Are Fitness Club Waiting Lists Good Or Bad For Business?

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  • Are Fitness Club Waiting Lists Good Or Bad For Business?

Let’s Talk About Success

What does it mean to have a waiting list? First, you should be thrilled that your fitness club is so in demand! If you have a strict upper limit on capacity such as class spaces adding new members beyond that limit can be a dangerous game. When your gym is overcrowded, service delivery tanks and cancellations skyrocket.

Keep A Steady Buzz with A Waiting List

You might even want to have a contingency plan that includes cutting off new memberships and waitlisting applicants to prevent chaos. If your gym gets overcrowded or the staff overwhelmed, service levels will plummet, the experience will turn from in-demand to disappointing, you can find the buzz was temporary, and the crowds disappear overnight.

Oversubscription and the chaos that follows can lead to failure from which it’s particularly hard to recover. The solution is to have a reasonable estimate of your capacity and have alerts as you reach the limit. Make it a policy to have a predefined point where you stop taking new members.

If you have dedicated gym management software like Insight, you can be prepared with procedures in place to waitlist eager new members. Overcrowding can lead to cancellations and negative word of mouth that collapses the bubble and kills the buzz. The advantage of having a waiting list is that you reach your full potential without overheating and you can quickly replace cancellations with eager new members.

Dangers in The Waiting Zone

How about setting an artificial membership limit? It might be possible to leave some capacity untapped and approach your limits more slowly. Arbitrarily shutting down growth before you max out your capacity can be a dangerous game too, one that could backfire.

A waitlist might generate some marketing buzz, but if you do waitlist customers when there is space available you have to be absolutely consistent in how you apply it. If any applicants start to think you’re biased in whom you allow joining it can turn into a whole new level of disaster. In this day and age, even an inaccurate perception of bias could lead to lawsuits or diabolical harassment on social media that goes viral.

The same is true of how you add new members from the list when the limit is real. The best policy is call back waitlisted applicants in the order in which you added them to the list in the first place. Never the less, if you can build your business to where more people than you can manage want to join your club. It gives you an air of exclusivity, like the line outside of a trendy restaurant.

Unmet Demand And The Decision to Expand

A waiting list might mean that it’s time to raise your prices or open your next location. If you did it once, it’d be much easier to do it again. Everything about expanding a successful business has less friction than doing it the first time. You know how to avoid the traps and mistakes of that first time around. Most likely, you have had a chance to develop your policies and programming to the point of maturity.

If bank managers have been skeptical in the past, like, when you first started out. Now might be the time that they will reconsider your application. Once you’ve proven your concept, brand, and management skills, the finance folks are likely to see you in a whole new light. So, duplicating initial success is much easier than getting that first proven success.

Final Headline Here

Getting from Zero to One is the title of a book by Peter Thiel, which I’ve mentioned before. The author co-founded PayPal the online payments solution, and he has shared his experience in the book, putting in plain language the essence of the struggle of startup founders in any industry. The lesson is true of the fitness profession as well.

If your client programming and experience are so exceptional that word of mouth is bringing in more new member applicants than you can handle you are winning. You have minimal marketing costs and a full revenue stream to cover your overhead costs and make a profit.

If you have filled all your spaces and time slots that is definitely a good thing. You are reaching the full potential of the gym business model you’ve chosen to deliver. In such a situation having a waiting list for new customers is a useful way to buffer the shocks of the business.


Fagan, Lawrence. Bootstrapping A Gym Business From Zero. September 9, 2016. (accessed January 9, 2019).

-. Creating The Best Client Programming Experience For Your Membership. January 9, 2018. (accessed January 9, 2019).