Restaurateur turned Anytime Fitness gym owner: Raj Hasib’s Franchise Success Story

Raj Hasib had experience running hospitality businesses but, like many small business owners, he found it hard to scale the business up. With spiralling wage costs and no time to dedicate to marketing the company, he was drowning in the day-to-day work with no chance to focus on growing the business.

Raj had always had an interest in the franchise model.

‘I liked that you could open up one site and scale it up to 10 or 15. Sometimes being in business can be a bit lonely but, with a franchise network, you’ve got a team. And I think that’s key.’

Raj attended The National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC, Birmingham, looking for a food and beverage franchise because of his experience in the industry. He hadn’t even considered a non-food-related business but on entering the exhibition hall he was amazed by all the options on offer. ‘It was a bit of a surprise actually because I wasn’t thinking about a gym. I discussed how the Anytime Fitness model works and the set-up and it excited me more than anything else and I became quite determined. I liked that it was health-related – a product you can sell without feeling guilty that someone doesn’t need it!’

He looked at a few other options at the exhibition but Anytime Fitness ticked all the boxes and opened up his eyes to the possibilities. ‘I felt like I got on with the team well, and that was very important to me. The guy on the stand was really approachable and open, and when I met the team behind the scenes I got on with them too. For me, that’s essential – building that kind of partnership relationship with a business.’

Raj found that meeting franchisors face-to-face at The National Franchise Exhibition was paramount in making his decision to start a franchise business.

‘It really gives you time to talk to all these like-minded people.’ After his initial conversation at the exhibition, he went to their head office a few days later and the rest is history. ‘I signed up within about two weeks of going to the exhibition!’

Now all that remained was for Raj to find a site for his new business. Site selection was limited at the time as landlords could get higher rents from a restaurant or a college than a gym. Despite the challenges, he came across a premises in Headington, Oxford, where he would open his first Anytime Fitness gym in September 2019. ‘It was exhilarating, seeing it all come to life,’ he remembers. Within six months he had more than 1,000 members and was breaking even. ‘Word of mouth started going around and people were coming in and signing up. Our conversion rate was 90 per cent. In fact, we had a better first two months of the opening year than we did with the entire pre-sale.’

And then COVID struck! Plans to open a second site in Daventry, Northamptonshire, were put on hold until October 2020. But by April 2021 the building was ready, perfectly timed just as the country was emerging from lockdown. ‘We were ready to open the week restrictions were lifted which was fantastic. It was great timing – everyone was desperate to get back in the gym!’ Again within six months he had broken even and hit the thousand members mark.

Fast-forward to 2024 and Raj is delighted with his franchise team and, crucially, most of the people he’s been working with since the beginning are still there, enabling him to build a rapport over time. He believes that Anytime Fitness has evolved to keep up with the competition and that, above all, location is key.

Currently Raj is looking at a third site that he’s very close to taking on, which represents fantastic progress five years on from opening his first gym.

Raj has good advice for budding franchisees, recommending that when you approach the stand of a franchisor, you should specifically ask what’s expected of you and what they can offer you in return. ‘It’s a two-way partnership, and the franchisors won’t want to sell a license to someone who’s not going to be there driving the business.’ Commitment from both sides is what’s required.

More than anything, he says, do your research and make sure it’s something that fits your lifestyle.

‘It’s a hands-on business, so you can’t just step back and let your team do it for you. You have to be the driving force and know exactly what you want to achieve with the business. It’s an investment and will be a huge part of your life.’

Raj’s success story is a great example of the life-changing opportunities offered by The Franchise Exhibitions. Interested in following in his footsteps? Find out more about upcoming events and book your free tickets today!

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