Anytime Fitness CEO, Chuck Runyon: “Europe is a key market”

2014 has been a monumental year for US health and fitness franchise, Anytime Fitness. Having been named number one in Entrepreneur magazine’s Top 500 list – beating Subway and 7eleven to the top spot – the brand has recently registered its 100th UK franchise owner. Gareth Samuel speaks exclusively to CEO Chuck Runyon about growth, fitness and tattoos.

Anytime Fitness has come a long way in a short space of time. The business began trading in 2002 and, just 12 years later, has used the franchise model to expand throughout the world – there are now more than 2500 locations in operation (all of which can be accessed through one membership).

CEO Chuck Runyon believes it is the simplicity of the business model combined with the convenience of the product offering, in a growing market, that has enabled the business to thrive in the way it has done. “I think that the business model is a bit simpler than some of our competitors. With the 24-hour access to gyms and the idea that each location does not have to be staffed,” he explains. “I think that as consumers we are all getting busier. It used to be that people would come in after work for a work out before going home for the evening. Now people want to do their exercise when they want which is partly why Anytime Fitness has seen such growth.”

At the beginning of the year, Anytime Fitness came in top of the pile when Entrepreneur magazine released its much anticipated Top 500 list, a prestigious achievement that highlighted the forward strides the company has made as a franchise offering in the growing health and fitness sector. One of the criteria the magazine measures the quality of a franchise on is franchisee satisfaction. Chuck adds: “We give franchise owners the choice of a few gym designs so they can pick how they would like their location to look in their area. Franchise owners get our full on-going support. We have over 2500 stores worldwide and so have seen everything before.” It is this flexibility for partners – in a sometimes-rigid industry – that has helped attract so many investors.

Anytime Fitness is the focal point of one of the most interesting corporate branding developments of recent times. Currently over 2000 people have the Anytime Fitness logo branded onto their skin because of the difference the gym has made to their life in one way or another. “The Anytime Fitness tattoo is something that really came about accidentally. At one of our annual conferences in the US, someone stood up and told the room a really moving story about how Anytime Fitness had changed their life and how they had a tattoo of the logo because of that. It just went from there really and now I think more than 2000 people, who have achieved something monumental, have the tattoo. We do help people change their lives and build their confidence and this tattoo idea is testament to this,” comments Chuck on the bizarre phenomenon.

Looking to the future, Anytime Fitness is determined to open more businesses outside of the US than it is within its home nation, to become a truly global health and fitness company. “We are off to a great start in Spain, Holland and of course here in the UK. Europe is a key market for us and we have just opened up our 100th franchise in the UK recently. This conference in Oxford reminded me very much of our early conferences in the US when we were just starting out, I think in the future Europe can become just as big a market for us,” concludes Chuck.