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How Long Does the Franchise Opening Process Typically Take?

According to experts at Blink Fitness and the Toasted Yolk, finding the right location can be a time-consuming first step.

You’re a brand’s newest franchisee. You’ve signed on the dotted line. You’re all in.

So when will your franchise open?

The opening process can vary among brands. Granted, there are a lot of things to consider. Does your franchise require a brick-and-mortar location? Specialty equipment? An exceptionally strategic location? All of these things can affect your opening date. 

Two franchise brands, the gym concept Blink Fitness and the breakfast and lunch concept The Toasted Yolk Café, shared their insights with 1851 Franchise on what new franchisees can expect in terms of an opening timeline. 

“We allow 16 months for a franchisee to open their first location,” Blink Fitness’ Director of Franchise Development, Patti Rother, wrote in an email. “Much of this time includes finding the right site and signing a lease, which can take several months. The actual construction period lasts roughly 12 to 14 weeks.” 

Once buildout is complete, Blink Fitness allows two weeks for the brand’s employees, referred to as “MoodLifters,” to practice giving tours to potential members, Rother said. 

“This ensures a strong launch and consistency in our service across franchise locations,” Rother wrote. “After the first location, our franchisees open anywhere from one to four gyms a year, depending on the development schedule they signed.”

For a franchisee with the Toasted Yolk, the brand is currently seeing between nine and 12 months from signing to opening, according to Paul Segreto, the CEO of Franchise Foundry, which partners with The Toasted Yolk. A big part of this timeline is finding a good location and securing the right real estate, Segreto said. Once a location is secured, then the process leading up to opening moves fast, regardless of the type of building they secured.

“We’re not really looking to just put these anywhere,” Segreto said. “We want our franchisees to be able to start from day one with a strong business model.” 

A concern with the breakfast segment, Segreto noted, is making sure the restaurant will get traffic Monday through Thursday. 

“[The key to success is] developing an equally strong lunch menu to go along with the very strong breakfast-brunch menu,” he said. “That has been key. Monday through Thursday is driving that lunch business, so we like to be close to schools and hospitals and those nice two- and three-story office buildings that house attorneys, real estate agents and insurance agents. Because of that, the real estate process takes a while.” 

Lack of brand recognition can also pose potential challenges to a franchise opening, especially for emerging brands, which is why strategic marketing efforts are crucial to success.

“Like any emerging franchise system, we are often bringing our gyms to new markets where there isn’t significant brand recognition,” Rother said. “We support our franchisees in building brand awareness through local marketing. Our team helps our franchisees by providing support every step of the way: pre-opening, grand opening and post-opening. We utilize best practices and learnings from operating 100+ company-owned locations while also utilizing the franchise operators’ local knowledge.”

In terms of business experience, Blink Fitness franchisees are not required to have a background in the fitness industry. Some might view this as a challenge, but the brand has other priorities, Rother said. 

“We actually believe that in order to be a successful Blink Fitness franchisee, understanding hospitality, marketing, development and operations is more important than having fitness-specific knowledge or experience,” Rother said. 

For the Toasted Yolk, one of the major challenges to a franchise opening is winning over property owners who want to make sure they rent out space to a business that will succeed in that space, according to Segreto. “They really are starting to push a little bit harder for franchisees that have experience as a restaurant operator,” he said. For this reason, the Toasted Yolk works closely with franchisees to reassure property owners that franchisees will be supported.

“We’re not guaranteeing their lease or anything like that, but we are standing side-by-side with them to give the property owner the confidence that we’re there for the franchisee,” he said. 

Additionally, the Toasted Yolk currently works with the brokerage and property management firm Henry S. Miller in Dallas, which gives franchisees a leg up on finding prime locations and helps win over local property owners, Segreto said. 

The brand seeks to be extra cognizant of franchisees’ time and will run numbers and provide demographic information to help determine whether a location will be right, Segreto said. 

“We want to make sure that they get off on the right foot,” Segreto said of new franchisees. “We believe that early-stage work with them is absolutely critical.” 

Despite all the challenges inherent in planning and executing a successful franchise opening, both brands execute timely openings at a consistent rate. For Blink Fitness, each opening is viewed as a learning experience and one that the brand can build on as it enters new markets, Rother said. 

“One franchisee happened to find two fantastic real estate sites at the same time and opened gym No. 1 and No. 2 within a few weeks of each other,” Rother said. “What could have been a very stressful, trying time was seamlessly executed by his team and ours. Due to the fact that he was opening two gyms at once, he was able to benefit from some widespread marketing efforts, like taking over the local radio station, and strategic local-earned public relations. Building brand awareness was the key to entering this new market.”

Of course, the franchisee in question also did an admirable amount of footwork and due diligence. 

“He did a great job with the local marketing as well, partnering with several leading local nonprofits,” Rother said. “Launching the brand into a new market with two locations right away gave this franchisee a great start.”