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Multi-profit Centers

A double shot expresso carwash, please

October 11, 2010
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Carwashes and coffee: Unless you’re Procter & Gamble or a full-serve location offering a complimentary cup of Joe, the connection isn’t obvious. But a recent trip to the grocery store switched on the light bulb that usually floats dimly around my head. There among the Folger’s and Maxwell canisters were bags of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks brand coffee beans.

It’s one of those absurdly simple tactics that we too often ignore because of its obvious sense. Reach out to the customers who don’t want your service by tailoring your product to what they do want. After all, those customers are the biggest threat to your success. In other words, it’s not the conveyor down the street that’s preventing you from pulling in the big bucks; it’s the guy holding a hose and bucket in the driveway.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have come to this realization. They’re willing to admit there is a certain percentage of consumers who aren’t going to walk into the store, place an order, pay a cashier and walk out with a branded Styrofoam cup. These customers would rather brew at home, pour the java into a travel mug and commute to work. They want a convenience and price point that Starbucks and DD can’t offer inside their franchised locations. Instead, these coffee giants can offer it at your grocery store.

Some carwash chemical companies realize the advantages of this strategy. For instance, you’ll find Armor All on the shelves at Target, and Turtle Wax at your local auto parts store. This type of branding also benefits the commercial carwashes which carry these brands. But how can a single site commercial carwash take advantage of this strategy?

One idea is to offer a waterless carwash product. As these cleaning solutions become more popular and accepted, it’s only natural our industry would have to integrate them in some way or another. I know of at least two operators in California who are working with a waterless carwash maker to create a private-label product they can sell to their existing full-serve customers. Industry veteran Bud Abraham wrote about the growing acceptance of waterless technology in the detail industry last month in his piece, “Can our industry embrace waterless washing?”

Selling a waterless carwash product in your lobby or vending machine seems most suited for conveyor carwashes, where such opportunities for up-selling and customer interaction would allow your cashiers to educate consumers and explain how waterless carwashing could fit in with a regular professional carwash schedule. Your sales adviser could tell the customer to supplement their regular twice-monthly carwash with an every-other-week waterless wash.

For those operators who aren’t ready to embrace the waterless carwash trend, it might be a good idea to consider offering your own branded home carwashing chemical, with directions for eco-friendly cleaning. Your directions would include suggestions for reducing water waste by using a positive shut-off nozzle and bucket, as well as parking the vehicle on a grassy area. This educational opportunity should also point out the major advantages of professional carwashing as compared to home washing and encourage customers to supplement their professional carwash schedule — not replace it.

The truth of the matter is there are many Americans who are buying their Dunkin’ Donuts at the grocery store instead of at the drive-thru. And as summer approaches, your customers will be considering their budgets and their professional carwash schedule. Make sure you’re a part of it — every step of the way.


Correction: The wrong figure was cited in “Will adding on add up?”, an article in our April issue. A passage that insinuated a pet wash would cost $25,000 included land and related costs. In fact, a complete pet wash station typically costs well under $20,000.

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