Don't overlook the small stuff when maintaining your fitness center. Follow these tips for inspecting, ordering and storing your locker room amenities, and your members will be clean and happy.

Offering locker room amenities to members can be a much-appreciated perk, but only when they are filled and working properly. When something is empty or broken, that "added bonus" for members soon becomes an annoyance for them, and a problem for you. To prevent hassles for you, your staff and your members, a scheduled maintenance and restocking program should be in place at your fitness center.

Inspections

When inspecting your locker rooms, don't overlook your amenities, such as soap and shampoo dispensers, paper towels, hair dryers and whatever else you offer. To make sure everything gets checked properly, create a checklist of items to be inspected on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Says Christopher Doran, general manager of Redmond Athletic Club, Redmond, Wash., "Our [maintenance/inspection schedule] is in writing. We monitor, clean and stock every hour on the hour. We also have a weekly inventory schedule to stock supplies."

Put it in writing. Having a list of what to look for is important. David Smith, general manager and co-owner of Paradise Fitness for Women and Paradise Fitness for EveryBODY, Dothan, Ala., recommends having a cleaning/inspection schedule posted in each locker room, and having a manager in charge of making sure it is completed each day. Shapes Total Fitness for Woman, a Florida-based company, also has an inspection sheet, which covers 32 items that need to be inspected daily in the locker rooms, according to President Vince Julien.

A good business practice. Not having inspections is bad for business, says Terry Schneider, founder and president of Chemco Industrial Products and Multi-Sport Products, Norwood, Mass. "Coming into a locker room ... and having amenity and shampoo dispensers not filled or cleaned ... would leave the member with a very bad impression," Schneider says. Schneider recommends that all items that are consumables (soaps, shampoos, body wash, lotion, paper goods) be checked at least three times a day (morning, mid afternoon and evening), and refilled at a minimum of once per day.

Julien agrees that inspections are vital for business. "Locker room inspection has turned into one of the biggest concerns we have when it comes to member satisfaction," he says.

Dispensers. As for the dispensers themselves, Daniel Rudy, president of Spa Partners, with locations in Los Angeles, New Jersey, St. Louis, Mo., Jacksonville, Fla., and London, England, says that the functioning of dispensing systems and clear wording on dispensers (as to what they contain) should be checked weekly. And, have back-up dispensers ready, he says. Monthly, dispensers should be thoroughly rinsed internally and externally with hot water, since "gunk and bacteria can build up. ... Once completely cleared, run a disinfectant through them, and then re-rinse with warm water. This will help to prevent the spread of pathogens," Rudy says.

Deliberate tampering with dispensers can sometimes be a problem. Brad Black, co-founder and co-CEO of EO Products, Corte Madera, Calif., says that you should have some sort of "security system in place to keep dispensers intact and functional after repeated use by clients."

Who should be responsible. While cleaning and/or maintenance staff members usually perform the tasks of refilling dispensers and making sure they are working, managers need to double check that what should be getting done is actually getting done. Rudy stresses the importance of getting management involved in all of the inspections. "Management should not assume that staff is carrying out their instructions," he says. Lisa Anderson, operations manager of Redmond Athletic Club, agrees: "Management at our facility is in charge of inspecting all locker room amenities. Management is also responsible for making sure that the front desk staff is maintaining the locker rooms all day, and at the end of each night."

Smith also says that a manager should be in charge: "Our morning manager is in charge of the inspections, but the general manager is responsible for completing a daily list [of what was done and any problems], and then submitting this to the owners."

Ordering and storing supplies

Since most fitness facilities require that dispensers be refilled daily, having stock on-hand is vital. To make sure you don't run out of soap, body wash, etc., you need to have a system for ordering and storing these amenities.

Ordering. Doran says that a manager is responsible for the weekly inventory at Redmond Athletic Club to make sure the facility has enough supplies. Most of its locker room supplies are on a weekly order from a national company, and are delivered directly. A few miscellaneous items are bought locally on an as-needed basis.

Paul R. LeBlanc, founder and owner of Zogics, Richmond, Mass., recommends that fitness managers order replacement products at least one week before they run out. Many suppliers "offer an automatic delivery program so clubs don't have to worry about staying on top of ordering," he says. If new customers provide amenity companies with information on membership size, average daily visits and general facility layout, the company can suggest an appropriate number of dispensers and initial order size, LeBlanc says.

Once you've been doing business with a supplier for a few months, your order history versus actual need can be evaluated, along with your budget, says Schneider. "Customers can use a spreadsheet to check their stock against the prescribed budget, and order only what's needed," he says. Black agrees: "The best bet is to track recent usage and contact the manufacturer of your amenities for their suggested re-order amounts."

To keep price, hassle and number of orders to a minimum, Rudy suggests buying from vendors who are one-stop shops. In addition, buying from a local vendor, or one that has a local distribution center, can minimize delivery time and cost. Also, if free or reduced shipping is available with larger orders, bundle your orders, he says.

Amenities Suppliers

The following companies are suppliers of amenities products for your fitness center:

Black says ordering supplies is mainly dependent on space. "If you have the space, then quarterly orders will reduce your administration time, and you may also benefit from quantity price breaks," he explains.

Storage. How much you order and how often depends on how much storage you have. Smith from Paradise Fitness says his facilities have one storage closet for large items, and one locker in each locker room for smaller supplies. Redmond Athletic Club has a similar set-up, according to Anderson. Amenities there are stored in storage closets in each locker room.

As with dispensers, fitness centers must keep an eye on extra supplies. Supplies at Shapes Total Fitness are locked up, "or theft will become an issue," says Julien. "The manager on duty controls the key, and is accountable for the inventory."

Stay on top of things

Your inspection list and your re-order list of supplies should help you keep track of what you have and what you need. If you don't have a handle on this, you'll hear about it from members. "The worst thing to do is run out of items that members get used to having. ... It is better not to offer an item than to run out of it, we have found," Smith says.

If a member complains, your fitness center should have a plan in place for how to deal with it. Says Anderson, "Should a member mention something is empty or broken down [at our facility], this can almost always be immediately resolved. All staff members have a storage key when they work, and they can go directly to the locker room and replace any item necessary. If something is broken, we have a maintenance person on staff every day."

You should also have a plan for things that are broken or not readily available. "We have a three-day policy to fix/replace/replenish anything that breaks down or runs out," Doran says.

Part of the bigger picture

Being vigilant about inspecting and ordering amenities is one way to show your members you care. If you don't have something as basic as soap in your locker rooms, members may wonder what else you have overlooked. Says Schneider, "Running a health club is all about customer service and leaving a good impression. Members expect the club to be clean and inviting, and they also expect ... all of the dispensers to be clean and in working order, [and] the products to be as neat as possible."

Having a clean and well-stocked locker room can also separate you from the competition. "We have some bigger clubs to compete with, so we push the service and personal touch areas," Smith says.

Fitness centers need to ensure that their amenities are clean, functioning and fully stocked, says Black. "A degree of attentiveness shows concern for guests, and a pride in the fitness center."