Home Gym Management How to Open a Gym Franchise – The Ultimate Guide

How to Open a Gym Franchise – The Ultimate Guide

how to open a gym franchise

Gym franchises have become increasingly popular in recent years, allowing entrepreneurs to invest in a proven business model with established brand recognition. From Planet Fitness to Gold’s gym, you’ve undoubtedly heard stories about how much – or how little – franchise owners are making.

But is starting a gym franchise worth it? If yes, how do you get started without making costly money mistakes?

You probably already know that most franchise owners take home around $50,000 annually, but did you know that the top 7% make more than $250,000 per year

It all starts with owning a gym franchise the right way. In this blog, we’ll dive into everything you need to know to successfully open a gym franchise and get it right the first time.

This Article in a Nutshell

  • Some of the biggest benefits of owning a gym franchise are buying into a proven model, a financial suppor tsystem and tried and true marketing
  • If you’re planning to open a franchise, you should first outline your investment, franchise options, and financing
  • Gym franchises are generally profitable if you follow the guiding principles for setting them up

What is a Gym Franchise?

A gym franchise is a business model that allows you to open and operate a fitness center under the umbrella of an established brand. You’ll be able to take advantage of the brand’s reputation, marketing strategy, and training programs to attract new members who are already familiar with the quality of service they can expect from this particular gym.

It’s also helpful to think of a gym franchise in terms of the real estate model. Instead of purchasing a piece of land and building your own facility, you can rent or lease space in an existing location. You’ll be responsible for managing that space and hiring staff who can help run the gym day-to-day while you focus on growing your business.

Benefits of Owning Your Own Gym Franchise

Here’s a list of some of the benefits of buying into a gym franchise:

  1. Proven Business Model: When you buy into a gym franchise, you’ll have access to a proven business model tested in the market. This means you’ll have a higher chance of success than starting a gym from scratch.
  2. Brand Recognition: The gym franchise you buy into already has brand recognition, meaning people are already familiar with the brand. This can help attract more customers to your gym.
  3. Existing Customer Base: Many gym franchises already have an existing customer base. This means that you’ll have customers from day one, which can help you generate revenue quickly.
  4. Vendor Network: Many gym franchises have established relationships with vendors. This means that you’ll have access to discounts and deals that you can’t get on your own.
  5. Franchisee Support System: When you buy into a gym franchise, you can access a franchisee support system. This means you’ll have help with training, marketing, and other aspects of running a gym.
  6. Financial Assistance: Some gym franchises offer financial assistance to their franchisees. The support can help secure financing, purchase equipment, and hire staff.
  7. Stability: Gym franchises are a stable investment opportunity. The concept of the gym franchise is proven worldwide, making it a dependable and steady investment opportunity.
  8. Growth Opportunities: If you want to expand your gym business, buying into a gym franchise can be a great way to do it. Many gym franchises offer opportunities to open multiple locations.
  9. Marketing Support: Gym franchises often provide marketing support to their franchisees. This can help you attract more customers to your gym.
  10. Training Programs: Many gym franchises offer training programs that have been specifically designed for trainers at gyms. This can help you provide top-notch training to your clients.

15 Steps to Open a Gym Franchise

Opening a gym is no small investment. There are a thousand and one things to consider before you invest a single dime in your future franchise. 

In this section, we’ll go over each of these points in as much detail as possible and give you all the information you need to have.

Determine Your Investment

Before you start looking for gym franchises to invest in, you need to determine how much you’re willing to invest. Review your personal finances and how much you’re willing to risk in the new business venture. Also consider recurring costs like rent, equipment, and staffing.

