The Details on Increasing Your Lot
by Lance Winslow
Whether you are looking to add value for your
customers, expand your customer base, or simply increase your revenue, the addition of a
car wash and/or detailing service to your parking facility may be the answer. There
are many options available to you if you want to provide these services. You can
contract with a local independent company in your area with a good reputation, co-market
with a detail shop nearby who will service your lot, buy your own unit and run it in-house
or purchase a franchise name and equipment from a national company.
Whichever route you choose, it is possible to increase daily income, if you hire
the labor or contract out. "Car washing and detailing not only provide value
for your customers, but also maximize the per space value of your lot," commented
Philip Hutcheson, owner of The Car Wash Guys franchise in Nashville, Tennessee, who
currently has Central Parking in Nashville as a client. "It's all about
convenience and saving customers time. We're only washing their cars, but that can
give them time to do other things they want to do," said Hutcheson.
HIRING A CONTRACTOR
If you choose to hire a local company to handle the job, then try to be respectful
of their time. You may wish to start out one day a week. For example -
Wednesday is car wash day. You collect the money and park the cars in car wash row.
The local company arrives at the desired time and washes, waxes and details the
cars and returns the keys to you. Make sure the mobile operator is licensed,
insured, maintains quality employees, shows up on time and has some sort of re-claim
device for waste water.
To reach your revenue goal, increase services to
more days and more hours a day as the work catches on. It will build slowly, but
will give you an edge and higher average ticket charge per car. A typical financial
arrangement with a detail service can net you $2 to $5 per car for a wash and wax and as
high as $15 per car for a full detail.
Here's an example of how a parking facility can partner with a detail service.
Tim Morse, co-owner of The Car Wash Guys franchise in Oklahoma City, washes and
details cars for SunPark, a private parking facility near Oklahoma International Airport.
He washes their shuttle buses for free in exchange for use of a storage room to
keep supplies in for his mobile detailing service. SunPark receives a percentage of
each car washed and detailed. This relationship provides a win-win-win - for the
customers and both businesses involved.
SunPark was bought by new owners in 1998.
The previous owners had offered a basic wash and wax as an added service, explained
Manager Larry DeLuca. "We took it a step further. We now also offer car
detailing and oil change which have been well received by our customers. Our
agreement with The Car Wash Guys allows us to offer detailing at a competitive rate to
what our customers could find elsewhere in the city, just with the convenience of having
it done while they're away," he explained. When travelers arrive, they are
given a card inviting them to select additional services besides parking during their
trip. They indicate their return date and if they desire a detail or car wash.
Their cars are prepared the day before they return, waiting for them all shiny and
clean. "The word of mouth about the additional services that you don't receive
at the airport has helped increase our business as a parking option of choice,"
With Hutcheson's work in Nashville, for the
monthly tenants, the cost of a wash or detail is added to their monthly fee as an ongoing
service. Washes can also be used as an incentive to customers, i.e. two free car
washes a month. A lot owner can mark up contracted services for additional profit or
add them as an incentive to retain long-term customers.
For a parking company in Tucson, Arizona, The
Car Wash Guys team washes every car in the structure once a month and extends a special
group rate of $4.00 per car to the lot owner. The customers were so happy to have
the added "free" service that when the lot owner recently raised monthly rates
there was only one complaint about the free increase.
BUYING A FRANCHISE
You can also buy a turn-key franchise if you're serious about adding detailing as a
permanent source of revenue. The Detail Guys based in Reno, Nevada offers mobile
detail units, training, marketing and computerized software in one complete package.
Each unit has a re-claim device, central vacuum system and enclosed lockable
trailer. Visit their web site at www.detailguys.com.
The Detail Guys and "brother" company The Car Wash Guys currently work
with many large parking companies and have many unites in 30 states and 110 markets
nationwide. You can buy a franchise with a territory including several parking lots,
an entire downtown area or the whole city if still available.
DOING IT YOURSELF
If you opt for the do-it-yourself route, following are some suggestions regarding
equipment. You'll need a pressure washer with cold and hot water, hot if you also
want to occasionally wash down the lot or parking structure. For cars you need 1800
psi that will take an 8hp motor with a belt driven pump. (We do not recommend direct
drive.) Ask for a cat pump, operators say they have nine lives. You'll also
need at least 50 feet of non-maring 3000 psi single braided hose or a reel and a wand.
Always operate a wand of less than 24 inches - less chance to ding a car which is
parked too close or over spray cars already washed or cars you are not washing. You
need a 200 gallon water tank. All this can be mounted on an industrial Cushman cart.
Make sure the cart has four wheels, since water moves and weights 8.2 pounds per
gallon. That's 1,640 lbs! Insurance is not only an important factor to look at
when hiring a contractor, it's essential if you plan to run the operation yourself.
You'll want to get a liability policy of at least $1 to $2 million.
You will need to hire experienced labor or your employees will need some type of
formal training. A company called Detail Plus in Portland, Oregon offers training
courses at your place of business and video tapes and manuals. For more information,
With professional training and profit incentive bonuses of 10-15% for employees, you may
be able to put together an excellent crew.
You'll also need to learn a little about car wash waste water. Even if you
are hiring a company on contract, you should at least be aware of the environmental laws
pertaining to waste water. The basic law is this: do not allow wash water run-off to
enter a storm drain. Block off storm drains and vacuum unevaporated water into a
holding tank for proper discharge into the sanitary sewer. You or your contractor
will need to locate a drain which is connected to the sewer treatment plan within your
property or drive the waste to a nearby gas station, for example, to put in their R.V.
dump. This BMP-Best Management Practice is consistent with nearly all NPDES-National
Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems permits. For additional information, visit www.epa.gov and search under water pollution.
CO-MARKETING/NETWORK OF SERVICES
If you utilize the services of a gas station, this will also be an excellent
opportunity to co-market with another business, perhaps even help send them business.
It pays to have a network of local businesses such as lock-out specialists, tow
companies, or maintenance services. Remember you are in the automotive business even
though you just park them.
A NATIONWIDE RESOURCE
The Car Wash Guys is currently working with
numerous parking garages around the country. We'd be happy to talk with you if you
are interested in adding services to your facility. We can also serve as a resource
to help locate an independent detailing contractor or a franchisee if one is located in
your area. The Car Wash Guys has training centers for our franchisees in Columbus,
OH; Nashville, TN; Orlando, FL; San Antonio, TX;
Oklahoma City, OK; Overland Park, KS; Denver,
CO; Palm Desert, CA; Sacramento, CA; Bozeman, MT; Portland, OR; Lewiston, ID; Reno, NV;
and Scottsdale, AZ. The Car Wash Guys was founded in 1979 as the first mobile car
wash company in the world and now washes just about everything from cars, trucks, boats
and aircraft to windows, buildings, graffiti removal and more. For more information,
call 1-888-WASH-GUY or visit www.detailguys.com or
Best wishes on your plans to maximize revenue as
a parking professional. Just remember, success can be found in the details!
Article reprinted from the
parking professional, November 2000.
Back to Articles Index