Wellness Centers and the Olive Garden

Mark Twain is famously quoted as having once said “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. I think the same can be said of the fitness industry today. Many people believe that the Covid 19 pandemic is the death knell of this once growing industry. It certainly is only fair to say that the industry, like our population is sick today. But like Mark Twain was at the time, it is still alive! In this case, I am convinced that it will come back to life, slowly perhaps, but when it does, it will be stronger than ever before.
When I was new to the industry and trying to quickly learn as much as I could from the leading experts, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar (back in the days when we did them in person!). The seminar was led by a man who is considered one of the leading experts on health club management. One of his topics was how successful clubs get through the unavoidable down period of the summer months. His lesson was that it was critical to create attractive programming or even special summer-only memberships; anything just to keep people in the club. For many of us who are experiencing those summers when our clubs become ghost towns, we know it’s tough to survive.
 His point is that a successful club must find a way to generate activity and keep people coming in. He likened it to his theory of the Olive Garden. Think about when you go past a new restaurant at dinner time and find the parking lot empty. Chances are you’ll pass it up until you find an Olive Garden where the parking lot is busy and people are waiting in a line that wraps outside, holding beepers to await their turn. Health clubs are similar. While prospective members will always ask “does it get too crowded in here?”, an empty club can be an even bigger deterrent to membership than a robust crowd.
People are social beings and those who think that the only product of any of our wellness centers is to provide equipment for workouts are just dead wrong. Many of our members can afford to buy quality exercise equipment for home use (and many, in fact, do). But they choose to work out in our centers because of the socialization, friendships, companionship and interactions that they get when they join us. It may come slowly, but just watch; there will be a resurgence to the fitness/wellness industry and it will be huge.