Here are some of the costs to consider when opening a gym franchise:

  1. Franchise Fees: Most gym franchises require an initial franchise fee, which can range from a few thousand dollars to over $100,000. This fee typically covers the cost of training, marketing, and other support the franchisor provides.
  1. Ongoing Royalties: Most gym franchises require ongoing royalties besides the initial franchise fee. This is typically a percentage of your gross revenue, ranging from 4% to 10% or more.
  2. Equipment and Supplies: You’ll need to purchase equipment and supplies to outfit your gym, which can be a significant expense. Make sure to research the equipment cost and factor it into your budget.
  3. Real Estate: You’ll need to rent or purchase a space for your gym, which can be a significant expense. Make sure to research the cost of real estate in your area and factor it into your budget.
  4. Marketing and Advertising: You’ll need to invest in marketing and advertising to attract customers to your gym. This can include paid advertising, social media, and other tactics.
  5. Staffing: You’ll need to hire staff to run your gym, including trainers, front desk staff, and cleaning crews. Make sure to budget for salaries, benefits, and other staffing costs.
  6. Insurance and Legal Fees: You’ll need to purchase insurance to protect your business and pay for legal fees associated with setting up your gym franchise.

Research Franchise Options

Once you know your budget, you can start researching gym franchises that fit your criteria. Look for franchises that offer the services and support you need and a proven track record of success. You can find franchise options through online research, industry publications, and referrals from other franchise owners.

There are three major ways to discover gym franchises.

Online Research

Online research is a great place to start. Use online resources such as franchise directories to compare different gym franchises. Next, read reviews and testimonials from current and former franchise owners, and look for franchise opportunities in industry publications and blogs.


You can ask friends, family, and colleagues for recommendations and talk to other gym franchise owners about their experiences. You could even join online forums and groups to learn from other franchise owners.

Franchise Discovery Days

Attend franchise discovery days to get a better understanding of the franchise opportunity. While there, you could ask questions about the company culture and the services offered and learn about the franchisor’s track record of success.

Contact Franchise Companies

how to open a gym franchise

After identifying a few franchises you’re interested in, you should contact the companies directly to learn more about their franchise opportunities. This will allow you to ask questions and better understand what each franchise offers.

Review FDD

By now, you must have narrowed down your options. Next, you should review the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) for each franchise. The FDD provides important information about the franchise, including fees, royalties, and other details. Pour over each document carefully before making a decision.

The FDD will look like unreadable legalese to most people, so here’s a guide to help make things easier.

When reviewing franchise disclosure documents before opening a gym franchise, here are some key items to keep in mind:

  1. The Franchisor: In Item 1 of the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), pay close attention to the franchisor’s history, experience, and any legal or financial issues it may have had.
  2. Initial Investment: Review Item 7 of the FDD for a detailed breakdown of the initial investment required to start operations by the gym franchise. Keep in mind that some of these costs are estimates and may vary depending on the location.
  3. Obligations and Restrictions: Look for information on the obligations and restrictions for the franchisor and the franchisee. This should include details on trademarks, advertising restrictions, and any other limitations that may affect the operation of the gym franchise. 
  4. Litigation History: Review Item 3 of the FDD to understand if the franchisor has been involved in any litigation or disputes.

It’s important to remember that the FDD is a legal disclosure document that the franchisor must provide to franchisees at least 14 days before signing any agreement or paying any money. A careful review of the FDD is a critical step in the due diligence process for anyone considering opening a gym franchise.

Secure Financing

Once you’ve chosen a franchise, you’ll need to secure financing. This may involve taking out a loan or finding investors. Make sure to have a solid business plan to convince lenders or investors that your gym franchise is a worthwhile investment.

One way to secure financing when trying to license a gym franchise is to get a business loan from the bank. You will have to show your business plan, identification documents, and a few other documents to get loan approval from the bank of your choice. 

The benefit of a bank loan is that it’s a secure form of financing. Another option is to explore the financing options offered by the gym franchise itself.  he financial assistance you can expect from the franchisor can vary depending on the gym franchise you decide to join.

