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5 Fitness Franchises Getting Buff

5. Anytime Fitness

Corporate locations: 15

Franchise fee: $26,999 for the first franchise

Investment: maximum of $354,000

Monthly customer fee: varies by club, average $39

Anytime Fitness prides itself on being the affordable investment option for franchisees looking to get into the fitness space. Launched in 2002, Anytime Fitness has nearly 2,000 24-hour fitness centers in 11 countries, with 279 of them opened in 2011 alone. The company has approximately 1.5 million members.

"Many businesses can grow quickly and other companies specialize in earning customer loyalty," CEO and co-founder Chuck Runyon recently said in a press release. "We take great pride in having accomplished both of those things simultaneously. We've done so by focusing first on the needs of busy people who simply want to lead a healthier lifestyle and then by providing our franchisees with the practical tools, technology and educational support to help members achieve their goals."

Franchisees' start-up costs range from $71,599 to $353,900, but unlike most franchisees, regardless of industry, Anytime Fitness franchisees don't pay monthly royalties. Instead they pay a flat $499 monthly payment to the company.

Franchisees also go through training and strong ongoing development programs. Each new franchisee is assigned to a team of consultants, honing in on development states from pre-sale to over five years to multiple club owners. As clubs progress, franchisees move from one team to another, according to a June interview with Runyon by Franchise Chatter.

What's notable about the company is the strong following it has among members, to the point where more than a few franchisees, members and even Runyon have Anytime tattoos (a little purple running man). One club owner even donated a kidney to a member, according to media reports. Anytime Fitness' Twitter account has more than 53,000 followers.

Runyon said in a contributed piece to Fast Company that obtaining that type of loyalty requires what he says is the four "P's": people, profit, play and purpose.

Franchise consultant Paul Segreto says the franchise stands out to him because, while it is a "no frills" operation, "their focus [is] on the best-of-the-best retail locations, with a key element of high visibility."

"Beyond just attracting potential clients, high visibility is important for safety for clients that choose to utilize the center in off-hours, Segreto adds. (Anytime Fitness is not a client of Segreto's.)

Are you ready for your running man tattoo?

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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