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Two health club experts share their best practices for keeping your facility clean and how it improves member experience.

There are a lot of factors people consider before joining a gym — location, price, hours of operation, equipment and more. However, there is one factor that is more important now than ever before — cleanliness. 

A clean facility has always been important, but after facing a global health pandemic your members are going to be even more observant and critical of your cleaning practices. One facility that is aware of this is Stafford Hills Club in Tualatin, Oregon.

“Our club was founded on the principle of cleanliness,” said Evan Zupancic, the chief operating officer and general manager of Stafford Hills Club. “COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to highlight our facilities, team and our cleaning practices throughout campus while learning what was important to our members by putting ourselves in their shoes — specifically on what they touched and what they observed. There are many pieces to keeping your facility clean, but if it’s not part of your core principles and a part of everyone’s job, you may want to introduce a culture of clean.”

Since cleanliness was already a core part of the Stafford Hills Club, Zupancic said they didn’t have to alter their cleaning procedures much when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Our procedures didn’t change that much with the onset of COVID,” said Zupancic. “However, we did need to adjust our roles and responsibilities for many team members and allow them to work in multiple departments. With staff shortages, we were able to give our team members full-time hours by working inter-departmentally rather than hiring for part-time facilities.”

Another facility that has expanded the responsibility of cleaning and sanitizing to all staff is Merritt Clubs with nine locations in the greater Baltimore area. The Merritt team created the Safe Work Playbook, which outlined the clubs’ guide for pandemic preparedness and response. 

According to the Playbook, all Merritt team members manage daily and periodic disinfection of high-touch point areas, including routine and deep cleaning, a disinfection process, and, according to the protocols, the use of an electrostatic sprayer. 

Wanda Carr, the regional care team director for Merritt Clubs, said Merritt’s procedures have always been of the highest standard, and they continued with high standards to protect their members from new threats. 

One way they do this is by creating different zones. 

Merritt Clubs’ zones were around pre-COVID but assisted in new cleaning procedures during the pandemic. Each zone has a microfiber color cloth that coordinates with it. For example, green cloths and mops are in the Kids Zone, blue cloths are for the welcome desks, mirrors and general surfaces, orange cloths are for locker room shower walls and toilets, and yellow cloths are for equipment and sinks.

The different color zones are just one way Merritt Clubs is keeping its facilities extra clean. Additionally, Carr said they purchased nine electrostatic sprayers for each club to use and thermometers for each Kids Club to ensure no sick children were entering. Plus, they added signage encouraging more frequent hand washing throughout their facilities. 

However, according to Carr, the most important aspect when it comes to keeping a facility clean is effective and clear communication. “Effective communication across the board is key and everyone being all-hands-on-deck,” she said. “We have owners and a leader who cares about all aspects of the business and give us total support. Mark Miller, our COO, always gives us clear communication on the progress we’re making and the next steps and expectations across the company.”

While cleaning may seem self-explanatory, there are things you need to watch out for as an operator. One thing in particular is the price of cleaning products. 

Zupancic said any viable retail business has seen their cleaning product costs and volume drastically increase over the last two years. He recommends finding creative ways to buy in bulk and store more product on-site. This has helped Stafford Hills Club keep costs manageable.

Another thing you should keep an eye out for when it comes to cleaning is the possibility of the long-term effects increased cleaning can have on your equipment. 

“There are definitely some concerns about the additional side effects from over-cleaning,” said Zupancic. “Any porous material has the ability to deteriorate quickly, so be mindful of how often those surfaces are being cleaned and what product is used to clean them. I believe it’s common knowledge COVID-19 is highly unlikely to be spread through surfaces, but it’s a good business practice to have your team and your members wiping equipment down after use.”

While a clean club has always been the foundation of a successful club, your members will be expecting more sanitizing and disinfecting to make them feel comfortable inside your facility. While it may take more work and cost, it will improve your members’ experience and keep them coming back. 

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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