Where It All Started
The self-serve car wash has been in existence for decades in the United States. Since the idea of self-serve gas pumps became ever more popular in the 1930’s, self-serve car washes were quick to follow suit. Most customers were willing to pump their own gas in order to save themselves a few cents on the gallon. The idea sparked the same for the car wash industry.
By 1972, an estimated 15,000 self-serve gas pumps were in operation. This was a big difference than the 1,000 gas stations in the previous decade. Unattended pumps sprouted in front of a variety of establishments – the flower shop, cleaners, car washes, hamburger stands, supermarkets, and ice cream stores (1). The boom of self-serve gas pumps helped the self-serve car wash business take on it’s own growth.
Enough About Gas
The idea that a customer can wash their vehicle the way they want to has a certain intrigue. There’s no worry of scratches or machines causing damage. A customer can control their costs with some self-serve bays starting at only $2.00 today. Plus, the ability to wash any vehicle without restrictions can give customers the freedom to wash when they need to, and not in their driveway.
Self-serve bays can range greatly from location to location. Not only in the available services, but in how up-to-date and kept up they are. One of the things many operators face is going against the big, bright, shiny, and new tunnel services. As we all know, businesses have their expenses and it can be overwhelming.
Luckily, getting into the self-serve industry is far less expensive and less involved than owning a full service tunnel or even an automatic bay. Generally, self-service carwashes require a lower investment and carry lower risks. Even during an economic stall, antiquated self-service car washes are being renovated and operated for a profit. Inventive business plans actually favor these washes (2).
Many new operators are finding old, run down locations, and investing in them to provide a renewed self-serve location. New builds are not happening as often as they once did, so this is a great option and opportunity for an investor or operator to get a car wash running without a huge upfront cost.
Self-serve locations are also able to add the same kinds of services you would see in a manned car wash including engine degreaser, tri-color foam, spot free rinse, tar remover, conditioners, blow drying, and more! The capabilities of the self-serve bay are certainly more than they have been in the past. As an operator, the ability to customize your products is a huge advantage over In-Bays or Tunnels.
Let’s Reimagine The Self-Serve Bay
In the last several years, WashCard has worked hard to provide their customers with new, innovative technology and payment options. For nearly 30 years, we have provided solutions to customers which have been customized and created specifically for their needs. For a long time, those solutions were solely integrations with other manufacturers’ equipment.
Over years of integration with other equipment, there were many customers of ours who asked us “why don’t you just make your own self-serve paystation?” To which a lightbulb went off and we thought, you’re right, why don’t we? Thus, began the journey to create a self-serve paystation which offered more than just a way to pay, or manage a bay.
Many manufacturers of self-serve equipment paid no attention on how to improve the vision of an operators business. Not because they didn’t want to, but because it was expensive to do so. Engineering hardware and software around what an operator needed to see is expensive. Lucky for WashCard, it was already built into what we were doing. Monitoring cards, loyalty programs, and customer information was something we were fully capable. So why not take it a step further?
So we did.
Imagine as a self-serve operator you want to know everything about your wash.
- How much cash is going in
- How much cash is collected
- Are employees stealing any of that cash
- How much customers spend on their credit card
- What the cash vs. credit amount is
- How much time customers spend in the bay
- How much they use on a specific service
- Putting more money in your pocket, with less coins to carry around
Think about anything having to do with the self-serve bay. You want to know the details. Dan Yarusso, owner of WashCard, and previous self-serve operator, knew all too well the details of his business he wanted to understand which gave him the knowledge and expertise of thinking just like an operator. However, it didn’t come without it’s trials.
The development of our own self-serve solution came out developing a product for a specific customer. Over time, working with more customers to understand what the need of the operator was, but more importantly the customer, we were able to create a product catering to both. It was then our Baystation system was born.
When it comes down to it, understanding your business to the nth degree allows you to make changes, adjust to better serve your customers, and make your profitability go up. When you fully understand your business, you see things from a different perspective to allow you a better opportunity to make more money. In the end, the goal is just that. Be successful, and make enough to retire or at least go on vacation (without worrying about your business the whole time).
Over the years, as our customers have added just credit card acceptance, the low average of income increasing is around 15-20 percent. When customers aren’t limited to the cash in their pocket, they tend to spend more. Which is a huge bonus for you! Add loyalty to the mix, and customers have seen 50-75 percent increase in their income to their wash, or even higher. It’s a simple piece to add to your business that actually allows you to earn more revenue.
We do realize when it comes to your business, there is more to it than putting in a new piece of hardware. There is marketing, building a customer base, maintenance, managing other people, and much more. However, when it does come to putting in a new piece of hardware, we must brag a little and say we are experts. We’re pretty good about helping with the marketing piece too.
Future-proofing Your Business
The old days of rotary style paystations have slowly been making their way out, and for good reason. Between having broken knobs, bill acceptors, or not being able to read the services, the whole experience can be frustrating for the customer. If you don’t have card readers in the bay, there is also a frustration of having to bring enough quarters to fully wash your vehicle. There are so many things to think about when it comes to ensuring your business can succeed in the future.
As we move into an era where credit cards and mobile payments rule, it’s important to make sure you are keeping up with that in your business too. Creating a user friendly atmosphere can make the difference between a one-time customer, and a lifetime customer. Whether you have loyalty programs or not, how your customer interacts with the actual payment system can make a huge difference.
In the very least, car wash operators should have a credit card reader in the bays. However, in order to future-proof your business it’s certainly worth thinking about mobile payments, loyalty cards, a website, getting on social media, and taking out that old rotary dial paystation.
Of course, as a business, we would love if we could offer you our services and products. We have no shame in our game. However, as a business owner, these are all things you should seriously take into consideration. There is always a cost to upgrading your services, your equipment, etc., however in the long run it can increase your bottom line and get you that long awaited vacation.
Lucky for you....
We are offering a great deal on our Baystation systems for self-serve operators. Take a look and give us a call if you're interested in increasing your profits, and reimagining your better business today!