Want to open a second gym? Ask yourself if you’re the ingredients or the chef.

October 18, 2023

Is it time to start thinking about gym expansion?

Dreaming about opening your second premises?

There’s a question you need to ask yourself first. And the answer to this question can determine whether your expanded business will float or sink.

Is your gym successful because of the chef, or the ingredients? More on that soon.

Before we explore that question, take a moment to consider the fact that there are more ways to scale than just geographically. Twice the premises can mean twice the stress, twice the overheads, twice the problems… and half the quality of life.

And sure, it might also mean twice the profit, but if your quality of life is impacted, is it really worth it?

Let’s assume it is worth it – back to the question at hand. Is your business all about the chef, or all about the ingredients?

Is your current success due to your personal touch – the chef – or the systems and experiences in place, the ingredients?

Let’s explore this literally, using the example of Celebrity Chef, Jamie Oliver’s failure Italian restaurant chain, ‘Jamie’s Italian’.

At its peak, it appeared as though the celebrity chef’s golden touch had transferred seamlessly from television to the restaurant business. But the chain eventually faltered and one of the reasons was evident: Jamie Oliver couldn’t be in every kitchen. His unique charm and culinary expertise, which had been pivotal in the restaurant’s early success, simply couldn’t be scaled. So, before expanding, gym owners should ask themselves: am I the chef, or do I have the right ingredients?

In the chef-centric model, your business relies on you. Your personality, your unique selling proposition, your point of difference.

If most of your clients flock to your gym because of your personal training methods, charisma, or direct involvement in day-to-day operations, then you might be the chef. When the success of a venture is closely tied to a single individual’s presence, scaling becomes a challenge. The brand and identity of such establishments often hinge on the owner’s personal brand. Opening another gym might dilute that experience and disappoint clients who expect your personal touch.

In this model, expansion might not be the best idea – at least not geographic expansion.

You should explore other ways to scale your business. Strategies centred around improving the client experience, and by doing so, increasing the average revenue per client and the number of clients. Expanding your offerings can also be a viable strategy – you have a receptive audience who know, like and trust you. Capitalise on them. Your know their problems and pain points, what other tools can you offer to solve these pain points?

The mistake I seem most people make is that they assume their business is about the ingredients, while in fact it’s all about the chef.

On the other hand, if your success is attributed to a well-oiled machine of systems, routines, and experiences that can function smoothly even in your absence, then you’re working with the right ingredients. This is a more scalable model, where trained staff can consistently replicate the experience across multiple locations.

Let’s revisit the restaurant analogy. Think of the biggest restaurant chains – they’re usually fast food. The product is consistent, but average. And there’s a place for that. But maybe you don’t want to be consistently average. These are the 24 hour gyms of the world. And again, there’s nothing wrong with that – people need quick, convenient exercise – just like they need quick, convenient food.

I don’t necessarily want you to question your drive for growth (though that is worth questioning too). But I do want you to question your method of growth.

Is your business successful because of the chef, or the ingredients?

If you can answer that question, the next step you take should be clear.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

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