Crunch: The Brand that Doesn’t Quit
Founded in 1989, Crunch is a high-value, low-priced global franchise that is growing rapidly.
Author Simon Sinek once said, “Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything, for better or for worse.”
The leadership of Crunch — a national brand with more than 350 clubs in 34 states and six countries, and over 900 more clubs in development — understands this well. From Day One, the company’s motto has been “Stay Small to Grow Large,” meaning it focuses on fewer franchisees who own more clubs, allowing for deeper relationships across the board.
“This approach has allowed us to really put the relationships with our operators front and center and support that with the business, not the other way around,” said Ben Midgley, the CEO of Crunch Franchise. “It has been a really nice way to build genuine and authentic relationships with the franchisees. Once you have a trusting relationship, everything else is much easier.”
Crunch’s motto of “Stay Small to Grow Large” has paid off. Founded in 1989, Crunch started franchising in 2010 and has since become the fastest-growing, full-size and full-service fitness franchise globally.
This growth wasn’t halted by the pandemic, with Crunch opening 50-plus additional clubs between the start of the crisis and now. In addition, memberships increased during the pandemic by 5.6% — an impressive feat, considering the fact many clubs lost upwards of 50% of recurring memberships.
What is the key to this consistent growth during one of the most tumultuous times in the industry’s history?
For one, the Crunch offering is extremely attractive, boasting a “No Judgments” philosophy, proprietary group fitness and HIIT training classes accredited by NASM, and robust amenities such as large selectorized and free weight areas, personal training, Kids Crunch, recovery areas and more.
“We have the best-looking gym filled with the best programming in the high-value, low-price (HVLP) category,” said Chad Waetzig, the executive vice president of branding and marketing. “We must get our entertainment quotient right every time. We are thoughtful about the role every element plays in the gym. Everything speaks and tells our story, from the paint on the walls, to the lighting, to music, to the graphics, to the world’s best proprietary group fitness and advanced HIIT classes, to our rock star personal trainers, to our team’s service. We work hard to earn our members’ loyalty every day.”
Members seem to recognize this value, with the brand boasting nearly two million members globally and clocking six million workouts a month across its network.
“Members are blown away by how cool the gyms look and feel, and what they get for the money,” said Scott Morris, the vice president of operations at Crunch. “Our irreverent brand and ‘No Judgments Philosophy’ make us stand out as well.”
In addition, Crunch’s strong relationships with its franchisees plays a large role in its success. This year, the brand jumped to No. 52 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list. And, it has received the Franchise Business Review “Franchisee Satisfaction” award nine years in a row.
These awards and accolades are the result of the intense focus Crunch places on franchisee training and support.
Crunch 10, the training program for Crunch franchisees, is a comprehensive, 10-step training process consisting of webinars, eLearning, in-person classroom style training and hands-on, in-gym training. Through Crunch 10, franchise owners learn about real estate, financing, equipment, gym development, group fitness, personal training, training and development, sales, gym operations and policies.
To support management level team members, Crunch offers a program called Leadership, Education and Accelerated Development (LEAD) Training — a highly interactive and engaging program that provides managers with the tools and resources they need to run the gyms efficiently and effectively.
In addition is Crunch Connected, a Learning Management System that plugs franchisees into all of the information, tools and resources team members need to be successful with the brand.
“Crunch Connected has everything — training resources, e-learning content specific to each role at Crunch, easy registration for webinar events and live training sessions hosted around the country,” said Morris. “But that’s not all. Crunch Connected has an awesome social community platform where you connect and learn from other Crunch team members and content experts throughout our international network.”
Essentially, through Crunch 10, LEAD Training and Crunch Connected, franchisee operators get absolutely everything they need to run a successful health club business. The proof of that is in the financial performance per club, with median gross sales of $1,973,827 and a median cash operating profit of $523,789.
“Based on our experience, we have created best-in-class tools, systems and processes that have proven to be a winning formula,” said Morris. “The franchisees who thrive follow the playbook and execute. Also, utilizing the regional resources and subject matter experts help franchisees navigate any challenges or opportunities that may arise.”
However, although the brand has a tried-and-true playbook, it’s one that’s constantly evolving through a collective mindset, collaboration and shared learnings from the top down, to the bottom up.
This communication and knowledge sharing was vital during the pandemic, with marketplace conditions changing on a dime depending on a city or state’s COVID-19 restrictions and consumer sentiment.
“Our marketing team works hard to give the best marketing planning tools and direction to the network,” explained Waetzig. “We work with the network to capture the best practices that may be happening in one market — say Tampa, for example — and we extend that across the system as a new brand standard. We provide our franchisees with quarterly plans, online, self-serve, creative asset-building tools, and access to a talented group of marketing agencies across media, direct mail, social communities and reputation management.”
As a result of this knowledge sharing and innovation, Crunch’s brand can work in virtually any market across the U.S., even during a global pandemic.
“We have the most diverse and progressive model in the category,” said Waetzig. “Franchisees can tailor our model to market needs, and regardless of how the model gets adapted, our franchisees provide the best value experience in the segment.”
As Crunch continues into 2021, surviving one of the toughest periods in the industry’s history, they are optimistic for the future and predict a surge in growth on the horizon.
“The future for this brand is very bright,” said Waetzig. “We grew our member base coming out of the pandemic, proving our consumer model is preferred. We have hundreds of new units planned to open over the next few years, and yet there are still great opportunities available for growth in the U.S. and globally. If there was ever a time to get in with Crunch, this is it.”
Midgley echoed this sentiment, sharing a call to action to operators looking to join the Crunch team.
“We have dozens of conversions from other brands,” said Midgley. “If you’re wondering about converting to Crunch, how that would look and want to talk to some operators, want to visit our office virtually or in person, give us a call. We would love to show you what Crunch is all about.”