As many health club operators try to determine how to reach the deconditioned market, Snap Fitness, Chanhassen, MN, is trying something new in that area. The company is opening 960-square-foot modular fitness centers at Pilot Flying J travel centers. The Snap Fitness Rolling Strong clubs will target the 4 million Americans who make their living as professional truck drivers.
“Most people don’t really look at that as a target market,” Gary Findley, COO at Snap Fitness, says of truckers.
Bob Perry, who is president of Rolling Strong, a company that provides health and wellness services to trucking companies and their drivers, approached Findley and Peter Taunton, CEO of Snap Fitness, with the idea, and they said yes.
“From the first time that I met Peter and Gary, I knew this was the right fit,” Perry says. “I can’t say enough [about] how great they were. Snap just got it. Peter was the right person. He knew truck drivers. They said, ‘Wow, yes, this is a population that clearly is not being served.’”
Perry, who also is the chairman for the American Trucking Association’s Safety Management Council’s Health & Wellness Working Group, is known in the trucking industry as “The Trucker Trainer” because of his late-night fitness- and nutrition-oriented radio show and because of his Rolling Strong company.
Perry’s family has been in the trucking industry for 70 years, which has led Perry to a long relationship with Pilot Flying J, which has about 500 travel centers across the country that cater to truckers. Many truckers “live” at the centers during their required down time using services such as showers, laundry facilities, movie-viewing areas and restaurants.
The three groups have entered into a partnership in which Snap Fitness corporate would own the modular facilities and rent space from Pilot Flying J, Knoxville, TN, to “drop” the modular units in their parking lots. Rolling Strong would market the clubs to truckers.
The first of the facilities is scheduled to open this month in Dallas. Snap has committed to opening another 10 facilities in the first quarter of 2012, possibly culminating in 50 or more facilities eventually, depending on how the concept is received, Findley says.
“We will do as many of these as we need to get the coverage,” Findley says.
Location of future facilities will be on the north/south and east/west highways that are most traveled by truckers, some of which Snap has already targeted. Findley declined to specify where those facilities will be, as the locations may still change.
Snap franchisees should not worry about these facilities competing with theirs, he says.
“Most travel centers are on the highway, typically on the outskirts of town,” Findley says. “We’ll make sure we don’t put one where we have a Snap already.”
The Snap Fitness Rolling Strong clubs will cost about $150,000 to build and equip, which is about $100,000 to $150,000 less than a typical Snap Fitness center, Findley says. The facilities will include about 10 pieces of equipment, including treadmills, bikes, cable machines and dumbbells.
The facilities will be staffed at times. Truckers can sign up online for memberships at $29.95 per month. Once they receive their membership/key card in the mail, they can access the Snap facilities at anytime.
Truckers who join the Snap Fitness Rolling Strong facilities have access to any other Snap Fitness clubs. Likewise, Snap Fitness members can access these Snap Fitness Rolling Strong clubs when they are on the road.
These facilities will not only change the trucking industry, Perry says, but they also will infuse a new burst of membership into the club industry from a group that normally would not belong to a gym.
For years, Perry has talked about bringing workout facilities to truckers, but he was often met with resistance from people who said that truckers would not exercise.
“They say that these drivers are not going to work out, but that’s ignorant thinking,” Perry says. “These people want to do it; it’s just no one has brought it to them. This is a population that is underserved.”
But if all goes well with these new centers, that may soon change.