Should You Sign Up For An Independent Or A Chain Gym?

If you want to get in shape, going to the gym is perfectly optional. After all, you have a myriad of other options that will give you a great workout – some of which are provided for here at Granite Fitness. However, a lot of people choose to go to the gym for various reasons. Not only do you have the luxury of using a whole range of equipment, the motivational atmosphere can spur you to complete your workout.

If you live in the city area in a westernised country, you would no doubt have noticed that there are two main kinds of gym and some specialised ones. The two kinds are independent, stand-alone gyms and franchise or chain gyms. The third kind, which includes specialised equipment for sports like martial arts or powerlifting, are beyond the scope of this article.

Of course, there are variations to the two kinds of gyms that I am talking about. Here in Australia specifically, some examples of franchise or chain gyms include Anytime Fitness, Jetts, and Snap Fitness. Unless you live in a country town, there is probably one nearby. And these gyms are also found worldwide too. Then there are smaller franchise gyms which probably only have a few sites, one example of it would be the chain by the Belgravia group.


Franchise Gyms

Before I begin with specific points, I would like you to put things in perspective. If you think about it, franchises often operate on a system that works, so that is an immediate draw card. In fact, franchisees often pay huge fees to the central body because what they are buying is experience that has been established in other chains. This does not apply only to gyms, but fast food places as well.

The experience factor is often there because large chains have probably conducted a lot of market research to find out what consumers like yourself want from a gym. For example, the swipe card system implemented by large chains means that many of these gyms have 24-hour access, which definitely comes in handy. Another advantage with large chains is that you have many options because they tend to have many sites.

The cost for such gyms also tend to be lower, although this is not always the case. This is due to two main reasons – one is that they need to be competitive with other chains. Such is the modern world. The other reason is because of economies of scale. Most of the fitness equipment for a chain of gyms is done with a contract from a specified supplier that offers huge discounts as part of the agreement. Finally, some of the functions such as the swipe access is conducted centrally as well, so the whole franchise can pool their resources together.

Franchise gyms may also have special features if there is demand for them. One example for this is having a TV screen attached to each exercise machine. This, of course, is at the discretion of the gym, and the agreement between them and a suitable supplier of the product. However, given that they operate as a chain, such demands are often met and applied to all franchises.

However, gym chains do not come with challenges of their own. What do you think is the issue with having a centralised management system? That’s right – a rigid lack of flexibility. That means that because of the way it is managed, franchise gyms in certain locations are unable to adapt to local conditions because of the franchise agreement. So, for example, if a gym is in an area where people really like yoga, the management needs approval to effect this change, if at all possible.

Another issue is that maintenance of the premises may also be slow. If a site has a shortage of supplies, they would also need approval to get them, compromising its autonomy. If improperly managed, it means that issues will take a long time to be rectified. One other problem about the centralised security management of such gyms is that a problem at the Headquarters can end up affecting and causing problems to the whole system.

Finally, there is the point of rostering. Even though most franchise gyms have designated staffed hours, the level of obligation the staff has is lower. After all, the swipe card system means that staff can sometimes be absent. In fact, some gyms have even become slack in this respect and cut off staff availability at short notice. This poses problems when you need to speak to them for matters that only staff can resolve.


Independent “Stand-Alone” Gyms

On paper, stand-alone gyms do not have many of the advantages offered by franchise gyms. This is unsurprising, as it is no different to the way your local grocery store is disadvantaged when compared to giant chain supermarkets, who have more to offer when it comes to variety, and are extremely competitive when it comes to prices.

However, what is it that you like about the local grocery store compared to the giant supermarkets? Of course it is the local friendly neighbourhood feel, which comes with the heritage and root of the place, right? That’s the exact same advantage that local gyms have over franchises. In fact, one study found that consumers were more satisfied with independent gyms than most big health club chains.

Independent gyms, by the very nature of how they run, have mostly done away with the impersonal “you are just a number” type of mentality that large chains cannot provide. In addition to making their consumers feel special, independent gyms also have the added flexibility of responding and implementing to changes quickly without needing to ask permission. So if users have been complaining about something in particular, then boof, it’s resolved.

Although this might not be a rule everywhere, gym users also report that independent gyms tend to have better and more personalised communication. Feedback is often sought and criticisms are often acted upon quickly. They also have lower staff turnover, which means that the staff can bond with individual users more effectively. How’s that for service?

But why is it more personal? It is because most owners of independent gyms have a personal passion and desire to help people become healthy. To be honest, owning a gym would be one of my wishes in the future because I have been through the journey before. Most independent gyms have similar roots, and they might also have their whole family running the centre.

There is one final draw card that independent gyms have which is a bit of a catch-22 situation for them, and that would be the smaller customer base. Just like supermarkets, large chains have more marketing capabilities and are able to pool resources together, therefore attracting more customers. However, in the context of a gym, what then is the problem? It’s the availability of equipment. When there are too many people in the gym at the same time, you will have to wait to use some of them.

Remember that your choice of gym is not vital, but can affect your motivation levels. While you are considering the question, why not get the Granite Fitness Solution first?




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