Under normal circumstances, this column would have been dedicated to a recap of The Car Wash Show. But we are operating under decidedly abnormal conditions, that is, if we are fortunate enough to be operating at all. No show, no recap.

If anything, car washers are an adaptable lot, though. And that goes for their suppliers as well. For into the breach stepped several car wash equipment manufacturers by hosting online virtual conventions that offered presentations covering car washing from A to Z. Now obviously these commendable efforts don’t quite equate with a live tradeshow where a fair amount of tire kicking is an integral part of the experience. But as learning opportunities they shone.

Registering for the online events was straightforward enough. Access ranged from easy to cumbersome, but once in, navigating the “conventions” was simple. Program content type, too, varied: from prerecorded lecture-style presentations to live, interactive panel discussions. Production values ranged from spectacular — with sound and graphics to rival much you’ll find on broadcast television — to perfectly functional.

One of the reasons for attending any tradeshow is to discover new equipment and products. The online version did not disappoint. Anthony Analetto led the New Innovations presentation during the Sonny’s Virtual Car Wash Expo and introduced attendees to several new products. Among other items, we learned about a new self-cleaning vacuum separator; a variety of dryer V-nozzles, each designed to direct the dispersal of water in unique fashion; and the LPR Smart Queue, which corrects the position of any vehicle that somehow got misplaced in the waiting line.

According to the panel of experts assembled for the Virtual Car Wash Expo, the number one factor for car wash success remains location. This is followed in quick succession by training and corporate culture. There was little dissent from the panel regarding the suggested ideal tunnel: 180’ conveyor, 24 vacuum spots, and three to four pay-station lanes. The panelists held out the possibility that express sites could go members-only, while opining that the jury was still out regarding flat-belt conveyors.

At the Virtual Car Wash Convention presented by National Carwash Solutions we learned of a new tool for site evaluations.

Designed specifically for the car wash industry, Insite Analytics is a proprietary tool that uses geospatial mapping and enterprise-level data to provide a comprehensive report on a site’s market based on 21 variables. It provides operators and prospective owners with information about a car wash site’s potential for profit, growth, and sustainability.

One presentation at the Mark VII Virtual Carwash Convention provided advice on how to prepare for the influx of customers to come following the current COVID-19-instigated slowdown. First on the list was staying on top of industry changes, which can be accomplished even as we socially distance by participating in online forums, listening to industry podcasts, visiting vendor websites, and consulting online resources provided by car wash associations. Attendees were also cautioned to be mindful of customer stress levels when they return and to ensure employees are trained to practice good customer awareness.

What sticks in my mind is the positive tone and banter among the expert panelists on the Sonny’s Virtual Car Wash Expo program. Whether by design or not, it surely served to sooth any operator anxiety there might have been out there. The unspoken message: This is tough, but we’ll get through it.