Add-On a la Carte Item Examples

• Bug Remover
• Foaming Soap or Foaming Wax Flood Arch
• Premium Wax
• Surface Sealant
• Tar and Tree Sap Removal
• Tire Dressing
• Towel Drying
• Triple Foam Wax
• Two Step Wheel Cleaner

When I sat down to write an article about add-on services for a car wash, I did so knowing that desirable add-on services in my car wash market may be completely different than desirable add-on services in Bucharest. (Yes, there are several car washes in Bucharest. Google it.) Thanks to the World Wide Web, I receive questions about my articles from readers around the world. Therefore, I will mention several desirable add-on services as examples, but go more into depth about how to find those services for your trade area.

As owners, operators, and marketers of our businesses we are always searching for new ways and ideas to keep our businesses fresh and profitable. The suppliers to our industry try to create new products to help us achieve this and to also help them stand out amongst their competitors. What I found through the years is all of those shiny bells and whistles look fancy on the show floor, but they don’t always work the way they are supposed to. It’s going to take modification on your part to make it work best for you and your customers. Think of it as if you were buying shoes. If you wear a size 12 and the shoe salesman convinces you that you need a size 10, the shoes aren’t going to fit, no matter what he says.


So how do you go about finding desirable add-on services for your car wash? You craft a plan:

1. Investigate

Carry out a systematic or formal inquiry to discover the facts so as to establish the truth.

• Ask your customers if there are any services they would like to see you offer. If 20 customers ask for the same thing, it is worth investigating.

• Take a look at your customers’ vehicles. Are there any particular areas in which you see opportunity?

• Drive around your trade area and look at all different types of vehicles that do, or may use your wash. Are there any particular problems that stand out that you can resolve for them?

2. Research

This is the systematic investigation and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

• Once you have identified an opportunity you have to figure out how to make the most of it.

• Talk with your suppliers to see if they have a solution.

• Take a road trip and visit other operators to see how they may have solved the problem. Make a list of items that you were most impressed with, least impressed with, etc.

• Attend an association meeting or tradeshow. Network with other operators and see what solutions they may have.

• Visit online forums or chat rooms concerning your new opportunity.

• Once you find a solution, make sure it is economically feasible. Can you charge enough for the service to make it worth doing?

3. Plan

Having identified a solution, implementing it becomes the goal. Put together a detailed proposal for doing just that.

• Take all of your findings and craft a plan to accomplish your goal.

• Categories in your plan may include a budget, ordering new equipment and supplies, installation, implementation, employee training, and marketing of the new product or services.

• Have others in the industry who you trust review your plan and give feedback.

4. Execute

Take the necessary steps to carry out the plan.

• Put your game plan in action.

• Verify that everything is running according to your plan. Make necessary adjustments, if any, for efficiency.

• Enjoy the fruits of your labor.


Each car wash
market has its
own set of customers
with unique cleaning

Example 1

I was visiting with a car wash owner in Colorado looking for new ways to increase his revenue. I noticed that almost 20 percent of the customers washing their vehicles had cracks in their windshields. After a little research, I found that many of the side roads in the town were gravel. I convinced the wash owner to investigate possible solutions. He spent time researching solutions and found one that would fit in well with his operation. We created a plan and implemented it. The investment paid for itself within the first year and now is a steady stream of new revenue for his location.

Example 2

Several years ago, I purchased a twin-bay automatic car wash from a bank that had foreclosed on the location. After cleaning up the location and getting the equipment in proper working order, I was looking for ways to increase the location’s revenue. Through research, I found that no one in the immediate area had decent vacuums. I completed the analysis and found that a free centralized vacuum system would drive new customers to the site. I put together a plan and installed eight free vacuum arches. After the first year, the location had increased its revenue 10-fold.

Example 3

When the on-line application of surface sealant and premium waxes became the new, hot thing, I decided to further explore the process. I worked with my chemical supplier and developed products specific for my locations. I researched new application processes and found all the necessary equipment needed to add the services. I crafted a new pricing structure, marketing materials, installation plan, employee training program, and roll-out schedule.

My team put the new program in place, installed all the necessary equipment and we were up and running. Due to proper planning and marketing, the new program immediately increased my average revenue per vehicle over $2.


Another area for consideration is adding an a la carte menu to your existing services. If you do not have an a la carte menu, it is simply additional services that can be added to any existing wash package. This, in essence, allows the customer to build the wash package to their liking. Statistics show if customers have the ability to build their own wash package, they will spend more money.

Here are a few examples of a la carte items:
• Bug Remover
• Foaming Soap or Foaming Wax Flood Arch
• Premium Wax
• Surface Sealant
• Tar and Tree Sap Removal
• Tire Dressing
• Towel Drying
• Triple Foam Wax
• Two Step Wheel Cleaner


By now, if you are still reading this article, you will have probably Googled “car washes in Bucharest” and will have seen that, yes, there are in fact car washes there. And they do have add-on services, but unless you are fluent in Romanian, you probably won’t get much from their menus.

All joking aside, each car wash market is a little different. This is why there isn’t a McDonald’s of the car wash industry. What works in Bucharest will not necessarily work in Boca Raton. The services customers purchase in Boca Raton may not be the best product offering for customers in Oxnard. Each car wash market has it’s own set of customers with unique cleaning opportunities. In order to offer the best possible options for your customers in your market, you need to do research and craft a car wash menu that works best for you. Remember, if you wear a size 12 shoe, a size 10 shoe isn’t going to work out too well for you.

Wash On!

Bobby Willis has been in the car wash business for over 20 years. He owns and operates Cool Wave Car Washes in Virginia. He can be reached at