The start of a new season brings with it the opportunity to refine and update your class schedule to best meet your members’ needs and increase revenue for your studio. With school starting up again and summer travel schedules calming down, now’s the time to consider adding back in a few more mid-morning classes or weekend offerings.
A recent analysis of our class attendance data at ClassPass revealed that the most popular class time across the majority of our markets was 6 pm — likely no surprises there! Additional popular class times included 6 am, 9 am, and 5 pm, particularly in smaller to mid-sized cities such as Columbus or Orlando. Larger cities like New York had more ClassPass users willing to take class as late as 8 pm, though this undoubtedly varies across genre as well, as in users may be more likely to take a late-night yoga class as opposed to a strength training session.
To compliment your understanding of your own market’s trends and user behaviors, we compiled some additional tips to consider on how to perfect your class schedule.
Ask for Client Feedback
Crafting a class schedule for your client base can be somewhat of an art, figuring out just the right mix of what to offer on what days at what times, and when to put which instructors where. Especially if you’re just opening up a new location, it takes time to figure out what the right cadence is. Just ask Xtend Barre – Tribeca studio owner, Sara Fusco, who opened her studio earlier this summer. When it came to figuring out which classes worked best when, Fusco said it all came down to client feedback. “We talked to clients in the studio, we invited them to email us to chat about it, and we now offer surveys after class for feedback on convenient timing.”
Get to know your client base to figure out 1) what their daily schedules look like, 2) how they prefer to work out (is it a social thing or are they focused on getting in and out?) and 3) what classes they’re most interested in. If you offer more than one genre, this is especially key so you can understand which classes may take priority over others for peak times. Like Fusco mentioned, an email survey can be incredibly useful. Consider sending one out once per quarter or at the start of a new season to get direct feedback on your client’s immediate preferences — they may change throughout the year!
Test, Test, Test
As with any business decision, whether it’s running a paid social media promo or exploring branded retail offerings, one of the best things you can do is plan tests to measure your performance. It’s always a good idea, especially when adding a new class type or time, to test it out for a month or so with your client base before assessing whether you want to move forward and add it to your regular schedule.
Set your parameters for success early on: maybe you’d like to aim for 70% utilization in order to keep a class on the schedule week-to-week, or you’re more focused on a certain number or dollar amount in revenue the class brings in. Whatever the goal may be, having the plan in place ensures you’re utilizing solid metrics to evaluate the performance.
It can be tough to make the decision to cut a class you and your team are personally excited about. How do you know how much time to try something out for before giving it the boot? Fusco shares, “If a class is on the schedule two to three times — same day and time in the same month — and it does not perform well, we feel we have enough info to discontinue it.”
Studio owner Jackie Gladney of DharmaCycle Yoga echoes this sentiment, but adds, “If 0-2 students show up for the first month, discontinue the class. If you see 3-7 students, give the class more time to grow. We always see the “new kid on the block” crush when we put a new class format or time on our schedule. The first few weeks our students are excited about a change and we’ll see 10 or more attending the new class. It takes about four weeks for the hype to fade and we’ll see whether or not students slip back into their old routines or if the new class truly serves our demographic.”
Consider sending out a survey once per quarter or at the start of a new season to get direct feedback on your client’s immediate preferences.
Once you do have your schedule figured out, though, Gladney advises that keeping it consistent is key. She shares, “Offering the same class format 5 nights a week at the same time is best, alternating between 2 formats that are very similar is second best. Your goal is to make visits to your studio part of your students routine; too much variety causes confusion and not enough opportunity to build a solid following in a time slot.”
Run the Numbers
At the end of the day, your class schedule is your business, so if the numbers aren’t right, something is off. For your existing classes, utilizing a P&L analysis can be extremely helpful to determine which classes are bringing in more revenue than others based on their average fill rate. You’ll need to take into account all the types of users who come to your studio, whether they’re purchasing drop-ins from you directly, are coming through ClassPass, or are on trials or promotional packages your studio may offer. ClassPass offers a tool built by our team that you can download and plug in your own studio metrics to output a customized P&L analysis. Find more info and download it here.
For classes that aren’t performing as well, consider switching up the time, length of the class, day of week, or even the style of the class. This is another opportunity where you can seek member feedback to help understand what’s not working about a certain class to figure out how best to remedy it. Maybe it’s your lunchtime classes that are only ever half-full, at best. Talk to your students to get some insight into why: it might be a matter of reducing the length from 45-minutes to 40-minutes (as every minute counts, especially on that lunch hour!) or changing it from a cycling session to something a little less sweaty to ensure people can get back to work quickly. Test it out for a few weeks to see what happens.
Factor in Your Instructors
Another important consideration in figuring out your class schedule is, of course, your instructors! Your most popular instructors are often what keeps clients coming back to your studio, so you want to make sure they’re teaching at the best times to appeal to most customers. Fusco shares that, “Our Master Instructors get first pick for their allotted number of classes and the rest of the placements are decided based on instructor availability. We form our schedule two weeks at a time so we can gain the most flexibility in accommodating all of our instructors, while also giving clients enough notice to plan their workouts.”
“Off peak times draw the lowest attendance and bring in the least revenue,” says Gladney, “so placing newer, lower-paid teachers in them makes the most sense. I offer the highest paid, most experienced teachers peak class times only.” She adds, “What is most important with scheduling teachers is their commitment to the class — when they are eager and excited to be teaching, their students can feel it and will return.”
Gladney recommends avoiding circumstances that cause teachers to burn out. “Offer teachers one new class at a time, then wait another month before giving them another one. A teaching staff eager to substitute classes and take on more work is far more successful than fewer teachers with fuller schedules.”
What to do when a new class becomes available? Gladney says she will look at the average attendance of a teacher, how involved they are in the community through social media and participating in other classes/events at the studio, and how often they sub out or offer to sub classes in addition to their current schedule. Balance is key to ensuring your top instructors get the most visibility, while also giving newer instructors the opportunity to gain experience and traction with your client base.