UK gym gets creative with pop-up café that lets customers pay for their food by working out

It’s been billed as the first café to replace money with exercise, but a new pop-up venue in the UK is also a clever example experiential marketing, according to one expert.

The Run for your Bun café in London has made headlines around the world with its promise of healthy lunches in exchange for six-minute high-intensity workout.

Read more: What is brand activation and how do you do it right?

In order to receive one of the lunches—options include smashed avocado on toast and a grilled chicken burger—patrons must spend three minutes on rowing machines, bikes and treadmills, and another three minutes doing sit-ups, squats and lunges.

But rather than being a new business model for the hospitality industry, the Covent Garden café is popping up for just three days this week as part of a campaign by gym network David Lloyd Clubs to encourage office workers to get active.

“We want to remind workers of the importance of being active at work and moving around more,” said Elaine Denton, a health and fitness expert from David Lloyd Clubs in a statement.

“Ultimately our lifestyles are becoming increasingly sedentary and we want people to recognise that a nutritious, balanced diet and a healthy amount of exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle.”

The David Lloyd Leisure Group is one of several large fitness chains in the UK and counts more than 480,000 members among its 94 outlets.

According to marketing expert and April5 chief executive Alicia Beachley, the Run for your Bun café is a clever way for the fitness brand to position itself as a health-focused and “holistic” brand in what is a highly competitive market.

“It’s one area that many gyms do stop short in, they usually provide one part of the experience,” she told SmartCompany.

However, Beachley says “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and the campaign likely has an element for David Lloyd Clubs to capture or sell to existing or potential customers.

That being said, the pop-up is an example of a brand attempting to offer more than a one-dimensional customer experience, says Beachley.

“It’s about learning and education and people feeling good,” she says.

Beachley describes experiential marketing as almost a throwback to an “analogue” era in which brands aim to talk directly to customers through experiences.

However, for brands considering this type of marketing, she says it is essential for the experience to be on the customers’ terms.

“It needs to be opt-in,” she says.

The form this takes will depend on the brand’s target market but Beachley says the key thing to remember is the experience should provide value to the participants.

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