Questions for Studio Owners Who Have Reopened Their Doors

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

.We sat down with two different studio owners to understand their reopening strategy, how reopening went, and what they’re thinking about for the future.  Read on to find out how Kim Syma (Revolution Studio) and Christa Gurka (Pilates in the Grove) have navigated reopening their studios:

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Christa Gurka

CEO

Pilates in the Grove

Screenshot 2020-06-25 14.20.52

Kim Syma

Founder

Revolution Studio

Q: Did you reopen on the date your state/local government allowed it? How did it go?

A:

Christa Gurka
We re-opened two days after the original date due to the state of the country with protests regarding systemic racism in our country. We decided to pause our opening to stand in solidarity with those combating racial injustice. We donated what would have been sales for those two days to an organization fighting inequalities.  The opening went well. We were almost fully booked within 48 hours. We had been planning for this day for weeks so we were ready.

Kim Syma
We waited almost one month. In Texas, gyms were allowed to reopen on May 18 but we did not choose to open until June 13. We did a survey of our community and the responses indicated the majority of people wanted to wait a little bit before returning. Based on the survey results and our own comfort level with being open and in close contact with the public we decided to wait a bit. Another factor that played into our reopen timeline was that while we were closed we transitioned our technology, which took place on June 9. We decided it was better to reopen fresh with new technology and the delayed reopen gave us enough time to train our team on the new policies and procedures along with the new technology.

Q: How did your clients respond? Did people show up? What's the layout/capacity you're working with? Are you making it work at the lesser capacity?

A:

Christa Gurka
Clients responded well and followed the guidelines without issue so far, We were at 80% of our available capacity by the end of our first week. We have limited class size of 4 clients per class spaced 10 feet apart to avoid having to wear masks. Our 1:1 schedule is also limited at least time with allowing only 2 instructors at the studio with clients at any given time. While we are happy to be almost full at our lesser capacity we realize this will be a struggle if it continues for an extended period of time but we are happy to at least be moving in a positive direction.  

Kim Syma
Our “hard-core” clients overwhelmingly showed up. Our cycle rooms fit 35, 48, and 44 at our three studios and capacity is now 14, 16, and 22 respectively. We mapped the room based on 6 feet social distance. We are operating at 50% capacity or less in our Cycle rooms, and we do not have as many schedule options as we did prior to closure. That said, all our classes are full and they waitlist within the first 30 minutes of the schedule being released. It seems like a great problem to have but we have a lot of clients complaining they can’t get into class. Based on memberships and recurring revenue at this point we are choosing not to expand our schedule and overextending ourselves when it comes to payroll and expenses. As we gain members back our plan is to add more classes to allow more opportunities for clients to get in and make use of their membership. At the same time, we have also received a lot of messages from clients saying they are not comfortable returning and will be joining us virtually until they feel safe to return. 

Q: What new measures/protocols did you put into place, particularly around cleaning, staffing, and training?

A:

Christa Gurka
We have no more than 3 instructors at the studio at any given time (we have three separate rooms for each instructor) + 1 administrative team member. Classes/Sessions have been cut down to 45 minutes to allow for proper cleaning between clients. We spray each piece of equipment with EPA approved disinfectant between clients as well as have the studios deep cleaned with biostatic disinfectant several times a week.  

Kim Syma
We updated our waiver to include language around COVID. We also have a wellness certification form that guests must fill out before taking class. Before COVID our classes had 15 minute room turnarounds. Now we have 45 minutes between each class so that our cleaning crew can sanitize and disinfect all equipment and surfaces. We purchased a commercial cleaner that meets the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, and that is being used to sanitize and disinfect everything. We hired 2 more dedicated, professional cleaners whose sole responsibility is to clean and disinfect the studio throughout the shifts. We had a week of training our staff on our new policies and the new procedures we implemented: one guest at a time at the desk, contactless check-in, staff stays at the desk, instructor remains 6 feet apart from guests throughout the class. We detailed our new Safety Standards in multiple emails to our clients and posted the information on our website and around our studios.

Q: How did you re-engage clients and your community?

A:

Christa Gurka
We never stopped engaging with them. From the day we closed we sent weekly emails, held Virtual Classes, Specialty Online Workshops and even did monthly check n calls with clients to see how they were doing and if they needed anything. We sent our surveys several weeks prior to opening asking our clients what they would need to feel comfortable returning to the studio so we would be prepared for what needed to happen upon reopening. So when the time came everyone was ready to go.

Kim Syma
Fortunately, our team did a great job of keeping clients engaged while we were closed. We hosted “spirit week” through social media and the outpouring from our community was incredible! We did Virtual IG live Happy Hours, Q & A’s with instructors, Tik Tok challenges, and more. We also launched an On Demand platform that we gave a free subscription to members who maintained an active membership while we were closed. Those members took Virtual classes with us and stayed engaged with our instructors, our product, and our brand. That said, I think the way we engaged the community while closed set us up to have the community excited and ready for us to reopen. We also launched a new retail collection upon reopen and people responded extremely positively. They were excited to be back in the studio and show us support.

Q: What are you doing differently now than you did pre-Covid (across the board)?

A:

Christa Gurka
How we treat and service our clients never changed. One of our Core Values is Customer Commitment and that value was certainly tested during this time but we will always put to customer first. We have had to innovate and get comfortable with technology to provide online and virtual sessions, re-evaluate our future growth potential, get buy in on the new normal from our team and our customers. We are really leaning on each other both as a team and a community to make this work together.   

Kim Syma
We have completely revamped the way we run our Studio shifts. We’ve done away with several policies we once had in place that were causing us to have too many staff members on shift and our payroll expenses suffered as a result. For example, our team no longer answers the phone before a class. We found that we had trained clients to call us if they were running late. This resulted in 5-10 phone calls right before class which essentially took one person’s  entire focus and then required another person to run the check-in. We did away with the phone and “call us if you’re late”. Instead we implemented a no late admittance policy and it’s shocking to see the same clients who once were habitually late now arrive on time when they don’t have the crux of calling. This one little change frees up our staff to focus on clients in the studio and we can operate with less people running the desk. We are operating leaner and more efficiently. With the new shift structure and updates to how we operate, we feel confident we can keep shifts lean and efficient if/when we are able to go back to operating at full capacity. 

Q: What's been your biggest surprise upon reopening?

A:

Christa Gurka
We were surprised at who decided to return to the studio and who didn’t. Had you asked me prior to this ever happening I would have guessed differently. I was also surprised with the choices some people from our team chose to make during this crisis.

Kim Syma
That everyone has a very strong opinion about COVID and these opinions vary widely. One person will be upset that the bikes are 6 feet apart while another will feel they are too close. Some people will think you are going overboard and some people will think you are not doing enough. That said, we as a company have had to remain steadfast in following CDC guidelines, going above and beyond in our own cleaning protocols, and remaining true to our own comfort level for the safety and well-being of our employees and our community. We cannot please everyone but we can be diligent in our effort to operate as safely as possible while following all local and state Government mandates.

Q: Anything else to add?

Christa Gurka
To be honest I am feeling excited. Not about the struggles that lie ahead especially in the next few months. BIG decisions will have to made. BUT I am excited about the possibilities of innovating and designing new and improved programs and growth opportunities for the company. That is going to be incredibly important (I believe) for those businesses that will survive and those that may not.




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