone, everywhere — especially as the world has moved into, and will remain operating, in a hybrid world of virtual and in-person fitness and work. With this in mind, we elevated our online platform this year with the introduction of Crunch+, a new platform to access on-demand and live-streamed workouts at any time and on any device. It brings to life our expertise in creating “Entertainment Fitness” with HIIT, Sculpt, yoga, Cardio Tai Box, stretching, Pilates and meditation, in addition to episodic content that follows a storyline format allowing users to build upon new skills week by week. 

We are continuing to build out Crunch+ and will look to other ways to keep our members connected in a world of hybrid fitness. 

Scroll To Top