As the carwash industry continuously evolves, many owners and operators are striving to keep up. Adapting new technologies like RFID, LED lighting and advances in equipment can help boost business, and industry professionals can reap the benefits from additional profits and convenience these innovations provide.

The more traditional model of carwashing meant staff members on-site hand scrubbing and drying cars, and interacting with customers on the lot. Friendly employees can have a positive effect on customers. Newer carwash equipment means less drain on resources like electricity and power, but many companies prefer a mix of the latest in carwash technology and the genuineness of human interaction.

Tommy Terrific's Carwash is an example of one of these carwashes. For its third location in Texas, the wash hopes to capitalize on local development and technological trends to help ensure a lucrative and thriving business.

Maria Woodie: With construction for the third Tommy Terrific’s Carwash, an express exterior carwash, expected to begin in 2016, how will this location compare to the two established carwashes currently in operation?

Lanese Barnett, marketing director of The Car Wash Companies: The new Beckley carwash will be very similar to the other two locations in the layout and design consistent with Tommy Terrific’s Carwash branding — providing the same high-quality service, while still having its own personality. As technology advances, we have the opportunity to incorporate new equipment, products and services that produce a cleaner car with greater efficiency. That being said, there are some things we would never change. For us, the personal touch and human interaction is key; from the friendly attendant greeting the customer and checking for potential damage issues, to the employee guiding the customer onto the tunnel track and prepping the vehicle, to the ‘pit crew’ who hand-dries the vehicle and sends the customer on their way. Our second Tommy Terrific’s location on Ross Avenue is poised to wash more than 175,000 cars in its third year; we feel confident that we are doing something right!

MW: Are there any specific features/technologies that you are looking forward to the most? How will these features help optimize the location’s productivity?

LB: While this will primarily be an exterior carwash, we are looking to incorporate one full-service package and a mini detail to the menu. Because the property is larger than the other two Tommy Terrific’s locations, we are excited to try this new service model. Efficiency will be maximized by the carwash layout and the ability to process cars.

MW: What technologies and developing trends do you expect to emerge over the next few years, and are there any technologies that you feel will start to fade away in the industry?

LB: Long term, we see a rising trend of driverless cars. As that technology continues to emerge and evolve, there will undoubtedly be a rise in demand for carwashes. We also see an opportunity for us, as operators, to rethink how we sell and market our products and services to customers, and how we communicate with them in general, capitalizing on this trend.

What we may see fade away is how we currently identify the customer. As the world continues to become more interconnected, we may see new technologies come in the form of a superior RFID that connects to a federal database or some other centralized tracking/identification system.

MW: The new location’s construction will commence after the connection of the Dallas Horseshoe Project connector ramp; with the carwash property situated directly to the south, how do you think this new interstate ramp will impact business?

LB: The Dallas Horseshoe Project is a big deal around here. Not only is it looking to drastically increase traffic to and from the southern parts of Dallas to downtown and beyond, it is going to be a destination in itself with the creation and expansion of hike and bike trails and recreational parks. Because of our unique proximity, we think it will increase our demand as well. We are looking to become a respite or regular “watering hole” of sorts for those coming to the area. Maybe we will even incorporate a special carwash package for joggers/cyclists; they can park and leave their vehicle at Tommy Terrific’s to get cleaned while they get time in on the trail. We see a lot of really fun marketing opportunities here.

MW: In your opinion, what should buyers/owners keep in mind when selecting a location for a carwash?

LB: While location is key, you do not have to rely only on traditional volume measures like traffic count. Keep in mind density (house rooftops, apartment/condos, office buildings, retail, etc.), average household income, ease of ingress and egress, and area competition. For us, we also look for markets that are of personal interest. Do we want to spend time there? Are we excited to join that particular community? Is the community in line with our brand identity?

MW: What other factors can impact the overall success of a carwash?  

LB: Not knowing your market can doom even a great carwash model. Factors to strongly consider and evaluate: Is there an established carwash nearby with a strong loyalty base that has already set the bar? Can you match and beat those expectations, and how are you planning to do so? If you do not know your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as truly evaluating your own, you are taking a huge gamble and potentially setting yourself up for failure by not doing your homework.

Lanese Barnett is the marketing director of Dallas-based The Car Wash Companies, which has brands including full-service model, TradeMark Car Wash, and growing express exterior model, Tommy Terrific’s Carwash. Barnett handles all marketing communications, community and public relations, and acts as general assistant to the owner. She has been with the company for five years and can be reached at Lanese@TradeMarkWash.com.

Maria Woodie is assistant editor of our sister publication, Water Technology. She can be reached at mwoodie@watertechonline.com.