Selling Up: 3 Trusted Tips

Selling Up: 3 Trusted Tips

Generate Revenue Site Maintenance

Developing a happy, satisfied customer base is important at any car wash. Every wash strives to pull in steady business and earn a great reputation among vehicle owners. But don’t forget: just because a customer pulls into your wash doesn’t mean the selling process has ended! We’ve compiled a few trusted tips for increasing your average ticket and ultimately, your bottom line.

Work the Menu

Think of your menu as the unpaid employee, silently promoting your services to customers. The design of your menu board can be just as important as the information it conveys. The average customer likely comes in looking for a basic wash, but presenting the added services in an easy-to-understand format can be effective in increasing ticket averages. Think simple package names that are clearly ranked, straightforward benefits that show the added value of higher packages, and font sizing that makes it easy to read from a distance.

Expand Your Services

Consider adding to the selection of services at your wash, giving customers good reason to purchase more during their visit. Whether it’s a fragrance option or a premium sealant, those special touches are what set your wash apart from the competition, help pull in new customers, and ensure a loyal and returning base.

Get Personal

When employees have the opportunity to interact with a customer prior to purchasing a wash, it’s the perfect chance to get personal and specific. A quick glance at a vehicle will reveal areas that need extra attention. Dirty rims, salt residue, a bug-laden windshield, or muddy tires are all reasons to upgrade a standard wash and purchase added services that target specific areas of the car. When a car wash employee points out the area and offers a treatment recommendation, customers often listen and purchase the added service. A conversation with someone who can see the exterior of a vehicle carries more weight than words on a menu. Make it personal!

Ready to discuss ways you can transform ticket averages? Get in touch with your Harrell’s rep today to find out more.

The Single Area You Control…Always.

The Single Area You Control…Always.

Inspiration

If you invest in a business, there will be factors you can’t always control. The competition, the weather, the employee that flaked—some things are out of our hands. But not everything. The area you have complete control over, always? Customer service.

The human experience is crucial to the success of your business. When a customer comes to your wash and interacts with an employee, it can make or break the whole experience. Their car may come out sparkling clean, but if they had a rude or neglectful experience with an employee, it leaves a sour taste. Remember: courtesy and professionalism go a long way in any business, and you have one hundred percent control over the way you treat people.

Customer Service in Action
Some car washes do this exceptionally well. When customer service is beyond the norm, people take notice! Our friends at Clearwater Car Wash in Indiana are a great example of this above-and-beyond approach to service.

When Assistant Manager Trent Barlow and Wash Attendant Michael Lehman heard about a customer losing her necklace while using a vacuum at their wash, they immediately went into search mode. They dug through the trash, looked through all the dirty hoses and filters, and sifted through collection bins with no luck. The necklace was a gift from the customer’s children and she was devastated. So after closing that evening, they tried again. In their second search, they found the necklace! Their customer was so happy to have it returned that she brought all the employees donuts the following day. This is the heart of true customer service—treating others how we want to be treated ourselves.

It doesn’t stop there. Clearwater Car Wash uses their business to encourage service in their community and around the world. Portions of single washes go toward Water for Good, an organization that helps provide clean drinking water in Africa. Each month, they host a donation day where $2 of every wash goes toward a designated nonprofit organization. They work with local community services to supply Christmas gifts to a family in need every December. They also hold raffles and give away prizes and gift baskets to their Unlimited Pass Members each month. They use their business as a way to build up the community and invest in those relationships.

We love hearing these stories that illustrate the power of customer service. What are practices you’ve heard of, or done yourself, that reveal the positive effects of great, above-and-beyond service?

3 Tips to Go From Reactive to Proactive

3 Tips to Go From Reactive to Proactive

Building a Car Wash

We’ve all fallen victim to knee-jerk responses when something goes wrong at work. It’s an all-too-common scenario: something breaks, someone quits, something unexpected crops up, and suddenly you’re channeling all your energy into a crisis that wasn’t on your list for the day.

Of course, some things in life can’t be foreseen or prevented. But when it comes to running an effective car wash business, you’ll dramatically reduce downtime and avoid these reactive moments if you plan smarter on the front end.

Schedule regular equipment maintenance

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how often car wash operators skip over routine servicing of their wash equipment. It’s costly in every way when a critical part of your wash suddenly breaks—plus it reflects poorly on your image. Make the time to have your equipment checked and do minor repairs when necessary, and avoid the stress of an unexpected catastrophe.

