Order up: A carwash menu can stir up profits 

Order up: A carwash menu can stir up profits

With the right ingredients, carwashes can craft a tantalizing menu sure to enhance business.

For many, having an array of options to choose from seems like the best case scenario with an endless amount of possibilities. However once this concept is employed within a business’ service offerings, this vast assortment of choices may become less appealing and more frustrating.

Imagine pulling up to a fast food restaurant’s drive-thru. At first, the glowing menu appears to have a vast selection ripe for picking the perfect meal. Several seconds pass by while you continue to contemplate your decision. Now cars are lining up behind you, and what started out as elation bubbles up and spills over as exasperation. There are just too many options to choose from and not enough time to decide. Eventually, you settle on the first low price option you see.

This same type of occurrence can happen at a carwash. “With any communication, keeping things concise is important. Overcomplicating menus can cause anxiety and even buyer’s remorse,” explains Andi Watkins, marketing and brand manager for Autobell Car Wash Inc.

“Customers want to feel confident when making a decision. Keeping things simple allows them to feel in command of the buying decision. It also allows for a quick decision and transaction time,” notes Monty Rast, director of operations for Autobell.

Offering too many packages on the menu can confuse the customer, adds 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.” When customers are confused, they may ask for a basic wash because they don’t know what else they want. “Simplicity of the menu is most important,” he continues.

Choosing the right ingredients

With simplicity in mind, how can owners and operators effectively promote their services and upsell packages? Finding the perfect balance of being concise while showcasing enough variety to satisfy the customer is key.

On the menu board, Watkins and Rast recommend having five packages or fewer in each category. Currently, Autobell offers four full-service wash options as well as three exterior wash options. “You don’t want to overcomplicate, but you also want to show customers that you have options to suit their needs. Á la carte options are also usually a source of additional sales, so having wash packages with your most sought-after choices listed is important,” they explain.

For Rassamni, an ideal number is about three packages. However, if additional services are offered besides wash options, such as express detailing, carwashes should incorporate two of these at maximum. “We offer two [wash] packages, and two express [detailing] packages,” shares Rassamni. “If you sell a detail service, have at least one package [with this service] on the menu so people can see it; and that opens the door to getting them to buy higher packages.”

For instance, adds Rassamni, having an express detail package on the menu, as an example, opens the door to not only sell more of this service but also to upgrade customers to higher ticket items, such as a full service detail, he adds.

Additionally, a small line/section at the bottom of the menu can be included which highlights any á la carte services offered, because some customers might just want one service and not a package, notes Rassamni. With this being said, he adds, carwashes should focus on selling their wash packages, which are higher priced, and utilize the á la carte list as a sales tool by pointing out the packages offering these services when customers are interested.

Furthermore, Rassamni suggests including the basic wash as an á la carte service only and not as a package option. He inquires, “Customers are coming to the [carwash] for [a wash], so why put it on the menu?” Instead, promote packages that will lead to a higher return on investment while also providing a higher value to customers.

The amount and type of packages offered will vary from location to location, but Rast knows one component that is universal. “The main purpose of the carwash menu is to assist customers in making an easy and speedy wash choice that meets their needs,” he adds.

Crafting the menu

Once the right ingredients have been selected, crafting a well-designed menu is the next crucial step. “Creating a carwash menu is part science and part art. The science behind the menu is what to offer in each package and how to price each package to increase the sales of the higher packages,” says Rassamni. “The art is how to design and lay out the menu to give your carwash the image of excellence and the feeling of trust.”

When it comes to the layout, the “most common components are the headings with wash package names, descriptions of services and pricing,” shares Watkins. “Highlight the core business, whether full-service, express, self-service, etc. There are different types of carwashes, and the general public doesn’t always know the difference in the services.”

Moreover, Rassamni suggests including the value over the price when listing a package. For example, the value of a package may be listed as $45, while the price is only $20. This will create more of a push for customers to buy a more expensive package if they feel the value is high.

In addition to designing the main menu board, Watkins and Rast note offering other menu forms is also important. “We have several versions of our menu, including a menu board, a vinyl menu display at the register and a paper brochure. The menu board is mainly a guide for customers to help them find the wash they desire. Our display at the register is also a quick reference with the basic packages. The brochure helps them become more intimately familiar with our packages for repeat trips,” states Watkins, adding that their customers can find an even broader explanation of packages, including a frequently asked questions section, on their website.

“With websites so accessible, customers can get information very easily — so much that sometimes this creates information overload. Keeping your on-site menus clean and consistent with your other messaging is key. This is how you educate the customer,” he continues.

Rassamni also utilizes other forms of communication to promote wash services, noting that carwashes must take advantage of the technology and trends of today, such as the substantial increase in mobile usage; more and more consumers are utilizing their smartphones — in addition to laptops, desktops and tablets—to surf the Web for new products and services.

Also, as technology continues to advance, so too should a carwash’s menu displays. “Today most movie theaters and fast food restaurants are using television screens as menus. Carwashes should do the same. Also, using a [tablet] as a menu makes the carwash look very professional. Each wash, express detail or full detail package should have a link to a small video clip to show the service. Use the [tablet] to record customers’ testimonials of the detail services they experienced and to promote services to new perspective detail clients,” advises Rassamni.

Rast agrees, offering a few more noteworthy advancements to include. “LED lighting, wireless communication for menu boards, video graphics, etc., have all been wonderful technological changes,” he states.

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