From boutique fitness brands and fast casual restaurants to supplemental education concepts and home service providers, virtually every business model has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past few months, franchise brands across the globe have been forced to pivot in ways they had never previously considered.

Despite the challenges the COVID-19 crisis presents, businesses across a range of segments are finding ways to step up and present solutions.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and coronavirus has undoubtedly forced many businesses around the world to rethink operations. The companies that have been able to pivot their business model for the future will be ones ahead of their competition when we emerge from this crisis.

Boutique fitness franchise REGYMEN Fitness* is one brand that found itself in an seemingly impossible position last month when the coronavirus outbreak forced the brand to close its gyms. But where some brands saw an insurmountable hurdle, REGYMEN found an opportunity. Rather than simply wait until things got back to normal, REGYMEN’s team decided to change their model to continue reaching customers, even while gyms remained closed.

We launched online workouts right away,” said Tatum Crews, director of sales and marketing for REGYMEN. “We have templates that are sent out to our system every night at 7 p.m. so that they’re prepared with a new, fresh workout for the following day. These include full tutorials from coaches and a live moment stream, which is what our members would normally see in our gyms.”

In creating these at-home workouts, REGYMEN realized that not every member would have access to the necessary equipment. So, REGYMEN reached out to its vendor partners at Perform Better and TRX to provide members with items that may have been sold out elsewhere, and the brand is now offering special equipment bundles for at-home use.

“Even though our franchisees and members aren’t able to be in their gyms right now, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that REGYMEN’s community stays strong,” Crews said. “One of the most important factors we are focusing on at this time is preparing our company and franchisees for the opportunity that follows once the world is turning again. We believe that once we are able to open again, the way we operate on a daily basis will be changed. As a brand, it is our responsibility to be prepared for when we are able to embrace our communities again.”

Workout Anytime is another fitness brand that quickly instituted a savvy pivot. Banking on the presumption that its clients were just as concerned with health and fitness now, during this crisis, than they were before it, Workout Anytime introduced a comprehensive solution to continue providing services to customers while they’re at home.

Workout Anytime launched a suite of video-on-demand workouts in April, which allows members to choose from three different types of workouts at home, including those that just require bodyweight, others with home accessories like water jugs and towels, and still others designed to improve balance and flexibility. Local franchisees are also using their club Facebook pages to do live feeds or workouts, publish vlogs and even arrange Zoom calls so that they can keep in touch with members, demonstrating how the brand’s one-on-one relationships between franchisees and members stand out in the industry.

In the foodservice industry, some are predicting that this crisis will force casual dining concepts to modernize their business model. For years, the casual dining segment has experienced a steady decline, attributed largely to a lack of off-premise channels. This crisis could expedite the recovery process, encouraging casual dining brands to institute models that have longterm viability, like delivery, pick up and take out. For example, major brands like Applebee’s and P.F. Chang’s are jumping onto the limited-service bandwagon with an express version of their existing concepts.

Other major foodservice brands, including fast-casual brands such as Subway and Panera, have begun selling groceries to fight off COVID-19 sales slumps. These grocery programs could differentiate chains from their rivals both during and after the pandemic, as well as provide an additional way for restaurants to connect with consumers, many of whom have grown frustrated over long wait times for grocery deliveries.

Supplemental education is another segment in which franchise brands that traditionally offered their services in person are now turning to technology to reach consumers. Brands like Sylvan Learning* are providing virtual services to anyone who wants them, regardless of whether or not they were clients before.

“With many parents becoming teachers overnight, Sylvan is doing everything we can to alleviate some of the stress that comes with juggling homeschooling and working from home,” Amy Pryzwara, chief marketing officer for Sylvan Learning*, said in a release. “Whether a child is behind or wants to excel through enrichment programming, Sylvan wants to help guide children to explore and grow. Parents can put on one of these classes and feel confident that their kids are learning from and engaging with a live teacher — and get some guilt-free time to catch up on the work and household tasks that have piled up.”

Since these digital services were in the works prior to COVID-19, Sylvan Learning* is marching full steam ahead with the offering and is confident that customers will continue to utilize them in the future.

In-home service brands such as Footprints Floors, which has over 35 units across the U.S., specializes in installing hardwood floors, carpet, tile floors, backsplashes and laminates, has also had to shift its business operations as a result of COVID-19. In addition to new sanitation protocols, Footprints Floors implemented free virtual estimates on new projects in order to respect customers’ personal space during this time and limit unnecessary human interaction. All the customer has to do is submit a request online or over the phone, schedule a time, and prepare for the virtual estimate by ensuring they have a compatible smart device connected to FaceTime, Google Duo or Skype along with a measuring tape. The Footprints Floors consultant then leads the estimate and helps advise the customer on how to properly measure their floors and will send an estimate once completed.

The home staging franchise, Showhomes* is another brand developing innovative new services to keep up with the changing landscape, including virtual consultations, electronic proposals and incredible 3D virtual tours.

Looking to the future, every brand has the potential to create and implement new advances that will overall increase the business model and set the tone for limitless possibilities. Having to pivot rapidly and unexpectedly under uncertain conditions will ultimately strengthen the value of each business, especially as we emerge from this crisis in a completely new world.

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