Sign Franchise Agreement

Once you’ve secured financing, you’ll need to sign a franchise agreement. This agreement outlines the terms of your relationship with the franchise company, including fees, royalties, and other requirements.

Choose a Location

Next, you’ll need to choose a location for your gym. Consider factors like foot traffic, parking, and proximity to other businesses. You should also research zoning laws and building codes to ensure your gym is compliant.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a franchise location:

  1. Demographics: Look for a location with a demographic that matches the target audience of your gym franchise. Consider factors such as age, income, and community interests.
  2. Accessibility: Choose a location that is easily accessible and convenient for your customers. Before deciding, check for the gym’s proximity to public transportation, parking, and main roads.
  3. Competition: Conduct market research to identify the competition in the area. Look for a location with limited competition or one where you can offer a unique value proposition to stand out from other gyms in the area.
  4. Space and Amenities: Consider the size of the space you need to accommodate your gym franchise, as well as any amenities you require, such as showers, locker rooms, and equipment storage.
  5. Rent and Lease Terms: Consider the cost of rent and lease terms in the area. Choose an affordable location that you can commit to for an extended period.
  6. Zoning and Permits: Ensure that your gym franchise is zoned appropriately for the area and that you can obtain any necessary permits and licenses.

Negotiate Lease

how to open a gym franchise

Once you’ve chosen a location, you’ll need to negotiate a lease with the property owner. This may involve hiring a lawyer to review the lease agreement and ensure you get a fair deal.

But what if you’ve never negotiated a lease agreement before, and you’re scared of getting ripped off? Well, we’ve compiled a short list so that doesn’t happen.

  1. Build a relationship with the landlord: Try to build a good relationship with the landlord or leasing agent. Show your interest in the property, and let them know you are willing to work with them to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
  2. Understand the lease terms: Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions of the lease agreement, including rent, maintenance, utilities, and renewal options. Ask questions if anything is unclear.
  3. Negotiate rent: Negotiate the rent based on the current market rates and your budget. Try to get a lower rent if possible, or negotiate other terms to offset the cost.
  4. Negotiate lease terms: Ensure your lease terms are fair and favorable to your business. For example, negotiate for a longer lease term or the option to renew the lease.
  5. Get everything in writing: All the agreed-upon terms should be included in the lease agreement, which you should have a copy of. 

Build Out The Space

Once you’ve secured a lease, you’ll need to build out the space to fit your gym’s needs. This may involve hiring contractors and purchasing equipment. Make sure to budget for these costs ahead of time.

There are also many other things to consider when building out your space. You’ll need to:

  1. Plan the layout: Start by planning the layout of your gym space. Consider factors such as the size and shape of the space, the number of equipment you plan to have, and the traffic flow in the space. Sketch out a floor plan to help visualize the layout.
  2. Select equipment: Choose appropriate equipment for your gym franchise and its target audience. Consider factors such as quality, durability, and cost-effectiveness. Look for equipment that is versatile and can be used for multiple exercises.
  3. Create zones: Create different zones in your gym for activities such as cardio, strength training, and stretching. This will help your customers find what they need more easily and make the space more organized.
  4. Consider lighting and ventilation: Make sure the gym space has adequate lighting and ventilation. Consider natural light sources and install proper ventilation systems to keep the air clean and fresh.
  5. Install flooring: Choose flooring that is durable, easy to clean, and safe for your customers. Rubber flooring is popular for gym spaces due to its durability and shock absorption.
  6. Decorate the space: Add some finishing touches to your space, such as motivational posters and branding elements that represent your gym franchise. This will make the space more inviting and give it a sense of identity.
  7. Test the space: Before officially opening the space, test the equipment, lighting, and ventilation to ensure everything works correctly. Get feedback from customers and make any necessary changes to improve the space.

Hire Staff

Once your gym is built out, you’ll need to hire gym staff. This may include trainers, front desk staff, and cleaning crews. You should prioritize hiring people with experience in the fitness industry to ensure your gym runs smoothly.

