How many times have you been stuck in traffic trying to get to the gym before the window closes and you need to be at work or home for dinner? I’m betting for many of you it’s a lot — certainly is for me.
But suppose that gym on the other side of a sea of taillights was suddenly at the next off ramp? And, for that matter, the next ramp as well? What if it was at all of them?
This is the vision of a bloom of new companies aggregating gyms and offering single subscriptions to all of them with one “membership.”
One of those, FitReserve, saw the simplicity and convenience in such a program back in 2015 when three co-founders launched to fill what CEO and co-founder Megan Smyth calls a void in the market: “Accessing all classes at top studios, while enabling members to mix and match classes with one membership to create a routine that fits their lifestyle,” she said.
“Now two years later [and with over a dozen employees] there still is no other offering that provides the same level of convenience and access to the best fitness classes at coveted peak times.” ClassPass may quarrel with that but certainly it seems there are advantages to FitReserve particularly with since they are “the only monthly multi-studio membership that offers access to all class times at top studios,” according to Smyth.
We wanted to discover more about the business and how the model is working so we sat down with Smyth for a Q&A and found that it’s not just convenience, but variety people are looking for.
Why would consumers want this?
Over the past few years, the fitness landscape has changed dramatically; in fact, specialized boutique studios have been adding new locations at a rate of 450% per year since 2010.
With increasing market fragmentation, there is a greater consumer need for a convenient all-access fitness membership to discover studios and book classes in one place at an accessible price point. While consumers love the class specialization that boutique fitness studios offer, they also are seeking variety in their workouts, as well as in location. With FitReserve, members can avoid being tied down to one gym or studio, or having to purchase multiple memberships; they can access entire class schedules (no blackout times) at hundreds of studios, while saving up to 50% off retail class drop-in prices with one all-access membership.
Conveniently they can go to a barre studio on Monday, take a spin class on Tuesday, and then a boxing class on Wednesday — and never get bored. In short, FitReserve simplifies your active life by allowing you to work out — whenever and wherever you want — and book everything in one place at a more accessible price point.
Talk about the early days and how you got those first gyms to sign up
Starting out and signing on your first customers is always the hardest part. Prior to launch, we spent considerable time meeting with studio owners to truly understand their pain points and unfulfilled needs. By doing our due diligence, we were able to create a product with their needs in mind from the outset, which made the sales process easier.
Since we didn’t have a live product yet, the most important factor was establishing the studio owners’ trust that we would launch a product with seamless booking that maintained the integrity of their brands and attracted high-quality customers. As such, we held numerous in-person meetings with our initial launch partners to cultivate these relationships and establish this trust. Upon consumer launch, we already had the credibility of our early partners and we started to build brand awareness through press and word-of-mouth, resulting in many studio partners coming on-board from inbound requests.
So what’s the customer’s experience? How does this actually work?
First, you select a monthly plan — we have three-, five-, 10-, and 20-class plans — appealing to a broad range of customers and activity levels. Once you join, you can view a specific studio’s class schedule or search for a class based on your workout type, location, date and time preferences. You can reserve classes up until the last minute or seven to 14 days in advance depending on the studio.
Click “Reserve” on your desired class and you’re all set! Then, you can sync your reservation with your calendar and you also will receive an email confirmation with the details to prepare for a class — i.e., when to arrive and what to wear. You can attend each studio up to four times per month (only one time per month on the three-class plan), so you can make your favorite studio part of your weekly routine.
Although memberships conveniently auto-renew, you can cancel at any time or upgrade or downgrade your plan depending on your schedule and how many classes you would like to take. Once you are a member, you also receive exclusive offers from our perks partners — including massages, healthy meal-delivery services, and workout apparel — to help you look and feel your best.
If I don’t want to use classes can I just use the gym equipment?
Absolutely. We work with several partners that offer an “open-gym” option that allows you to use the studio’s or gym’s facilities and equipment without taking a class. In addition to traditional fitness classes, we also offer recreational and athletic activities such as tennis, swimming, standup paddle, and rock climbing.
Talk about the experience for gym owners
The experience for gym and studio owners is completely seamless. We are fully integrated with their existing scheduling software providers. As such, all reservations through FitReserve are done in real-time, so there is never double-booking or extra work for their staff.
Is this geared only toward smaller, independent gyms?
In addition to independent gyms, we also work with larger gyms, boutique fitness chains, and recreational and athletic facilities and services, including tennis, rock climbing, swimming, standup paddle, and more.
What is the business model, generally speaking?
We have a monthly subscription-based business model paid by consumers. Then, we pay the studios and gyms negotiated rates for the reservations booked by our members.
Is the intent for people to have an annual membership somewhere and use this for variety and convenience?
We see a mix. Many members use FitReserve exclusively, while others purchase FitReserve to complement gym or studio memberships or class packages.
What is the male/female ratio with regard customers? Will I be the only guy?
In general, group fitness skews 70% to 80% female, and we mirror those demographics. However, we increasingly are seeing more men participating in group fitness classes and, thus, using FitReserve to manage their workout routines.
You’ve now rolled out in NYC and Boston. Where to next?
We will be launching in several new major markets in the coming months, with the next market being announced in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: FitReserve has now released their iOS app as well.