Last month, in this space, I discussed the importance of memberships and the recurring revenue model across the car wash industry. I apologize to any sequel haters out there, but I am about to do it again.

            It seems like everywhere you turn in the industry you are confronted with the power and influence of dependable, recurring revenue. And true to form, this month’s issue has plenty of examples of the prominence of the membership model.

            ALN’s annual Exterior Conveyor Survey, starting on page 27, provides many critical benchmarks from across the segment, allowing owners to track their operation’s performance against their peers. One critical statistic we uncovered is that 84 percent of operators offer some form of unlimited wash club, with an average club age of around five years.

            In his Wash Front column, Anthony Analetto explores the growing trend of in-bay operators converting bays to short express tunnels to capture a piece of the lucrative recurring revenue that is a cornerstone of the express concept.

            “With recurring subscription revenue, express has been a compelling investment opportunity that is driving significant growth,” he writes. “Building a full-sized express exterior car wash with 30-plus free vacuum stations requires large parcels, sufficient traffic, and higher debt to finance the project.

            “The past decade’s technological advancements have condensed full-sized tunnel performance and features, including tire dressing and extra services, into a standard 40-foot bay. Many markets have automatic bays with sufficient traffic to generate higher profits with a small footprint and high-throughput tunnel.”

            In-bay operators don’t necessarily have to completely retool their sites to get in on the membership model. As Brent McCurdy explores in his article starting on page 46, innovative in-bay operators are beginning to offer memberships at their sites to fatten up their revenue streams and protect against income fluctuations due to weather and other outside factors.

            While memberships at in-bay locations might seem like a no-brainer, McCurdy cautions that the offering might not be a good fit for every operation. He writes, “If you have a super busy location within a region with virtually no other washes offering memberships, it might not be in your best interest to dilute your profitability with memberships.”

            If you are the only game in town and your bay(s) are already operating at or near capacity, providing a subscription option would do more harm than good. But if you are losing market share to a membership-offering express and your bays can handle an increase in throughput, providing an unlimited option could be a key to sustainable in-bay revenue.