Train Staff

Once your gym is open, you’ll need to train your staff to ensure they provide top-notch customer service. This may involve providing ongoing training and development opportunities to keep your staff engaged and motivated.

Get a Gym Management Software

A gym management software can help you run your business more efficiently and effectively. This software will allow you to manage your memberships, schedule classes, track sales, manage payroll and expenses, and more. You should consider using gym management software if:

  • -You want to streamline the way you run your business
  • -You need an easy way to manage member profiles and transactions

Three of the best gym management software to try are GroupGym, GymPro, and GloFox.

Develop Marketing Strategy

how to open a gym franchise

Once you’ve hired staff, you’ll need to develop a marketing strategy to attract customers to your gym. This may involve advertising, social media, and other tactics. Make sure to target your marketing efforts to your ideal customer base. 

One of the most important factors to consider is the target audience. A gym’s target audience can vary widely, from young adults and fitness enthusiasts to seniors and those seeking rehabilitation.

Understanding the target audience’s needs, interests, and behaviors is vital to creating a marketing campaign that resonates with them. Conducting market research and analyzing customer data can help gym owners to understand their target audience better and create a marketing strategy tailored to their needs.

Another important consideration when developing a marketing strategy for a gym is the competition.

The area may have several other gyms, each with its unique value proposition and marketing campaigns. It’s essential to analyze the competition and identify what sets your gym apart.

This could be anything from specialized equipment, unique classes, or a focus on community building. Once you’ve identified your gym’s unique selling proposition, you can use it as the foundation for your marketing strategy.

Host Grand Opening

Once your gym is ready to open, you should host a grand opening event to attract new customers. This can be a great way to generate buzz and get people excited about your gym.

Here’s a quick list of what to keep in mind when hosting a grand opening:

  1. Set a date and time: Choose a date and time for the grand opening that works well for your target audience. Consider factors such as the time of day and day of the week that is most convenient for your customers.
  2. Send out invitations: Send out invitations to your customers, local media outlets, and other relevant stakeholders. This could include a mix of email invitations, social media posts, and printed invitations. Be sure to include all the necessary details, such as the date, time, and location of the event.
  3. Plan activities: Plan activities that will engage your customers and showcase what your gym offers. This could include fitness challenges, group classes, or equipment demonstrations. Consider offering prizes or giveaways to incentivize customer participation.
  4. Decorate the space: Spruce up the gym space with decorations that reflect your brand and create a festive atmosphere. Consider using balloons, banners, and other decorations to make the space look inviting and exciting.
  5. Provide refreshments: Offer refreshments such as snacks and drinks to keep guests satisfied and energized during the event. This could include healthy options such as protein bars, smoothies, and fruit.
  6. Have staff on hand: Make sure to have plenty of staff during the grand opening to answer questions, provide tours of the space, and assist with activities. Staff should be knowledgeable about the gym’s offerings and able to provide excellent customer service.
  7. Follow up with attendees: After the event, thank attendees for coming and encourage them to visit the gym again. This could include sending a thank-you email or social media message, offering membership discounts, or inviting them to attend a free class.

Monitor Performance

Finally, you’ll need to monitor your gym’s performance to ensure you’re meeting your goals. This may involve tracking revenue, customer satisfaction, and other metrics. You should also be open to making changes and adjustments to your business strategy as needed to stay competitive in the market.

FAQs About Opening a Gym Franchise

how to open a gym franchise

Is a Gym Franchise Profitable?

Gym franchises are generally profitable because of their established brand recognition and the stable consumer base they attract.

What is the best gym franchise?

The best gym franchise can depend on personal preference and location, but some popular options include Anytime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and Planet Fitness. 

How much do you need to open a gym franchise?

The cost to open a gym franchise can vary widely depending on the franchise chosen, location, equipment, and other factors. However, potential franchisees should expect to invest at least $100,000.

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