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Informational insights drive smarter operations, says Living Large


Data is collected at multiple points throughout the Blink Fitness system, but being able to apply that information to improve the member experience is what matters most, says President Todd Magazine.

For a concept that hinges on bringing a luxury-type experience to the low-price fitness market, that member experience is the differentiator, so “the most influential part of what we measure is through our surveys of members every time they work out,” Magazine says.

A survey is emailed following each workout, unless the member has recently submitted feedback, in which case it’s 90 days before they’re surveyed again. “Equipment quality, cleanliness, friendliness, these are the big indicators,” says Magazine, noting that through the thousands of responses analyzed every week managers are able to identify issues early and, for example, make staffing changes if negative feedback indicates a consistent problem during certain employee shifts.

“It’s been incredibly helpful because it’s insight into how our gyms are actually performing,” he says. “Ultimately it’s what the members think that matters most.”

Todd Magazine

“Ultimately it’s what the members think that matters most.” — Todd Magazine, Blink Fitness

Blink, a brand under the Equinox umbrella, also recently contracted with a company to gauge the number of times equipment was being used. Through data collected from sensors put on every piece of equipment in three gyms, the company tracked the number of uses over two weeks and as a result removed 15 elliptical machines from one location and reconfigured the space.

Full of data-driven examples, Magazine also noted Blink Fitness’s 300,000 members check in using a key fob every time they visit the gym, giving the company ample evidence to determine each location’s busiest times.

“We actually plan our labor around check-ins,” he says. “There’s no reason to have lots of employees at the gym if there aren’t a lot of members. And with this data we can also manage our operating hours.” Blink Fitness kiosks also collect information from potential members who tour the gym, even if they don’t join, giving the company an opportunity to follow up on potential sales.

“We have so many best practices now that we’ll be able to impart to our franchisees,” continues Magazine. Blink’s first franchisee location—the franchise has opened 55 company-owned gyms since 2011—is starting construction this month in New York, and leases have been signed for locations in California.

Humans + analytics

Big data is essential to the core functions of Watermill Express, says CEO and co-founder Lani Dolifka.

“It is our business,” she says simply. “Our business is fully automated drinking water and ice kiosks, so without this data we wouldn’t be able to run our business.”

Carmelo Marsala

“We can get stats on everything. This holistic approach creates efficiencies in workflow.” — Carmelo Marsala, Spray-Net

“This data” includes everything from calibrating equipment performance to ensure the water purification system is running effectively to accessing a full suite of diagnostic support information that provides insight into, for example, how the reverse osmosis system is working.

Watermill Express uses its own custom-coded software to monitor operations. The multi-variant system “is designed specifically to give franchisees and corporate operators all the information they need to manage their Watermill station,” says Dolifka. “There’s a constant refresh of new data that you can cull out of the system. The next real trick is to take that data and make it useful.”

Over the past two years Watermill has focused its attention on packaging its data in a user-friendly manner so technicians can more easily access information and prevent problems at the kiosks before they occur.

“We use our human experience and tie that in with the analytics,” Dolifka says. “I’m very much a proponent that it’s the people that make the business, not the data. We give our operators the tools, but they’re the people who take the data and do something with it.”

On the sales side, Watermill is able to track the sales data at each of its 1,300 locations, allowing it to hone in on what makes an exceptional location versus “just a normal one.”

“Because we are real-time, we’re able to see sales literally every hour, even sooner than that, really, and so we can see the whole financial picture and make any course corrections,” Dolifka explains.

Lani Dolifka

“There’s a constant refresh of new data that you can cull out of the system. The next real trick is to take that data and make it useful.” — Lani Dolifka, Watermill Express

Data in action

From the outset, Carmelo Marsala has taken a holistic approach to data, meaning with the proprietary software system developed in-house for his Spray-Net exterior painting service, the operational aspects of the business are all connected.

“We can get stats on everything,” says Marsala, founder and CEO, talking about the software that delivers real-time data on everything from inventory and distribution to marketing and sales. “This holistic approach creates efficiencies in workflow.”

Franchisees benefit from data-driven decision-making thanks to a business management dashboard, which calculates quotes and tracks customer follow-ups, and even updates technicians on how to adjust paint formulations on-site based on heat, humidity and wind factors.

Spray-Net also uses big data as it creates territories for franchisees, basing them on demographics and potential demand for services using information such as salary, number of single-family homes, and spending on home improvement services.

Spray-Net also puts data to work for new paint product development. “We’re capturing data on how many jobs we’re refusing and why, and then can we develop a product that fits that demand,” says Marsala. To meet the demand in western Canada, for example, which Marsala says has a higher number of stucco homes, the company created a special Liqua-wrap exterior coating.

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