To achieve success in today’s competitive market, you must focus on increasing retention and generating greater revenue per member. Consumers today are seeking more than just exercise from their gym; it is therefore essential for your facility to meet their broader need. Adding a cost-effective profit center is the key to achieving this goal.
Lucrative profit centers are an important part of a solid business plan. More specifically, nutrition is a fundamental element in overall wellness. However, it is often an underutilized area of programming. Suitable nutrition plays a large role in whether members reach their fitness goals. Having a nutritional component at your facility will help members associate your business with positive results. Nutrition services are the perfect companion to your current personal training and group exercise programs. Personal trainers and dietitians agree that proper nutrition and exercise combined is crucial to success (Atkinson 2007). By offering nutrition services, your facility will improve overall client results, add new revenue streams, increase retention and provide creative options for packaging services to attract new members.
Evaluate Members’ Needs
The first step in offering a nutrition program is to consider the needs of your membership. Program offerings that are consistent with what your members want will yield the greatest participation and adherence. Survey your membership base to determine their main nutrition interests so that you increase the likelihood of enrollment in your program. You can conduct the survey over the phone, online on your club’s website or using hard-copy questionnaires. Include questions such as these:
- Do you find value in nutrition education?
- Would you be willing to pay an additional fee for a nutrition program?
- What times of the day would you be most likely to participate in a nutrition program?
- What areas of healthy eating are you most interested in learning more about?
- Are you interested in gaining information about specialized diets (e.g., vegetarian, low-fat, gluten-free)?
- Are you interested in learning about nutrition for weight loss and strength building?
- Are you interested in learning about nutrition for disease management?
- Are you interested in learning about the varying nutritional needs of different populations (e.g., children, women, senior citizens)?
Once you have identified your members’ key needs and topics of interest, focus your programming specifically on these areas.
Ask the Expert
Invest in hiring a registered dietitian (RD) to lead your nutrition program. The program’s success lies not only in the RD’s level of education and expertise but also in the expert’s ability to motivate both staff and members. Therefore, when selecting the professional for this position, also consider passion, presence, energy and networking skills as key criteria (King 2009). You can find potential candidates by consulting your local chapter of the American Dietetic Association.
An experienced RD will know not only the basics of proper nutrition but also the best ways to convey this information to members. Nutritional needs vary depending on the individual’s current health status and fitness goals. So whether your members have a specific objective, such as losing weight or reducing high blood pressure, or whether they are looking for overall ways to stay fit and healthy, a dietetics professional can aid them in finding their way through the countless health and nutrition claims. An RD should be able to create sessions and consultations that include education; psychological exercises to enhance knowledge and overcome emotional obstacles; information on how to set realistic goals; and strategies for creating a personalized plan for healthy eating.
One facility that has hired an RD to start a nutrition program is 21st Century Health Club in Windsor, California. This facility has a full-time RD on staff who works closely with each client to develop effective, individualized plans that emphasize moderation, smart food choices and integration of positive health behaviors into daily life. In addition, the RD offers a variety of services, including group weight loss classes, menu planning, personal shopping and development of strategies for dining out.
Diversify Your Offerings
Different people have different learning styles as well as different nutrition and wellness objectives. Therefore, your facility’s nutrition program must not have a “one-size-fits-all” approach. By varying your program offerings, you will attract greater participation.
Consider offering both private, one-on-one nutrition counseling and group programming at various price points. These flexible options allow you to cater to multiple learning styles and personal budgets.
For example, the Ambassador Wellness Center, with various locations in Nebraska, conducts a “Learn to Lose” program. Each “Learn to Lose” session consists of six group classes and individual nutrition counseling. Participants record their progress on personalized charts. The program also includes weekly e-mail updates, tips and inspiration.
Furthermore, think about providing regular “nutrition events,” such as special guest speakers, cooking demonstrations and seasonal healthy-recipe booklets around various holidays. You can frequently share nutrition information with members through your club’s newsletter, website and bulletin boards. Include articles, grocery shopping suggestions and meal-planning tips. The idea is to give members as many opportunities as possible to learn and experience the benefits of healthy nutrition at your facility.
Club BodFit, located in Tampa, Florida, achieves this objective with its on-site gourmet health-food café, Beneficial Health and Nutrition LLC (BHN). In addition to selling members 100% all-natural fruit smoothies, BHN offers low-glycemic-index options, low-fat salads and wraps, as well as its own line of vitamin and herbal supplements for maintaining optimal health.
Another great way to involve clients is to organize small groups; for example, a weight loss group, a sports nutrition group and/or a diabetes management group. These groups allow members to build relationships with like-minded individuals and to share what they are learning.
Market Your Program
Implementing a nutrition program is the first step. Equally important is the second step: ensuring that your members take advantage of it. Creative marketing is vital to long-term success. Below are five tips for marketing your new program:
- Offer one free introductory class and/or one free individual consultation to all members when you first introduce your program.
- Partner with local grocery stores, health food shops and doctor’s offices. Provide brochures and fliers for these partners to distribute to customers and patients.
- Dedicate a section of your website to promoting your new program, and offer Web-only discounts.
- Design an ongoing storybook of testimonials from program participants who have successfully achieved their fitness goals.
- Train staff to cross-sell. For example, your trainers can introduce nutrition services to clients during their sessions, and staff involved in your nutrition program can suggest personal training to complement the new dietary practices, thus increasing participation in both profit centers.
Whether your facility is big or small, nutrition programming is a worthwhile service to your members as well as a good income source for your bottom line. There’s much more to making a profit than collecting membership dues. If you can add value to the overall member experience by offering a nutrition program that is smartly priced and convenient, you’ll set your facility up for better retention rates as well as increased revenue. A true win-win situation.
Try using these tips to create a winning nutrition program:
- Provide downloadable nutrition tools—such as a printable food journal or monthly healthy recipes—on your website.
- Encourage participants to enroll with a friend. That way, they are more likely to stick with the program long term.
- Team up with local restaurants, cooking schools or health food shops that can provide educational presentations and cooking workshops.
- Encourage each participant to keep a daily food diary; then track progress through regular meetings in which staff can suggest dietary improvements.
- Provide only healthy food products at your juice bar and in your pro shop and vending machines.
- Post success stories, healthy cooking tips and nutrition resources on your main bulletin board.
Atkinson, D. 2007. Nutrition programs for profit. Fitness Management (Sept.).
King, H. 2009. Impact your bottom line with nutrition programs. Fitness Business Pro (Aug.).
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