BFT opens UK franchise and reveals ambitious 50-studio target

BFT opens UK franchise
Aussie fitness chain unveils first UK site, in Leicester. Image supplied.

BFT has unveiled its first UK studio and has three more sold as it sets out a 50–site plan.  

The inaugural studio was unveiled in the Midlands city of Leicester with 172 members. 

Cameron Falloon, co-founder of BFT and heading up the UK expansion, told Franchise Executives the launch of the first site had been investor-driven.

“We’ve invested in passionate investors in the brand, who approached us. The UK has been on the radar but Covid prohibited us from developing it. James and Brian, the franchisees, were enamoured of the model when they saw it in Australia. It’s been a matter of timing for us to support them.” 

Another couple have purchased three territories for London, and plan to open the first at Battersea Park in February 2023.

BFT ready to develop UK market at measured pace

Falloon said expansion across the UK will continue to be franchisee-led. “Our model has a 50/50 split between traditional investors and owner operator. Both work really well. It’s about getting the right people.”

Falloon expects inflation to have an impact on investment but is confident investors will snap up sites after recently showcasing the Leicester studio.

“We ran a class for them, and showed them our bespoke heart rate system and gamification. We’re expecting a few sales from that.

“We set some lofty goals internally but we won’t be too down if we don’t hit them. We’ve grown really quickly in APAC where it’s less of a challenge, we understand the market and can get boots on the ground quickly.”

Timing is crucial to BFT support for UK franchise growth

Falloon is realistic that UK growth won’t come at the same rate.

“We won’t move so quickly because we don’t want to stumble, we want to scale appropriately. We want to sell 50 franchises in the next 12 months.

“If we sell 50 we know the opening timeline is roughly 10 months, that allows us time for the hiring process to support franchisees appropriately.”

Falloon said the goals are based on in-person and market research.

Both he and co-founder Richard Burnet have spent time in the UK, along with regional managers and the head of franchise performance.

Business development director Diane Vesey is also in the UK, heading up sales. 

“We would like to keep the momentum,” said Falloon, “and it’s good to have to have some goals.”

The challenge is in real estate and marketing nuances, he said. However BFT is close to signing a deal with a big real estate partner to find sites and negotiate leases.

Globally, the fitness chain has just opened its 200th studio and expects at least another 100 to open their doors in the next 12 months. 

Former CEOs Falloon and Burnet stepped up to focus on the UK and European markets with David Aitchison appointed CEO to take on APAC. In 2021 the business signed a $60 million deal with Xponential Fitness to grow the brand across the US and Canada.

“We are getting closer to our 500th club sale and we’d love for that milestone to be a UK studio,” said Falloon.