By Peter Saunders
Over the past five years, Orangetheory Fitness has enjoyed fast growth in Canada with its trainer-led group workout studios, starting in Alberta and continuing in Ontario and Manitoba, to the point where it now has 52 locations. Designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of customers, the franchise concept’s goal is to ensure 12 to 20 minutes of training at 84 per cent or more of the participants’ maximum heart rate range, known as the ‘orange zone.’ To this end, participants wear heart rate monitors during their sessions.
“It’s an innovative style of workout,” says Hifa Maleki, vice-president (VP) of franchise development and operations for Canada. “Once you try it, you leave feeling different—not just right after the workout, but hours later, too.”
That ‘afterburn’ effect has proven successful not only in earning repeat and referral business, but also in recruiting franchisees like Sherri Staffen of Burlington, Ont.
“My husband Tim and I went to the corporate head office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in December 2012,” she recalls. “We did the workout to experience it ourselves and were so impressed, we signed on the next month.”
In fact, they bought the area development rights for the Golden Horseshoe, including Burlington, Hamilton, Oakville, Milton, Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, Ont. They opened their first studio in Burlington in January 2014.
“No one in the area had heard about Orangetheory yet, but word of mouth soon drove business to us,” says Staffen. “It helped that people are always ready in January to try a new workout!”
They expanded to Oakville in 2015, Waterloo in 2016 and Guelph and Hamilton in 2017. Each studio is between 2,800 and 3,500 square feet.
“It’s easier for us to find real estate compared to the ‘big box’ gyms,” says Maleki. “We mainly look for suburban plazas with strong anchor tenants, as parking and accessibility are important, but we also have some locations that
are more urban, including one in Toronto’s Greektown.”
The next frontier for expansion may be Montreal.
“We’re looking at rent packages there,” says Maleki. “We want to make sure our franchisees can open and be profitable right out of the gate.”