Increasing revenue in the new normal through a member-focused approach.
“The new normal,” “bounce back” and “rebuild” are all phrases that have been thrown around as clubs emerge out of the COVID-19 pandemic struggle. But what does this truly look like in practice?
For Rochester Athletic Club, it means sticking to the basics.
“COVID-19 taught all businesses to adapt and change,” said Brent Frueh, the general manager of Rochester Athletic Club. “Gyms and health clubs that made it through should be proud as it was a devastating time for our industry. For us, building back means always trying to do the right thing. Reputation is built on trust, and through all stages of the pandemic until now, we made decisions that center around the members but are grounded in our club’s values. That has always proven to be successful for us. Because of the trust we have from our members, we have seen 12 straight months of record membership sales. We are very excited about the strong trends.”
Another way Rochester Athletic Club is keeping up its reputation is through its childcare offerings. When they shut down the first time, the club provided childcare for emergency responders with the help of the Mayo Clinic. Because of this, Frueh said they reimagined their camps and what time they offered them. The club now offers camps any day school is not in session, which has resulted in an impressive uptick in attendance.
Social outlets — much like camps — have been huge drivers for clubs on the mend from the pandemic. One club seeing this first-hand is East Bank Club.
“Clubs have been a way for our members to continue to feel normal and focus on their health,” said Mel Kleist, the CEO of the East Bank Club. “The members who continued to use East Bank Club felt a great deal of relief by being able to focus on self-care, and the members who are coming back now are overjoyed to be back at the club and getting back to a routine. For these reasons, we are more intensely focused on continuing to create a safe and communal space for our members while researching all the ways we can enhance our facility to provide more conveniences for our members in one place.”
East Bank Club is diving head-first into focusing on the social aspects of the club. Its banquets and catering department — which runs member events — is centered on bringing members social experiences on a regular basis through events such as wine tastings, holiday events and member parties. That team also helps to organize fitness socials regularly, which include a food and beverage component after a social workout.
“We are also currently renovating our main restaurant so we can expand the menu with a strategic focus on quality and consistency,” said Kleist. “In addition, we are well underway in reimagining our other restaurant into a luxurious food market that will add one more aspect of having it all under one roof for our membership. We will save our members a trip to the grocery store with only the finest sourced ingredients and in-club prepared foods.”
While not every club will be able to undergo renovations or add new offering, Kleist said whatever you do, it’s important to ensure it’s member-focused.
“We must be conscious to not take advantage of our members and pursue the most profit,” said Kleist. “For instance, we have made our coworking space — which we charged for before the pandemic — complimentary to our members. It’s a wonderful amenity, and our members stay longer in the facility and have more convenience which has led indirectly to an increase in food and beverage sales.”
While it’s important not to take advantage of members to make a dollar, it is equally important to not allow them to take advantage of you and your facility.
For example, one thing Rochester Athletic Club noticed was its teenage population was greatly affected by the pandemic. “Their whole world changed — school, friends, family, jobs, everything,” explained Frueh. “When they returned to the club, their behavior had to be a focus of ours because it was affecting other members. We are in a good place now, but we had a lot of parent meetings and suspended/terminated many members because of the lack of respect they had for the club, staff and other members.”
The truth of the matter is member experience is the key to revenue gain as clubs look to future growth.
According to Kleist, how you connect with members and continue to adapt to their growing interests is critical. “We have created a digital experience for our members that puts everything we offer at their fingertips,” he said. “They can now register and purchase virtually any experience through our app. Our latest addition is the ability to order their favorite smoothie from anywhere in the club using the app, and we have it ready for them to pick up.”
The pandemic was challenging and altered nearly every facet of how clubs ran and will run. As you look to the future to increase profits and brainstorm new revenue-generating ideas, remember to stay focused on the members you are serving.
“Our industry leaned on each other, shared ideas and networking became critical,” said Frueh. “We have always done our research when making big decisions but more factors are to be considered now. We will remain focused on our membership as that is what pays the bills and allows us to continue to reinvest into the club.”