Helen Harrison is the Head of Marketing for Crussh Fit Food & Juice Bars, London’s original juice, smoothie and healthy fast food retailer. Set up in 1998, the brand now has 35 locations across London and the South East and has recently entered a partnership with leisure operator Everyone Active.
We spoke to Helen to find out:
- How the food and beverage landscape has changed in gyms
- What opportunities there are for operators
- What considerations operators need to make when implementing an F&B offering
- More about their partnership with Everyone Active
- How has the F&B landscape changed in gyms over the last 5 years?
We’re starting to see real change in this area. In the last couple of years there’s been a step change in the food and drink offered at gyms and leisure centres, initially driven by small boutique fitness chains offering smoothie menus to members, but also from larger chains swapping the contents of their vending machines for much healthier options which is great to see and a big step forward. Over the last 18 months, we’ve started working with Everyone Active to put Crussh cafes into some of their centres across London and the South East. We have opened four so far. It’s great to bring a healthier food offer into these environments, it’s such natural fit and as customers become increasingly more conscious about what they put in their bodies, it feels like this will only continue.
As consumers eating habits change, how can operators respond?
Now is the perfect time for operators to improve their offering and provide customers with delicious food that’s nutritious and geared to help support them with an active lifestyle. Consumers are becoming increasingly more health conscious which is great, and there’s a huge opportunity for operators to capitalise on this trend, making sure they have the right products available to meet their needs. For example, products that are a good source of protein to help aid muscle recovery, such as protein shakes and protein egg pots do really well. Similarly, products that provide slow releasing carbohydrates, such as porridge, beans and sweet potato are great for endurance training.
What are the opportunities for operators to offer a service like yours?
At Crussh, we’re all about improving the wellbeing of our teams and customers every day. We do that through our great-tasting food that’s designed to help keep you fit and contribute towards good health, whatever your diet. So, partnerships with gyms and leisure centres is a very natural step for us and an area that has a lot of potential given the highly captive audience. A lot of our food is functional and good for people who are looking for support towards an active lifestyle or when training, so it makes a lot of sense to have a Crussh in these environments. Providing this sort of F&B offer also means that customers typically stay at the centres longer and use them as a meeting destination, which helps retain members and drive loyalty.
What are your most popular products purchased by gym members?
We currently operate four sites across different Everyone Active centres and interestingly, product popularity differs depending on the nature of the centre. Our café in Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre in St. Albans sells a lot of coffee, and a lot of ‘Build your own’ kids lunch boxes – a healthy lunch box made up of a sandwich or pasta pot, veggie sticks, a fruit pot, a brownie bite and a juice. Whereas popular products in our café at the Westway Sports & Fitness Centre are our grab & go snacks, which are typically eaten post exercise, as well as lots of smoothies and wraps.
What considerations would an operator need to make before implementing a new F&B offering?
Firstly, it’s approaching the F&B offering as a partnership and relationship. It’s really important both partners share learnings and information about the members and their habits, so we can all ensure we’re providing the best service we can in the environment.
Secondly, it’s really important that an operator is really supportive of what you do and what you offer. There’s no doubt you’ll get some customers complaints because we’ve changed what we sell. For example, we don’t sell Coca-Cola, despite some requests from customers! An operator needs to be comfortable with the brand they’re buying in to and that it aligns with their values.
Where would you say is the ideal location for an F&B offering within a fitness facility?
An ideal location would be near the reception area where the space is visible from the street and can be accessed by both members and non-members. This gives an F&B service the best opportunity to engage with people during their visit, and also provides the opportunity to attract customers from outside the centre.
Since launching your partnership with Everyone Active, what have been your key learnings?
One important thing we’ve learnt so far is that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution. The dynamics of a centre can vary dramatically from one to another, depending on its location and the type of visitors. The ability to adapt to this changing customer dynamic has been key to our success with Everyone Active.
Finally, how important is it to you to present yourself as a sustainable partner? For instance, are you seeing a demand from your customers to provide paper straws, sustainable packaging etc.?
This is becoming increasingly important, not just within this sector but across the entire food industry. Over the last 12 months, we’ve removed plastic straws and replaced them with a compostable solution, we’ve introduced a 25p reusable cup discount for all hot drinks, juices and smoothies, plus we’ve introduced compostable salad packaging. There’s still lots to do in this area but at Crussh we’re tackling things one by one, making sure we bring in the best solutions that are fit for purpose for the long term.