Although we’re currently living in unexpected and uncertain times, business will surely return to normal levels eventually, and you should be ready with upgraded equipment and systems. Fortunately, riding the wave of exponential growth over recent years, carwash manufacturers have invested in the resources needed to offer better, modern systems and equipment. Today’s new equipment can offer many advantages to operators and customers, including cost, performance and entertainment benefits, just to name a few.
In this article, we look at five reasons to consider remodeling your carwash now.
Possibly the best reason to invest in new equipment and systems these days is because they simply outperform their older, traditional counterparts in so many ways. Leading conveyor and in-bay automatic systems, in particular, can provide to-the-inch cleaning without damage and resource waste concerns. Combined with vehicle profiling technology, robotics and variable frequency drive capabilities, today’s carwash equipment can offer numerous cost savings for operators and many customer satisfaction elements for patrons, including less noise during wash cycles as well as enhanced results.
Also, today’s payment processing abilities allow customers to be in, out and on their way without having to interact with an employee or another customer, which is becoming increasingly important these days.
“License plate recognition and app-based access to point-of-sale (POS) systems have streamlined the ever-popular club programs,” adds Tyler Greffin, director of sales for Motor City Wash Works. “Due to the ‘new norm,’ people are going to be looking for less person-to-person interfacing. This is a great time to look at what is currently available.”
In addition, continues Greffin, customers still demand clean, dry and shiny results. With strobing LED lights, foam shows and attractive signage, service confirmation and entertainment are now infused into the carwash process, adding value statements along the way.
“Ceramic application, for instance, has become the new golden child for revenue,” explains Greffin.
Remain relevant and competitive
According to our research, since 2014, the top 50 conveyor carwash chains in this country have ballooned in terms of the number of locations by 105%. This trend means that more carwashes are either being built new or remodeled to support branding initiatives.
If you are putting off a remodeling project, it could be at your own peril, since a newer, better wash could be more attractive to current as well as prospective customers. Look no further than the strategies of other businesses, such as fast-food chains, to realize the urgency and impact of an upgrade.
“Other notable brands, such as Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s, do not wait for an ideal time to reimage their businesses,” says Greffin. “They continually keep their brands fresh and relevant.”
Don’t know where to start? Greffin suggests randomly polling customers with an anonymous questionnaire. You can incentivize them with a free wash upgrade if they participate. “You might capture an idea you may never have thought of. Don’t allow yourself to become irrelevant,” he asserts.
Subscription-based models have changed the way consumers purchase and select the companies they reward with loyalty. If your carwash does not currently offer a loyalty club program, stop reading this article and start one. Carwashes that do not embrace loyalty programs will surely loose business to those washes that do offer this convenience and value to customers.
However, in order to run and manage a successful wash club program, you need to make an investment in technology, durable equipment, software and marketing. Successful operators see the advantages of offering these memberships from the start and commit to their success, which includes the need to remodel and retrofit newer equipment and systems.
Older equipment and systems cannot handle the volume or complexity of managing a competitive and successful membership program.
Elevating our industry together
Another reason to remodel your carwash is to attract the right type of traffic. Our industry’s perception is changing with the times. Today’s leading carwashes provide a more attractive, convenient and safer service compared to old, dingy, loud and dark washes of the past. When you invest in upgrading your equipment — adding softer and high-end elements throughout — and give your business an overall makeover, you are contributing to elevating our entire industry’s perception and importance to the public.
Although live gatherings of industry professionals and educational/training sessions are limited these days, advice from other successful operators is still only a phone or video call away.
“Have a clear vision and understanding of what you are and where you are today. Spend time researching who and what you want to be when you’re finished with the remodeling project,” advises Greffin. “In my opinion, the greatest assets an operator has [are] the regional road shows that are hosted by carwash associations throughout the year. It is refreshing to see operators all over the country graciously open the doors to busloads of other operators, vendors and new investors to assess, critique and learn. This demonstrates the spirit of making the carwash industry stronger together.”
The time is right
If there is any silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that carwashes are generally seeing less volume these days and can afford to take the time to complete a remodeling project. Proactive operators are taking this time and additional funding from low-interest government loans to improve their businesses, putting them in an ideal situation to prepare for an eventual economic recovery.
Manufacturers like Greffin’s are seeing a surge in calls from existing operators looking to take advantage of lower volumes due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, upgrading your equipment should be an ongoing strategy, say the experts.
“I find it ironic that it takes a crisis to motivate many operators to re-invest in their businesses. Your image, marketing, services and overall quality defines your business and your brand. If your brand is tired, then you are at risk of losing the volume and revenue stream you have worked hard to build over the years,” warns Greffin.
When you are taking on any remodel or retrofit project, it is important to budget for any hidden costs or other surprises that may emerge. Regardless of the scope or expected costs associated with your remodeling project, you should always add a little padding to your budget. After all, especially if you purchased an existing building, you can never be quite sure what’s behind a wall or under a floor that might need to be addressed once your remodel plans start. Expect the unexpected, and then budget for it.
“Do not go in on a tight budget,” suggests Greffin. “Factor in an additional 15% to 25% of the project’s projected cost in reserve to cover any unforeseen delays and overruns. If you don’t use the money, consider it a bonus.”
Ponder the reasons outlined in this article and be sure to consult with industry suppliers and manufacturers when considering a makeover. Your current customers will notice your upgrades and appreciate the added value. As for others, if they are unable to visit your wash today due to financial hardships, your efforts will surely stick in their minds in the future when they have more discretionary funds to spend.