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Franchise watch: Crunch Fitness brings big-box fitness to the forefront

Franchise watch: Crunch Fitness brings big-box fitness to the forefront

Crunch Fitness has grown and thrived this year, due to its unfaltering focus on building franchise relationships.

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“Every franchisee has my cellphone number and can call me any time they want, and the same goes for any member of our team,” says Ben Midgley, CEO and founding partner of Crunch Franchise, the international franchising company of fitness pioneer, Crunch Fitness. “That’s what you have to do because it’s all about having real, genuine relationships with your franchisees.”

Crunch Fitness’ exponential growth and proven franchising model are held up by many factors – the brand’s extensive offering of fitness equipment and programming, its dedication to health and safety – but chief among those are the ways in which it builds long-lasting, rich relationships with its hardworking franchisees.

It’s these core relationships that have allowed the full-size gym franchise to stand the test of time; operating for over 30 years, opening 350 clubs in 32 U.S. states and six countries, and selling over 1,300 rights since it began franchising just a decade ago.

“Sometimes franchising relationships can be contentious, but that’s been one of our most powerful reasons for growth: people feel that they’re being treated fairly and listened to,” explains Midgley.


Perhaps this year more than any in the history of franchising, consolidating your network and always being available for support has been pivotal in a brand’s development strategy. By prioritizing this, Crunch Fitness hasn’t just maintained throughout 2020 – the brand has thrived, with new openings and new franchises sold every single month of the pandemic, bar one.

This was thanks to Crunch’s exemplary guidance and support every step of the way, including its 40-page readiness plan which detailed the exact procedures and standards that all of its clubs would need to follow throughout the periods of shut-down and reopening. In fact, because this plan covered crucial steps like social distancing, signage, the use of PPE, and staff and member checks, it was also distributed to numerous states to assist with their own plans when navigating turbulent times. Much credit for this is due to the brand’s outstanding operations and marketing team.

“Throughout the shutdown, we had three to four webinars a week for franchisees to keep them informed and up-to-date on how they could communicate with their members, continue to offer training and classes, and prepare for reopening,” says Midgley. “Then, once reopened, we continued to inundate our franchisees with support. We sometimes had 400 people on a Zoom meeting at a time to provide information, and that’s just team members – we had different webinars for different people, which includes personal trainers, group fitness managers, club managers; we took our online learning system to a whole other level.”


On the consumer-facing side of Crunch Fitness, during the shutdown, the brand worked hard to ensure that when customers couldn’t visit its fully-stocked gyms, they could still get a solid workout in the comfort of their own homes.

One of the first steps towards achieving this was to make its Crunch Live offering, which was previously only offered to members that signed up to a specific level, available to all members across the board. This facilitated access to their usual routines which could be conducted at-home, through innovative video tutorials taking them through each and every step, flex, and stretch they needed to stay active.

“That’s been one of our most powerful reasons for growth; people feel that they’re being treated fairly and listened to”

Beyond that, Crunch began streaming exclusive live workouts to its audience on Facebook, through Crunch Live Unfiltered. This broadened the scope of the Crunch brand, and ensured that once the gyms began opening again, the Crunch Fitness customer base grew organically and dramatically. As the creators of the ‘No Judgments’ philosophy, which has been updated this year to ‘No Judgments, No Limits’, Crunch is always aiming to be as inclusive as possible.

“The Crunch brand is, in our opinion, the coolest fitness brand that you can be associated with,” says Midgley. “Our franchisees are among the best in the industry: they are passionate, engaged in operations, and they have very high standards. Having franchisee partners that respect the brand and the members that they serve makes all the difference.”


Anyone with their finger on the pulse of the fitness industry in recent years would be aware of the rise of ‘boutique’ franchise offerings, which are more niche in their approach and, as a result, often charge higher monthly fees for clients to work out in dedicated classes with specialized equipment.

For Crunch Fitness, the rise of boutiques hasn’t been a concern, because each Crunch gym offers a vast array of equipment and space so that guests are able to get the exact kind of workout they want, for the prices they’ve come to appreciate – in essence, you get everything under one roof at Crunch.

