Seasonal changes bring new challenges and opportunities for carwashes. Customer traffic may increase or decrease, and services offered may vary due to what’s popular at certain times of the year. The weather touches nearly every aspect of carwashing, including additional profit centers like ice vending.
“The carwash business is naturally compatible with an ice vending machine,” says Jeff Dyson, vice president of sales for Kooler Ice Inc. “It can provide wash owners with an affordable secondary income stream that can help them differentiate themselves from other carwashes and can add income to their [businesses] in times when their carwash business is slowing down.”
Ice vending machines can also be effective ways to attract customers, believes Dyson.
“For carwashes that have been in business for years, an ice vending machine is a great way to gain attention back from competitors by offering something new and novel to draw them back,” he explains.
Profits spring up as customers cool down
After you’ve decided you want to get involved with this additional profit center, research to make sure you choose the right product and company.
Dyson encourages operators to select machines that automatically bag the ice for a more sterile option. This feature also presents convenience for the customer.
In addition, Dyson says to consider the prospective company’s “after-sale” service and support. “Try to choose a company that is invested in your success and is going to assist you in growing and developing your ice business,” he asserts.
Dyson states owners should look for three things when it comes to their machines. Make sure the equipment is:
“This means the manufacturer has spent the funds necessary to ensure that their machine complies with all safety regulatory codes and has been independently tested by an outsideagency against these guidelines or regulations,” Dyson explains.
Sometimes, Dyson adds, carwash owners choose the locations of their ice machines based on the placement of the site’s water and electric. This strategy can work, but it is often better to place the machines in the area with the best traffic flow for convenient entering and exiting. “Ideally the machine should be placed where it will have better visibility from the road,” he continues.
Get the word out
To ensure success, ice vending machines can be advertised just like any other service the carwash offers. A variety of strategies can be used, states Dyson, including banners, a grand opening, newspaper announcements, coupons, mail campaigns and more.
Another tip Dyson offers is to get the machine on the ground as soon as possible.
“It may take time for consumers to realize what you have, and they may not be familiar with the concept since it is relatively new,” he says. As customers discover the machine, they will start talking about it.
Dyson predicts that in the next few years, ice vending machines will replace the bagged ice found in ice freezers. “Ice and water vending is in its infancy, but it is evolving quickly,” he notes.
Recent technology has made ice vending more sophisticated. Some machines offer the ability to monitor sales and service data remotely, shares Dyson, something he believes is key to having a good experience as an owner and providing a positive experience for patrons. Some of the functions can even be managed from a smartphone.
An ideal match
Dyson shares ice vending is especially suited for self-serve carwashes because of their open parking lots. The machines can provide these washes, many of which are older, with prosperous profit centers for additional revenue.
Still, other formats can find success with ice vending as well. Operators not interested in owning a machine can lease unused land to an independent owner.
Ice vending provides many opportunities to increase profits and help customers make the most out of their carwash visits. Their low startup and maintenance costs, as well as their small time commitment from the owner, make them an ideal investment for washes, explains Dyson.
“You have already paid a premium for your land and established your business,” Dyson concludes. “Why not increase its profitability into the future?”