Imagine: It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday with nothing but clear, brilliant blue skies for miles. What a perfect day for Phil to go to the carwash.

He pulls up to the wash down the street, smiling luminously as he slowly ascends toward the carwash’s menu. But wait; the disorderly menu is filled with words scattered about, and packages and à la carte services thrown together with no clear indication of what belongs to what. Phil just wants a simple wash and maybe a nice tire shine. Phil’s smile quickly fades, he puts his car in reverse, shifts to drive and takes off toward the carwash further down the road with the modern, eye-catching menu.

“A well-designed menu is clean and clear,” says Tommy Car Wash Systems President Ryan Essenburg. “A poorly designed or ‘busy’ menu causes frustration, slows processing time and can result in the customer simply selecting ‘the basic’ because they can’t cut through the confusion.”

AJ Rassamni, owner of Great American Car Wash in Fresno, California, and author of Increase Business 30 Percent in 30 Days and Dirty Cars, Filthy Rich, explains that menus need to be simple and easy to follow, including that “Image is everything.”

Menus should stay current and reflect any  updates or additions. Rassamni says a menu filled with handwritten updates ruins the appeal of the menu.

“I have seen a lot of places [where] they change the price with a sticker or paper and they do not redo it professionally,” notes Rassamni, warning that an unprofessional design or a menu filled with handmade updates can cause customers to lose trust in the overall quality of the wash, resulting in loss of potential sales. “If your menu is poorly designed and does not look professional, what impression are you giving of your business?”

What to include in the menu

Simplicity may be crucial; however, a menu must also ensure optimal revenue by featuring the best packages and à la carte services to drive in more traffic. Essenburg recommends adding all services as extra options, letting customers know if they want only one service, they can get it. “The key is to add value if you want to charge a higher price,” he informs. “Having valuable à la carte items that showcase their individual value … make your packages look amazing when you offer all these services for half of what they would cost individually.”

One of the most common à la carte services is a tire shine. Essenburg reports a tire shiner service has the most “perceived value” as the outcome is easily recognizable and appreciated, resulting in bright, shiny wheels that perfectly complement a fresh wash.

Rassamni suggests placing popular add-ons like tire shiners in the highest package to encourage customers to pay more for the top package over the lower options. “For example, if a carwash has [tire shine] in three packages, the lowest priced package will be the most popular package because this is what people [are looking] for,” he explains. “That is why if it is a popular item, it should only be included in the [most expensive] package.”

Increase profits with packages

In terms of package performance, the top package should always be the best option. “If you have a better wash package at $22 and the best package at $24, over 99 percent of people will buy the $24 [option] because it has more value in it,” Rassamni declares, adding that if a package with a lower price is selling more than the top package, something is wrong.

Rassamni offers the following tips:

  • Only offer two or three packages maximum. If you add a fourth package, make it an express detail option only.
  • The top package should be the most visible package on the menu — the first thing customers see.
  • A basic wash should be promoted as an à la carte service, not as a package.
  • Promote an unlimited wash pass on the menu. Some owners/operators view this option as too cheap of a deal. However, don’t focus on the price of the pass, but instead on how much revenue it can potentially bring at the end of the month.
  • Promote specials such as “buy three get one free.” These deals will increase the number of loyal customers who select your wash over a competitor.

Also, urges Essenburg, carwashes should create menus to focus on packages. “We design our menus in a way to be very package-oriented,” he explains. “The top package has nearly double the services of the second to the top package.”

Maria Woodie is assistant editor of our sister publication, Water Technology. She can be reached at [email protected]