Let’s focus for a minute on your property. By adding an additional revenue stream, you can significantly improve your bottom line by putting your car wash to work for you. Car washes have a unique fit and opportunity as owners of vending machines. Chances are, your car wash is conveniently located on a main road, with good traffic and high visibility. You likely have already planned and configured your wash with easy ingress and egress. Basic utilities like electric and water are plentiful and already available on site. Adding an additional revenue stream, like a vending machine, requires no attendant to be operational, and other conveniences that are normally already on site (like change machines) are available for the customer.
These are precisely the characteristics that investors search for when they are looking for ideal spots to locate vending offerings such as outdoor ice and water vending machines. Most car wash operators already own some of the most desirable locations for this type of secondary income stream.
There are three primary benefits to adding a secondary income stream to your property. First, you consistently attract more new customers to your property — customers who otherwise might not have noticed or come to your business. Second, the additional consumer convenience offerings raise awareness of your primary business as well as bringing in additional income. Third, your car wash becomes branded by word of mouth as the place to go buy whatever you are vending.
Typically, these convenience offerings are recession-proof, and will still attract customers even when the car wash business isn’t.
So the question is: What type of vending machine would do well on my property, maximize my investment, have a high long-term return on investment, and attract more customers to my business? The most “in demand” vending machines for car washes are currently car wash supplies and air and vacuum services (the obvious ones), but ice and water vending machines, propane, ATMs, and DVD-rental kiosks (the less obvious ones) are growing in popularity with car washes because they are truly a secondary income stream that is not tied directly to the car wash business, and some offer very high rates of return.
Ideally you will want to select a commodity or service that is convenience-based, which everyone needs either periodically or on a regular basis, that can also generate strong profits, is easy to manage, offers high long-term profits, and requires minimal time commitment. The challenges of operating a car wash more than prepare you for being a good vendor operator, since vending machines do require some regular attention, but the right machine should not take much time or effort to manage.
Most owners have used the expected signage and banners to let consumers know that they have a new, convenience service available to them. This has proven to be successful to entice their existing customers as well as bring new potential customers to their location. But some manufacturers offer more unique marketing tools like the “free” vend coupon, which allows car wash owners to build their vending and cash wash business by using the coupon to develop a “customer rewards” type program.
For example: An owner may choose to offer a promotion like, “free bag of ice with a deluxe car wash,” to bring in new customers or to incentivize existing customers to increase their spending. The true cost to the owner with a promotion such as this is a fraction of the retail price of the ice/product but, whenever a business can offer something “free” to the consumer, the consumer usually perceives the “free” item as adding considerable value to the service. Some owners may choose to do a “grand opening” and offer a “free” bag of ice, T-shirts, etc. to increase awareness of the new service and to bring people to the location. The promotional possibilities are limited only by the owner’s imagination.
Even if you are not interested in being a vendor operator of an additional product, you may want to consider leasing the spot to a third party so you can still reap some of the benefits. Many manufacturers maintain a list of property owners to pair up with investors who are scouting a good vending location. So whether you invest yourself, or lease a spot to a third party, thoughtfully diversifying what you offer at your property should result in significantly stronger car wash sales.
Jeff Dyson is vice president of sales for Kooler Ice Inc. You can visit the company on the web at www.koolerice.com.