Based in Hampton, New Hampshire, Planet Fitness (PFIP LLC) is an American fitness center franchisor and operator. One of the largest fitness club franchises in terms of both members and locations, the company claims to have 2,039 clubs. There are franchises for this company in the US, Canada, Australia, Panama, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. It has received both praise and criticism for its environment because it bills itself as a “Judgment Free Zone” [sic] that welcomes new and casual gym-goers. It is reportedly the fastest-growing fitness center franchise in the country.
The founders of Planet Fitness, Michael, and Marc Grondahl bought a struggling Gold’s Gym location in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1992.
They eventually closed that first location and added Chris Rondeau, the current CEO, as a third partner. They renamed their franchise in 2002 after buying Rick Berks’ trademark for the name Planet Fitness.
In 1993, Berks opened his first Planet Fitness gym in Sunrise, Florida. Over time, he added two more locations and a Gold’s Gym franchise.
In his Gold’s Gym Berks had been promoting the bodybuilding lifestyle. I opened the first Planet Fitness facility in Sunrise, Florida, in 1993 after deciding I didn’t want to deal with that crowd. The name, “Fitness Planet,” was inspired by his daughter’s school project. The new design aimed to give regular people access to a fitness center.
Later, in St. Petersburg, Florida, Berks established the first Youfit Health Club.
Rondeau and the Grondahls understood that if they altered the gym environment, both in attitude and format, by developing a non-intimidating, affordable model, they would have a greater opportunity to serve a much larger segment of the population.
Planet Fitness developed a reputation as the “Judgement Free Zone,” catering more to regular users than to fitness enthusiasts who are bodybuilders.
In order to compete with more well-known brands, they also drastically lowered prices.
This low-cost business model depends on many members infrequently attending, and it prioritizes the needs of occasional or new health club members rather than those of more seasoned ones.
In a 2014 episode of Planet Money, it was revealed that “half of the Planet Fitness members never go to their gyms.”
Planet Fitness has turned off many dedicated weight lifters in an effort to create a welcoming environment. When the gym patron grunts excessively or drops weights, the gym uses a “lunk alarm,” which sounds a loud siren and rotates a light. The way some bodybuilders and weightlifters are portrayed in Planet Fitness TV commercials and treated in Planet Fitness gyms has been described as “quite possibly discriminatory” by some of these individuals. Many experts believe that certain weightlifting exercises, like deadlifts and clean-and-jerks, are very effective, but Planet Fitness has come under fire for banning them.
Planet Fitness was dubbed “the worst gym in America” by Men’s Health magazine in 2010.
The “Judgement Free Zone” policy was expanded in March 2015 to permit trans women to use the women’s restroom. “Members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity,” the policy reads.
Eric Dore and Shane McGuiness helped Planet Fitness opens its first franchised location in Florida in 2003.
TSG Consumer Partners LLC joined the Planet Fitness franchise as an equity partner in the fall of 2013.
Chris Rondeau succeeded Michael Grondahl, the co-founder of Planet Fitness, as CEO. On August 6, 2015, the business went public.
The franchise was ranked first in the Franchise Times’ “Fast and Serious” list of top franchises in February 2016; in addition, Forbes magazine ranked Planet Fitness fourth in its 2016 ranking of franchises. It came in the top 50 of the 2017 Franchise 500 list published by Entrepreneur magazine.
The business faced criticism in 2020 for billing customers for March dues “to closing its facilities nationwide due to the novel coronavirus pandemic,” according to the company.
They claimed that while they couldn’t immediately stop the pre-scheduled payments, they would delay charging future monthly dues until they reopened and give credit for any previously paid for closed days.
While many Planet Fitness locations were shut down when the COVID pandemic first started, there was no decrease in gym usage during the Delta and Omicron variants of Planet Fitness.