“We offer everything in one box,” explains Midgley. “The core of Crunch is its proprietary group fitness programming that no one else in the industry can offer. As is also true with our HIIT Zone, which is around 3,000 square feet of functional training equipment plus programming; all proprietary to us. There are wall-mounted units with punching bags, monkey bars, kettlebells, anvils, 100 feet of turf, plyo boxes, and much more. Additionally, we offer the Ride (for spinning fans), fantastic personal trainers, and finally our fully equipped Relax & Recover area. So Crunch Fitness essentially houses a full-sized club with multiple boutique concepts inside, but instead of paying $100 a month for classes, you can get the entire package for $20 a month.”


Looking ahead, Crunch Fitness is interested in expanding to as many countries as possible – provided it’s with the right kind of franchisee. “We’re looking for folks that are sophisticated, have franchise experience already, have back-office structure, an understanding of what it takes to source out sites and build them right, the know-how to follow brand standards, and, most importantly, create fun, energetic environments,” says Midgley.

To date, many of Crunch Fitness’ franchisees are multi-unit operators, because this allows members of its corporate team to build long-term, deep relationships to further the business. “Half of everything to make the business successful is maintaining good relationships with your franchisees.”


Crunch Fitness was launched in Australia in 2010 and is the market leader in the low-cost segment with the strongest value proposition on offer. The brand’s Australian network includes a diversified portfolio of 16 large-format, full-service clubs across the states of NSW and Victoria.

Crunch Fitness is locally managed by resident shareholders Selena and Lusiano Afeaki, who have over 40 years’ combined industry experience. They lead a passionate team who are focused on their mission to help over 70,000 members perspire to greatness.

Crunch Fitness Australia is positioned to continue its aggressive growth momentum, with two clubs currently under development and a dream to take the brand to all corners of the country.


The launch of CR7 Fitness By Crunch has been received enthusiastically by Crunch members in Southern Europe. The partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s largest sports star and most followed person on Instagram, garnered massive interest in the brand from members and potential partners alike.

“I am very excited about this incredible partnership that created the vision for CR7 Fitness By Crunch,” says Cristiano Ronaldo. “My goal is to motivate more people to pursue an active and healthy lifestyle and ‘Live life fit’. I look forward to expanding our concept throughout Southern Europe in the coming years!”

The dynamic group fitness offering, quality of machines and facilities, and the affordable price have helped to separate CR7 Fitness by Crunch from the competition. Membership acquisition has increased month over month, and retention rates have improved significantly. The staff take great pride in representing a brand established as a worldwide leader in health and fitness. Interest from potential franchisees has grown and numerous expansion opportunities are currently being pursued in Spain, Portugal, and Italy.


Prior to Crunch Fitness arriving in Canada, the co-chief executive officers, Wes Hodgson and Murray Middlemost, owned and operated 13 gyms under a different banner and were looking to grow a new and proven low-cost, full-size fitness model throughout the country.

In August 2017, they secured the master franchise rights to rapidly expand Crunch Fitness in the country, with 26 locations now open and selling over 80 franchises to-date.

The entire Canadian team embraced Crunch Fitness wholeheartedly, as it provided various opportunities for them to listen to members’ stories and accompany them on their fitness and wellness journeys. With much higher energy and drive in Crunch Fitness clubs, both staff and members quickly realized that Crunch was not a cookie-cutter company, but was an open-minded, cutting-edge, and inclusive brand that engaged everybody and fostered a genuine community.

Continuing to grow, Wes and Murray are expanding across Canada to reflect the franchise’s positive message of #ItsCrunchTime, as well as reminding their 120,000 existing members that exercising should always be fun and entertaining.


Established: 2010 (Crunch Franchising)

Number of franchised outlets: 335

Location of units: 32 States in the U.S as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia, Spain, Costa Rica

Investment range: $500,000 - $2.5m

Minimum required capital: $2m net worth, $400,000 liquid

Contact: John Merrion -

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