Boutique gyms are like fancy restaurants

Long gone are the times gym and classes were hobby for only the most dedicated. Similarly, long gone are the times the only option to keep fit, was to commit to a 12-month membership at the local gym. Specialized, luxurious pay-as-you-go options have taken London by storm during the last year.

Obviously – not everyone wants to commit for long contracts, or enjoys working out on their own, or has space for HIIT exercises at home or a park to run nearby – we are in the London, of course.

Rise of the experience economy.  Experiences a luxury. The chance to brag by filling your Instagram feed with pictures from the locker rooms and balanced yoga poses and toned arms – well, that all helps of course. The trend of staying healthy instead of aiming to be a skinny, anorexic looking corpse, helps as well. No one is relying on coffee and cigarets diets any more, at least not publicly.

As fitness is the new going out, cash spent on one work out session is easy to rationalize: A glass of nice wine to meet friends – over £10. Spin class –  £15. Is it then actually that much?

At the same time, the pay-as-you-go model is vulnerable for the business. When you have no stable cash flow from memberships, what if no one comes to you? What if the next trend is not you, but next to you?

All this is familiar for restaurants. Actually food and nutrition are the perfect analogy for fitness. There is the everyday food you get from grocery shop and cook yourself (running in the park, the yoga session on your own), the ready-made sushi you get from Waitrose or the salad from Pret-A-Magner (Gymbox membership) and then the occasional afternoon tea or dinner in a nice restaurant (the pay as you go fitness class). Also the nice Italian needs to prove itself every night, just as the trendy new Asian and the classic French reaching for Michelin – if you are not good enough, if the consumers’ taste changes, no one will come and eat. No one has committed to pay for the meals every night.

The instructor might be the chef and waiter, or maybe the chef has created the class and the instructor is only delivering as the waiter does. The front desk is the headwaiter. Location is important: You have to be easy to reach, on the way or worth the trip. Nice surroundings and beautiful facilities can help and help to make an impression, but no one is coming to the class only because of the rain drop shower or designer chairs.

There is only the food critic missing from the equation – so I am going to occupy that role.

More to come soon.