Gravity is the fastest-growing leisure and active entertainment company in the U.K
In 2014, friends Simon Whicker, Harvey Jenkinson (CEO) and Michael Harrison (COO/CGO) opened their first Gravity Trampoline Park in Yorkshire. They shared a vision of providing safe and exciting family fun on a mass scale.
Two years later, Gravity, was backed by Guinness Asset Management which allowed further growth, not only of the parks, but also of the products being offered. Gravity now has over 30 different products in the portfolio, ranging from multi-level E-karting, spark technology bowling, urban street golf, VR, competitive gaming, FEC, darts, F&B offerings and more.
Gravity provides experience-led leisure in settings that department stores and retail giants once dominated. By working with the world’s largest landlords, the brand can secure favorable rent and rates deals, as well as negotiating inward investment through CAPEX contributions by landlords on most Gravity sites.
Gravity locations often bring a great amount of footfall to any area in which it is situated, which is why the brand can negotiate such favorable rates with landlords. Having a Gravity site in a mall brings more revenue to every business in the locality.
Growth in 2021
In 2021, as well as opening three new venues in the U.K., Gravity opened its first European venue in Leipzig, Germany. Gravity also became the first company in the U.K. to create a leisure destination venue that opened in Southside shopping centre, Wandsworth, South London. The site, which is 85,000 sq.ft and set over four floors, generated a 25 per cent increase in footfall to the centre in its first 3 months of opening.
In the same year, Gravity was thrilled to win the 2021 Entertainment and Leisure Operator of the Year award at The Global Retail and Leisure International awards ceremony.
How does the Gravity Active Entertainment franchise model work?
The beauty of joining a franchise business as a franchise partner is that there is less risk involved than there would be if someone decided to start their own company. Franchisors carry a lot of the risk on the franchisees behalf as they have already learnt from operational mistakes made.
At Gravity, the brand mitigates the risk by not only sourcing the perfect site, but also negotiating the best deal with the landlord, providing architects drawings and project managing the fit-out for the franchisees. Gravity will launch an opening marketing campaign, train the franchisees and their staff and ensure compliance from insurances to health and safety.
Ongoing marketing, I.T., operational and compliance support is in place for the duration of the franchise agreement term. This means that each franchisee can concentrate on the daily running of their site, and generate maximum revenue.
What kind of franchisee is Gravity Active Entertainment looking for?
Gravity’s franchise partners come from many different backgrounds but ideally, they will be senior or executive level people. Gravity is especially looking for franchise partners who have experience in sales, leisure and hospitality, food and beverage, marketing, project management or franchising.
As the company was founded by childhood friends Michael and Harvey, Gravity is also a great business for couples, friends or other teams. Gravity’s existing franchisees involve their siblings and children in their businesses.
It is not a requirement at Gravity for the franchisees to spend the majority of their time working in their venues. 50 per cent of Gravity’s franchisees are owner investors and run multiple businesses. It is in these circumstances that Gravity will help to recruit experienced general managers. As long as the franchisees’ other businesses are not a conflict of interest to the brand, Gravity permits this.
What does the franchisee get in return?
Both training and compliance are very important at Gravity. From brand protection and a health and safety point, it is imperative that each franchisee and all staff members are fully trained and up to date with both topics.
Each franchisee and their general managers will attend a two-week compulsory training course in the U.K. a few weeks prior to opening their own venue. The first week will be classroom-led learning and the second week will be practical learning in an established Gravity Park.
Post-opening of a venue there will be a two-week onboarding program at the venue. Gravity will assign a member of the operations team to work at the new franchisees venue for a few weeks to help iron out any issues that might arise and be used as general support.
Gravity has a training software platform that is to be used by all staff across the business. Every time a new staff member is hired, they will be assigned remote specific training courses relevant to their job to complete within a set period. The software is also used for continuous professional development and will assign each staff member refresher courses throughout the year.
Gravity has a 100 per cent franchisee success rate across the global network.
Why should entrepreneurs go with Gravity Active Entertainment?
Gravity provides active entertainment and leisure activities for all ages, having diversified its product offering over the years. For the brand, it’s about providing fun and safe entertainment for the whole family.
Across most of the network’s locations, there are trampolines, soft play and inflatables for toddlers and children (daily parent and toddler sessions provide a lucrative income across the network).
Mini-golf, bowling, darts, live music and good food at Gravity Social attracts young adults, whilst the big-box venues attract all ages, from families – to stag and hen dos, to evenings out with friends and corporate events. Big-box venues house conference rooms, e-karting, bowling, VR rooms, FEC, competitive gaming, darts, mini-golf, and multiple food and beverage offerings.
No other leisure and active entertainment company provide this under one roof. Much like lots of other industries during 2020, leisure was hit hard by the pandemic. This meant that unfortunately a lot of leisure operators haven’t survived.
Co-owners Michael and Harvey have always worked hard to ensure that Gravity had a strong business model, with a diversified product offering catering to all ages, no debt, and a strong balance sheet. Their experience with the leisure industry means that Gravity is always in a strong position, even when wider circumstances are against the sector.
This meant that the business not only survived the pandemic, but thrived when the sites were allowed to reopen, exceeding the breakeven target even with the Scotland parks remaining closed. Competition has gone down during the pandemic and leisure businesses with a diversified model like Gravity, are taking advantage of this.
Regions like the Middle East have warmed to Gravity’s offering, with a significant deal signed for Saudi Arabia. While big-box entertainment has not been common in that region for long, it took little time for people to take to the concept.
Gravity centers served as the perfect place for the entire family to come on a hot summers day, creating a long period in that part of the world in which Gravity will be ‘in-season’. The level of success achieved by the Saudi franchisee has led to the signing of a master franchise deal in the country for 15 further locations.
Gravity big-box venues cost between £4-6m. The brand requires a minimum liquid cash investment of £2m to undertake such a project. Profit on these venues can typically be seen in year two.
Gravity Trampoline Parks cost £1.4m to construct. Therefore, Gravity requires a minimum investment of £500,000 for this. Trampoline Parks also turn a profit in year two.
Gravity’s average EBITDA is 20 per cent. The brand has opportunities for master franchisees globally depending on size and demographic of country. Master franchises are unavailable in the U.K.
Gravity franchise agreements run for a period of 10+10.
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