April 19, 2019
As the car wash industry and the business environment in Northern California have evolved, so too has Redwood City Car Wash.
When Al Lam took over in 1983, the wash was already 25 years old. It was primarily a gas station with an exterior car wash tunnel on the side. In 1992, the location became a full-serve hand wash with a gift shop.
Today, with the help of technology and unlimited wash plans, it’s a thriving flex tunnel sitting smack in the middle of a high-tech industry hub.
Just a few short years ago, the outlook wasn’t so bright. Lam found the full-service model became less appealing as his customer base became younger and more tech-savvy. These new customers were seeking a more modern, convenient experience where they could process their own transactions.
At the same time, labor costs in California were steadily rising, putting a pinch on the labor-intensive hand wash.
“Because of handwashing, we had to rely on upselling to see any profits,” Lam said. “During the slower days and slower months, we were barely making payroll. Year-to-year, it was just getting harder to make a profit.”
To stabilize their revenue, it became pretty clear that Redwood City Car Wash needed to establish unlimited wash plans…and that they needed a technology provider to support them.
Lam explored a few vendors, including DRB® Tunnel Solutions. While most vendors could offer unlimited plans, DRB was the only partner that provides a sophisticated Knowledge Center that supports customers.
“When looking at other systems, they would always tell me that they could save me a lot of money,” Lam said. “But when I asked about tech support, they’d just tell me ‘Well, John is always there.’ It wasn’t a team effort. We don’t want to have to rely on one person for tech support. When I need to call in, I need to get someone now.”
In 2015, Redwood City Car Wash launched its unlimited plans with the help of DRB’s SiteWatch® point-of-sale system and the Automatic Recharge Module®, which automatically charges members’ credit cards monthly to renew plans. They also installed a gate system with the convenient, self-serve Xpress Pay Terminal® (XPT®). These products are backed by the Knowledge Center providing 24/7/365 emergency service.
The car wash built hype for the new plans before they launched and quickly signed up members. Within the first year, they had 1,000 members, many through word of mouth.
“All these customers who signed up were telling their friends and family how great it was, that it was really fast and convenient,” Lam said. “I began seeing a lot of customers who had never been here before.”
As a result, Redwood City Car Wash established three lanes with XPTs, one including the FastPass® RFID system that recognizes member vehicles and automatically lets them through the gate. By the end of the first year, volume had increased so much that it was putting a strain on the handwashing, so Lam installed new equipment in the tunnel, effectively converting the business into a flex model.
Now three years into their unlimited wash program, volume has tripled and revenue has doubled.
With unlimited wash plans and the support of DRB’s technology, Redwood City Car Wash has improved customer satisfaction while securing vital recurring revenue.
“Having unlimited plans and using XPTs, first and foremost, it’s labor saving for the operators and convenience for the customers,” Lam said. “Because of the unlimited plans, our up-and-down graph is not as dramatic because every month we have a certain number of recharges. It helps make the good months even better and boosts the volume in the bad months.”
By evolving with the market and the changing business climate, this long-standing wash is sure to continue its rich history in the area.