Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Carwash by design: Part II

October 11, 2010

In the first installment of the Professional Carwashing & Detailing design off, you saw how many carwash operators went about designing the perfect carwash.

In this installment, see how some distributors and those employed by suppliers did at designing the perfect carwash.

Chuck Howard of Autobell Car Wash, Charlotte, NC, and Robert Roman of RJR Enterprises in Clearwater, FL, are still reviewing the submissions.

Three profit centers, one perfect wash
By Dan Beaupied, PECO

The demographics provided dictate the best usage for this property. In our opinion, the layout allows for three profit centers ideally suited for this particular corner:

  • Gas station;
  • Convenience store; and
  • Tunnel carwash.

Gas station: There is only one branded station in the area. The amount of traffic on both streets and the fact that this is a corner lot, sets this site up to generate a tremendous volume of gas to be sold.

The lot promotes easy in and out of the gas bar lanes.

C-store: A necessary compliment for the gas bar. Its layout allows for a single cashier to monitor all three profit centers, which can reduce labor.

We would recommend at least one other employee to assist in the management of the location. At least 14 parking spots are available, which is necessary for moving patrons in and out.

Automated tunnel carwash: 125' conveyorized tunnel carwash to promote up to 130 cars per hour throughput. With the amount of traffic and no competition in the area, a tunnel is the proper approach here.

The dual automatic gated entry system will eliminate the need for a greeter and the wash can be purchased at the gas pump, c-store or the point of purchase station.

All washes will be accounted for with the possibility of theft greatly reduced because of multiple checks and balances.

The wash entry area can be seen from inside the store for the cashier's sake. The wash and dry area is well lit with large windows to promote carwashing to those at the pump or in the store.

Reclaim tanks are located under the escape lane which makes tank cleaning easy access.

The tunnel is equipped with enough equipment to eliminate prep work and clean the vehicle thoroughly. A heated drying system eliminates the need for hand drying.

The entire site promotes ease of use with ample parking, carwash stacking (12 cars), eight to 12 gas pumps (possibly two diesel) and a 3,300 sq. ft. convenience store. There is an escape lane for those wash customers who need to get out of line without disrupting other customers.

The reduced amount of labor with high yielding profit centers will turn out a positive cash flow immediately and promote quick return on investment.

Dan Beaupied is the eastern sales manager for PECO Carwash Systems. He has been with the company since 1997.

Judges' comments on Beaupied

Robert Roman, of RJR Enterprises, Clearwater, FL:

Beaupied recognized the market potential of the location and site.

In terms of an express exterior carwash with convenience store and gasoline, Beaupied's overall design and layout is good.

The left-hand turn around the corner of the c-store leading into the carwash bay is too tight. The exit from the carwash is good but the length of the conveyor would make turning back into the property impossible without making a three-point turn.

Chuck Howard, Autobell Car Wash, Charlotte, NC:

Beaupied design is similar to Fazio's (see page 62), but didn't show a vacuum area. Either one or two should yield plenty of gas, convenience and carwash business.

This location puts a little more emphasis on carwash by making the c-store smaller and getting the carwash out where possible some windows could be added to the wash bay for customer appeal.

Channeling the carwash customers through the alley behind the stores could be a negative, especially at night. The smaller square footage c-store building will have less room for inventory and lower sales.

The overall layout is attractive and the elevation should put forth a pleasant appearance.

Dual tunnels is key to perfection
By Bill Consolo, Chief's

Given the location's qualities and the high traffic counts of both roads, the most effective use of this location is the construction of dual, 100' express-exterior conveyors.

One tunnel simply cannot handle peak wash volumes, which would be projected at 1,400 — 2,000 or more cars per day, depending on whether winter wash conditions are present.

Each tunnel will wash 80-90 vehicles per hour. Although the entrance and exit of tunnel #1 is not ideal, it is the only way to handle the flow, allow customers to clean their car's interior and exit through either drive.

Vacuums and vending are situated against the east side of the wash and along the property adjacent to road B, which will handle vehicles exiting the vacuum and vending area and customers using the area to finish drying their vehicle.

Road A will handle the exiting of carwash only customers. To facilitate ingress, stacking of two lanes takes full advantage of the property's depth.

Egress is enhanced by having 60' of stacking room for three to four vehicles before impacting the wash exit. Entrance into the tunnels is facilitated with 49' from the conveyor to the back line of the property.

To permit loading cars back to back and eliminate gaps in the line on peak days, the tunnels are to be attended when open. To minimize vehicle prepping, each tunnel is to be equipped with a 100' conveyor and hybrid wash process consisting of complete touch-less washing by Chief's followed by polishing by the cloth equipment.

The cloth needs to be gentle and non-invasive as people are staying in their vehicles. For this we recommend Lammscloth by N/S Systems.

Although the transaction process is to be handled by the DRB Portal pay terminals, we commend the abandonment of the multi-level menu-style carwash format. It simply is intentionally confusing, requires a salesperson to be effective and we believe will raise the average revenue per car by only $1 - $1.50 over the base price.

For this reason, we propose one of two formats. The first has two wash options, a higher base price than is the norm with express exterior ($6) so as not to undervalue the wash yet on par to compete with any competitors that might pop up. The second is a $9 works wash and the average revenue per wash will be $7.50 - $8.

The preferred format is a one wash/one price format. The only wash given is the works, priced at $9. This price is offset by two loyalty programs: one is a frequent weather discount program that earns customers a free wash and the other is volume discounts offered at the Portal in order to lock in customer loyalty.

