There’s nothing “retro” about the way the health club franchise by the same name is growing. Retro Fitness converted its first location in 2005, started franchising in 2006, and has now ballooned to more than 150 locations.
“Our primary hook was we are a high-value, low-cost provider, but now that’s kind of been turned into a cliché these days,” said founder and CEO of Retro Fitness Eric Casaburi.
At the time, though, Casaburi explained competing gyms were charging up to $50 for membership, and Retro Fitness boasted a flat rate of $19. “The recession hit and we became rockstars overnight because our price was already set and we’ve been evolving ever since,” he said.
In 2017, Retro Fitness launched a concept Casaburi referred to as “Retro 2.0,” where the gym incorporated more team and small group training, Group X, and of course, one-on-one training.
The appeal of the franchise and Retro 2.0 is apparent when you look at the company’s diverse body of franchisees.
“I think why we have such amazing diversity is partially because of the success our clubs have shown over the years,” said Casaburi. “Not just in a sense of, ‘Hey we’ve grown number-wise,’ but our gyms really perform well from a financial aspect, so the sophisticated business investor recognizes that by looking at our franchise financial disclosure.”
It’s not all about money for Casaburi, though, who said Retro Fitness is seeing a huge influx of institutional, private equity type, franchisees.
The CEO said he looks for people to add value from all different walks of life. “You have people who are former company executives, people who are former police officers, we’ve got stockbrokers and contractors,” he said. “The benefit is we gain information and insights from our owners from their previous careers and it’s very helpful for someone to bring something to the table besides a check. I can find people with checkbooks all day long.”
Casaburi emphasize the goal is always to find people who are going to help build and support the Retro Fitness brand over decades. “Our brand is defined by its energy. Our colors are really colorful and powerful, the design of our gym has gotten better, but what really defines us as a group is how passionate we are about evolving,” he said.
Casaburi further credits Retro Fitness’ success to the company’s ability to stay true to its core values. He said no matter how the franchise continues to grow, his team never strays from its ideal of providing a high-quality experience at a value price for its members.
And Casaburi said it’s all made possible by his team.
“It’s the people — I surround myself with really good people, and when I don’t have really good people, I get rid of them very quickly. It just is what it is,” he said. “I’m looking for kick-ass rockstars that want to come work with me. I’m always looking, and if you’re great, I want you with me, I want you on my team.”
He warns, though, that potential Retro Fitness team members better be ready to rock and roll, quite literally.
“We only have one gear, and it’s extremely, extremely intense. The gear isn’t even a number; it’s just called ‘intense,’” he said.