Unconventional Hospitality


Q: Why did you accept the job of CEO at Crunch?

A: The thing that attracted me about this job was that Crunch is such an undeniable brand in the marketplace, and I saw that it was exciting and that it was outside of the box. And I thought that has very much to do with my whole career of sort of doing the same thing in the hotel business. I thought that it would be interesting to come in and shake it up a bit the way that I've done in my past career. The fitness business is so exciting. It's all about service at the end of the day, and I just think that Crunch is the brand that I wanted to be aligned with.

Q: How does your past work experience in the hotel industry help you in your CEO role at Crunch?

A: A big part of my career was spent actually working in the brand arena for hotels, figuring out what made hotels tick and how to make them appealing to the consumer and how to really create an audience and a fan base. We also spent a lot of time working on loyalty and how to create loyalty programs and environments that were all about irresistible offerings.

I feel like Crunch is just ripe for both of those things. It's really ready to take the foundation of its brand and to explode it a little bit and see what else is out there and how to fortify it. I also think that in our industry, we really need to start focusing on how to look at the members that are working out with us every day and make sure that they stay working out with us every day.

Q: What do you think about Crunch's hip, unconventional image?

A: Crunch was devised to be unconventional and really outside the box. I think that we are seeing so much of that in the consumer experience in general. I think what's happening so much in the consumer world at large is that there are people that now have an understanding for “different.” Our lives and our consumers' lives are not all based upon homogenized offerings, but they're really based on a point of view, and I think Crunch definitely was founded on a point of view of being different than everyone else and being slightly irreverent and fun.

And that's what we try to do every day. We try to provide an offering that is different and unique but thoughtful and a little provocative.

Q: How do you anticipate Crunch Fitness will change with you as CEO?

A: We're really going to focus on what makes us special and unique. I think that's really what our obligation in the marketplace is.

Like I said earlier, I think we are really going to focus on the membership experience and what it means to be a member of Crunch and that it's not just about getting on a treadmill or pressing some free weights [but it's] really all about that experience of working out at our club. And working out at Crunch is really being part of a community, and that's kind of a spot that we can play in very, very easily, and that's kind of what excites me, providing an experience for members that is unlike anyplace else. That's really what our focus is going to be about.

Q: What are your key initiatives, and what new service initiatives are you creating at Crunch?

A: Part of what we want to focus on is the whole idea of it being more than just a place to work out. So we really want to focus on our activities that we're doing with members, and we want to focus on social activities that aren't all about athletics. We want to get into employee mixers and parties, and we want to fortify our juice bar effort and make sure that in the clubs that we have sort of a center of activity and a center of community for our members so they feel like they're part of something.

We also really want to focus on the service piece in our clubs. We really want to focus on not just being different but being incredibly warm and being incredibly welcoming into our clubs.

I feel like somewhere along the line in a lot of our industry, that sort of goes out the door, and we are just worried about getting members in, but we really want to focus on making them really happy and part of it all while they are there.

Q: What are you doing to increase member retention?

A: In the hotel industry, we focused a lot of time on how to make sure the guests came back and spent time with us every time they were in that city. I really look at membership retention as being the same thing. I really look at membership retention as creating experiences that are just irresistible. When you create an experience that is irresistible and you're providing a great product and you have a staff that is welcoming and fun and very inclusive, I think that solves the membership retention piece.

I don't think we are going to re-invent the wheel, but I think we are going to the basics, and instead of just focusing on sales and instead of focusing on the things that are all about attracting new members, we really want to spend a lot of time keeping the members that we have engaged and happy. A lot of people forget to fully engage their members because I think that if you are providing a fun, exciting and engaging experience, you won't want to go someplace else — you'll want to stay where you are. I think that's true for so many things in life and certainly true in the gym when we go several times a week, and we just want to be engaged in that experience and be stimulated.

Q: How have you viewed the evolution of the club industry through the years, whether it's membership demographics, programming, staffing, pricing or the feel of the facilities?

A: I think it's fascinating. I've been a gym member for 25 years. I've been a regular, serious workout guy pretty much all my life. I guess being in something, you slowly watch it evolve.

To me, what's so great about the industry is that it really listens to what its membership wants. Crunch is in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta. We're in big, booming, bustling cities. We tend to cater to people that work really hard. When they're in the gym, they want to work out really hard and play really hard. And I think that's what the industry has evolved into, to let people get in and be really very serious about whatever they want to do. [If] they want to take the most cutting-edge group fitness class, we allow them to do that. If they want to get in and do some personal training and get a very efficient workout with an expert, I think the industry is turning towards that.

The interesting thing for me, and one of the things that is sort of profound, is how the industry at large has sort of kept up. What Crunch did early on in its inception was Crunch was innovative, and Crunch led the way. That's what we really want to focus on going forward. How do we want to continue to be an innovator? How do we want to continue to rethink the model of fitness and shake it up on its head a little bit?

For more on the future of Crunch Fitness and the latest on the “Claymation Crunchers,” read the full interview with Tim Miller online at www.fitnessbusinesspro.com/mag/tim-miller.

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