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Business Operations

Food for thought

October 11, 2010
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At many carwashes today owners have begun to add supplementary services to their sites. One of the biggest trends seems to be the addition of a food and beverage center.

While adding a food and beverage service center to a carwash can pull in more profit, there are several factors to consider before taking the plunge.

The ingredients
Although a carwash owner might be very well-informed about the regulations when opening a new carwash, a food and beverage center has a totally different set of requirements.

Ben Tresser, owner of Yellow Submarine Car & Pet Wash in Medford, OR, learned firsthand about these regulations when he sought approval from health and safety inspectors to add food to his site.

“Even though your architect should be familiar with the regulations in your area,” Tresser said, “it will save you time and money if you inform yourself about the regulations in order to see to it that they are taken care of before you go for approval from the inspectors.”

The best way to learn more about such regulations is to visit local health and safety locations and pick up a copy of their codes and guidelines.

The food group
Deciding which food supplier to go with is also an important part of the planning process.

Marc Willcuts, owner of Coyote Joe’s Coffee and Carwash located in Portland, OR, explained that he selected his suppliers for coffee and pastries based primarily on the quality of their products and the convenience of their service.

According to Willcuts, the pastries are delivered fresh daily, and the coffee is the best quality around.

Varying costs
Cost is always a huge factor when a carwash owner decides to expand. Costs will vary depending on whether the carwash owner is buying a building that only needs interior work or building a whole new addition without having the frame of the building in place. Tresser found that since his building was already framed, his cost came out to be approximately $75 per-square-foot.

The cost goes up however, when an owner constructs an entirely new building. The cost, Tresser approximates, would be about $200 per-square-foot.

Willcuts built his coffee establishment from scratch; the cost of equipment and the building totaled about $250,000.

The cost is highly dependent on:

  • The location of the carwash;
  • The builders; and
  • The materials used.

Independent or franchise
If you decide you can add a food service to your carwash, the next question might be, should you rent a space out for a franchise, or provide an independent food and beverage service?

Although Willcuts plans to open other locations, he does not want to set up a franchise model.

“We want to maintain ownership to ensure top quality of services and products and we don’t want to give up ownership on anything that has our name on it,” Willcuts explained.

Willcuts’ main objective is top quality and he feels the only way to ensure top quality is to have full ownership of his sites.

Tresser has a different viewpoint on franchising. He found that since the Yellow Submarine’s name had been in the neighborhood for 30 years, it had a great image and a consistent following.

All Tresser had to do was move the name to his new location, and the name was recognized by customers.

Frank Dorsa, owner of Classic Car Wash located in Campbell, CA, explained that renting to a franchised food distributor was the best route for him to take.

“We put a café in our first carwash location and quickly learned that we were great at running carwashes, but weren’t the best at running cafes. So we decided to leave it up to the professionals,” Dorsa explained.

Luckily enough, the Blendz Company approached Dorsa about possibly opening up facilities at some of his locations. Both Dorsa and Blendz worked to develop the themes behind the creation of the cafes that now exist at three of his carwashes.

Dorsa and Blendz’s relationship is unique and as Matt Phipps, president and CEO of Blendz Franchise Systems, explained, “we are in many ways a partner with Classic to provide the best experience for our guests.”

Phipps and Dorsa’s close working relationship has proven beneficial for both the quick-service restaurant and the carwash.

Both men worked at creating a unique experience for each location, keeping in mind what the customers’ needs will be at both businesses.

Combining for success
By co-existing at the same location, Blendz and Classic offer customers more convenience than they ever could have if the locations were separate.

Exposure has also increased for both businesses. People who recognize the Blendz name might come in and use the carwash service.

This acts as a two-way street, since Classic Car Wash is a well-known name. Loyal customers visit the site to get their cars washed and then also try the food at Blendz.

Another important realization that Phipps and Dorsa came to was the idea that once someone gets their car washed, they don’t want to eat food that might mess up their newly cleaned vehicle.

Customers are looking for fast snacks that they can grab that create little mess. This is another reason why the healthy fast food style was the right way to go.

Many benefits also exist when a carwash owner owns both businesses, such as Willcuts.

Willcuts had the freedom to build his coffee establishment up front, which has helped draw in a large number of people. The coffee establishment alone brings in about 200 cars a day.

Willcuts has also benefited by creating packages that combine a free coffee with a carwash and selling gift cards at the coffee establishment.

Willcuts’ control over hiring employees for both establishments has been integral to his success.

“We have an onsite manager who is there all the time, as well as great employees who are dedicated to the carwash as well as to the coffee,” Willcuts said.

Decision time
The decision to expand a wash business to include some type of food service is a major one, but can have many advantages in the long run.

Phipps explained that it is rare for his company to approach a carwash owner, such as the case with Dorsa.

However, if a carwash owner identified an interest in Blendz’s services, then the two groups could work together to fulfill that need.

Each business is different, but always be aware of the cost of extending a carwash’s services, as well as the planning and organization that goes into it.

If you decide to go with a franchised dealer, make sure that their services are up to par with your own so your reputation and business name isn’t tarnished.

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