Pros and Cons of Owning a Franchise Gym Vs an Independent Studio

Are you considering opening a gym, but can’t decide on opening a gym franchise or independent business? We examine the pros and cons of both.

Are You Considering Opening a Gym, But Can’t Decide How?

The fitness industry is a booming market. It’s been said that it is one of the most lucrative businesses of our time. Opening a gym could be a great business move.

However, you’re not sure how to start a fitness business. Which business model should you choose? Should you become an independent gym owner, or open a gym franchise?

In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of opening a gym as a completely new business versus opening a franchise.

The pros and cons of opening independent gym businesses

Independent gyms provide the freedom to create a brand that suits your needs and values. You will be able to build the business in your own style, and deliver new and innovative exercise programs as you wish. 

However, as an independent gym owner, you’ll have no help with marketing or benefit from the scale of a fitness franchise business when competing against big brands. There is no room for mistakes, either.

The pros

  • Creative freedom

As an independent gym owner, you have total control over your business. This includes the exercise machines you use, color schemes, exercise classes you offer, your marketing materials, and so on. You won’t have this creative license as a fitness business franchisee.

  • Independence and flexibility as an independent gym owner vs franchisee

There is a lot to consider regarding starting your own gym. Many people in this industry like the independence and flexibility they have from owning their own business. 

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to what your needs are and what type of fitness business you want to start. Therefore, it is crucial to understand that as a franchisee you must follow the business model and structure of the fitness franchise.

  • Lower general costs

It can be cheaper to open an independent fitness business when compared to investing in a fitness franchise. For example, you won’t need to pay the initial fees or license costs as stipulated within the franchise agreement.

  • You can offer new experiences to curious clients as a gym owner

As an independent gym owner, you can offer your curious clients new experiences. You can give them an opportunity to gain experience about fitness and wellness by providing free fitness classes, healthy food samples, or stress management workshops. These may not be things that franchise owners offer.

The cons

  • A lack of resources

Some of the benefits of buying into a franchise is that they offer ongoing support, marketing, training, financial assistance, and location selection. However, if you are considering running an independent business instead of buying a franchise, none of these will be available to you.

  • Lower scale of independent gyms makes it harder to compete

Franchises have a lot of advantages over independent gyms. They have more funding, they can leverage their brand to attract customers, and they have a built-in marketing department.

Unlike the franchises, smaller gyms usually rely on word-of-mouth marketing and grassroots campaigns to bring in new members. They are also less recognizable because they don’t have the same branding as popular franchises like Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness.

  • Success rates

Success rates of independent businesses tend to be lower than franchises because they don’t have the same set of support and resources available. Franchises have a higher degree of scalability, better brand recognition, and a business model that is applied consistently.

  • The pros and cons of owning a franchise gym

There are so many benefits to the health and fitness franchise opportunity. You can start a business in a market that you have a passion for and be your own boss. You’ll benefit from training and support, and the brand recognition of the franchisor’s business.

On the other side of the coin, being a franchise owner does come with some drawbacks. You must manage employees and handle payroll which can be difficult if you’re not experienced in that type of management. In addition, there are extra startup costs that you will incur.

The pros

Brand recognition and marketing

As a franchisee, you get to work in an established business, enjoy national or global brand recognition and marketing, and have access to the franchisor’s marketing materials, advertising campaigns, and promotional opportunities. 

  • Out-of-the-box tools and resources

When buying a franchise, there are some out-of-the-box tools that can help you operate your business. These include the franchisor’s website, accounting packages, purchasing agreements, booking processes, etc.

  • Structure and consistency to clients of franchise gyms

Customers of franchised gyms expect a certain level of consistency. They want to know that they are going to get what they pay for and know what to expect when walking into the gym. It makes the membership decision easier.

Therefore, franchised gyms have a strict structure – from the layout of equipment to the type of workouts offered, to the prices charged. It also means that the staff at these gyms needs to be on their game to deliver on these expectations.

  • Lower equipment costs

Kitting out a gym is an expensive exercise. Franchise owners often have agreements with equipment manufacturers and retailers that give franchisees access to the equipment they need at highly competitive prices. This can drastically reduce your startup costs.

  • Success rates

Because a gym franchisee is backed by the franchise brand, you should find it easier to attract customers to your gym. You’ll also be following a proven business model, and benefit from extensive marketing materials. Success rates of franchisees tend to be higher than those of independent business owners.

The cons

  • Expensive fees

When you buy a franchise, there will be initial costs that you don’t suffer as an independent. You will also pay ongoing fees and/or commissions.

  • You may not get much support

Not all fitness franchises are equal. Some offer less startup and ongoing support than others.

  • Strict guidelines

There is little to no room to be creative as a franchisee. You will be expected to follow the franchise’s tried and tested business model. If you don’t, you may lose the franchise.

Fitness franchisee or independent gym owner – which is best for you?

As you can see, starting and running a fitness business as an independent gym owner or fitness business franchisee both have their own pros and cons.

If you are not sure if it would be best to invest in a gym franchise or to open your own gym as an independent owner, then let us look at your business plan and work with you to ensure you make the right choice for you.

Where do you start?

If you’re considering opening a gym business, take our franchise assessment to find out if you have what it takes to be a successful franchisee.

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