This location should wash between 150,000 — 200,000+ cars a year depending again on the climate.

Bill Consolo is from Chief's Auto Wash, Cleveland.

Judges' comments on Consolo


Consolo recognized the market potential of the location and site and the influences that demand would have on design and layout.

In terms of an express exterior carwash, Consolo's overall design and layout is good.

I believe that Consolo over-estimated the demand potential of this site in terms of being able to wash 150,000 cars per year without having other profit centers on site to help drive this level of demand.

As such, I do not believe that this design and layout would maximize the return potential of this location and site.


High-volume is definitely needed to feed two 100' tunnels. Operating space will be a little smaller when setbacks and landscaping are added.

I am concerned about the turning radius at the carwash entrance. If lane 2 goes to tunnel 2 and lane 1 goes to tunnel 1, it is an easier turn but confusing to the customer.

You could delineate lanes 1 to tunnel 2 and lane 2 to tunnel 1, but you would have an uncomfortable turn for some vehicles. There needs to be a gated exit from the wash entrance for cars that discover at the last minute the need to escape but non-paying customers cannot enter.

High-volume washing with some high-volume goals
By Jeff Fazio, Sonny's

Having the right mix of profit centers to feed off one another is a key element for success. With some cross merchandising and the lack of competition in the area, I felt that this site could do some big numbers.

Doing big numbers means a lot of cars on the property so the flow of traffic was taken into consideration while designing this site.

The profit centers chosen for this property are gas, exterior carwash and a convenience store with an alternative profit center (Dunkin Donuts, Subway or Blimpie). I am also offering eight slots for free vacuuming.

My philosophy in how to maximize these profit centers starts with the gas station. With only one gas station within a one mile radius and 80,000 people around, I think another gas station with the right brand name could do very well.

This will also bring in a lot of daily traffic for gas and will feed business to the other profit centers. With competitive pricing and eight loading positions, I am forecasting to pump over 300,000 gallons a month.

I have positioned the pumps far enough away from the entrance of Road A so that it is easy to pull into position.

Realizing that this entrance will have the largest flow of traffic, I incorporated it in my design. For convenience and speed there will be pay at the pump with the option for a carwash. The carwash price points are five, seven, seven and nine, except for customers who get a fill-up. These customers will enjoy a $2 discount on any wash they choose.

The carwash has four packages and payment will be processed by an automated pay station.

The basic exterior package will start at $5. There will be a $7 wheel package that will include a rim cleaner and a tire shine. The other $7 package is a body package that includes triple foam and sealant wax. The $10 package includes both the wheel and body package.

The tunnel length is 110' and will be equipped to handle up to 125 cars an hour. The exit of the carwash was strategically positioned so that customers could exit onto the road with less traffic. This was done to avoid a bottle neck at the exit end of the wash.

The traffic route for the wash was designed with an escape lane for customers who made a mistake and for the city officials who require it.

This lane also serves two additional benefits, servicing the self-cleaning pit located in the equipment room and providing chemical reps easy delivery access.

The goal for the carwash, with its hours of operation from 7 to 8 Monday through Saturday and 8 to 6 on Sunday, is to wash between 130,000 to 165,000 cars a year (weather permitting).

The convenience store adjoins the north side of the carwash with a glass partition, allowing customers to view the carwash in action.

A well lit tunnel is a must, as this will provide clear viewing of the operation.

The tunnel will be lined with white PVC siding to help illuminate the wash's interior while maintaining a clean appearance.

The 3,760 square foot c-store will house an array of the usual merchandise. With the help of an alternative profit center, the goal of the c-store is to produce gross sales of $40,000 - $50,000 a month.

Free vacuuming is another feature to lure customers onto the site while providing a courtesy to paying customers. Offering a bold advertisement of something free, to 45,000 cars a day, I feel it will bring customers onto the property with the likelihood of purchasing something.

Every detail in this project has been scrutinized down to the placement of the dumpster.

The sign for the site is a very basic one which states, $5 wash and shows the gas prices. The overall site was designed to be well lit and well manicured to encourage business throughout its hours of operation.

If the property is managed this way, the profit centers should be able to sell themselves, thus maximizing these demographics.

Jeff Fazio is the regional sales manager for the Fleet-o-Matic division of Sonny's Enterprises.

Judges' comments on Fazio


Fazio exemplifies a good use of space with plenty of appeal for express-exterior customers; however, placing a carwash tunnel in the back of the c-store hurts its marketability.

It is also difficult to get viewing windows from the c-store to the carwash bay because of the need for shelf space, coolers, utility rooms, etc.

I think the projection of 130,000 to 165,000 carwashes a year is optimistic since this location is primarily a c-store gas pumper and the carwash is somewhat hidden.

Free vacuum access seems to be unrestricted, so anyone, customer or not, may use them.


Fazio recognized the market potential of the site and some of the influences that demand would have on design and layout.

Fazio correctly identified that a multiple profit center would be necessary to maximize the return on this site. The design and layout is fairly consistent with creating a positive experience for consumers because it combines three profit centers on the same site.

The general layout of the site exhibits some of the qualities necessary to achieve balance and flow throughout the production queues.

The tunnel is too long and the convenience store is too big. As a result, customers using the POP closest to the convenience store would have to make a three-point turn to enter the conveyor because there is not enough space for a 21' to 23' inside turning radius.

This is also true for customers exiting the tunnel that wanted to come back onto the paddock area.

Moreover, there doesn't seem to be enough room left for placement of the underground gasoline tank farm so that a tanker truck could deliver fuel without blocking access to the site.