Build and develop a great crew

Hiring and firing takes time, and comes with the territory of running a car wash. If you put in the leg work up front to screen and hire competent and promising employees, you’ll be rewarded in the long run. Prioritize consistent and thorough training, give ample opportunities for growth and advancement, and help to create a positive environment. A professional, happy crew makes for a better impression on customers and an overall stronger business.

Always be marketing

It’s tempting to take your foot off the gas momentarily when it comes to your marketing efforts. But don’t wait until you see a dip in your bottom line to start paying attention to how you promote your wash. Make it a continual practice to evaluate your prices, your menus, your promotions, your technology, and your engagement with customers across platforms. It’s much easier to stay alert and ahead than to come back from behind.

Don’t let disaster sneak up on you! Harrell’s Car Wash Systems can help you take proactive steps to ensure your wash runs smoothly and profitably.  

No Second Chances: Nailing the First Impression

No Second Chances: Nailing the First Impression

Building a Car Wash Generate Revenue

One of life’s most valuable lessons is to fight the inclination to judge people by their appearances. What you see isn’t always what you get, and our first impression of a person is rarely the most accurate.

But car washes aren’t people. And in the case of a driver looking to get their vehicle shiny and clean, the first impression is the only impression, and the one that determines whether or not you get their business. In an industry that promises customers a clean product, it’s critical for your wash to echo that virtue at first glance.

So Fresh and So Clean

The exterior of your car wash needs to look clean and tidy or you run the risk of losing customers right off the bat. Remember: you’re likely not the only car wash in the area. If your site looks unkempt, it’s an immediate red flag.

Consider your curb appeal. Is there trash in the parking lot? What about dirty surfaces or walls, or aging paint? Are trash receptacles overflowing? Is the landscaping healthy and attractive? These separate elements come together to form the overall impression of your business, so make sure you’re keeping them all in check.

In addition to keeping your wash tidy, it’s a good idea to look at other areas that contribute to the first impression. Think lighting, signage, and color schemes. These can be powerful marketing tools in themselves, lending a fresh (and clean) vibe to your business. For a potential customer, an updated look promises attention to detail—and a place they trust to get their car sparkling clean.

Cleanliness in always within your control. Don’t lose customers before they’ve ever set wheels on your property! Harrell’s Car Wash Systems is happy to help you navigate a clean path to profits.

Technology is Changing. Is Your Wash Keeping Up?

Technology is Changing. Is Your Wash Keeping Up?

Building a Car Wash Generate Revenue

Consumers love new technology. Look at smartphones, for example. When Apple releases even the slightest upgrade, people clamor for it. There’s something inside us that wants the very best products and services available, especially once we know they’re out there.

The car wash industry is no different. It’s 2019, and wash technology is more sophisticated than ever. As you look ahead, it’s important to consider the benefits of equipment upgrades and replacements. The decision to invest in new features doesn’t just help your customers, either. It’s critical for your relevance, reputation as a wash, and ultimately, your revenue.

It’s Better For Customers

Step into your customers’ shoes. Better yet, slide into your customers’ driver’s seat. What kind of wash experience are you providing? How long are they waiting in line? How clean is their car getting? What’s it like to move through your particular wash? Is it exciting, impressive, and exceptional? Or is it routine, average, and unmemorable? What might make a customer come back, and what might keep them away next time? These are questions worth asking to become—and stay—competitive and profitable.

Customers want to be delighted. And this happens when they have an abundance of advanced features and services to pick from. It happens when they get through the line quickly and their schedule isn’t disrupted. It happens when special touches, like LED lights, catch their attention. And it mostly happens when their car comes out looking spotless and shiny.

It’s Better For You

We all know equipment depreciates over time. Car wash systems have a lifespan of around ten years, give or take, if they’re properly maintained. Of course, a complete wash system replacement is no small investment. But by offering a better wash with improved features, you’ll be able to raise your prices to match those benefits. Upgrades typically boost revenue by up to 25%. Consider the impact on your bottom line.

Today’s wash systems are increasingly efficient and allow for quicker throughput. The LaserWash 360 Plus and Tandem Surfline from PDQ offer substantially faster wash speeds and reduce operational costs with efficient, precise cleaning. Laserglow Illumination creates a standout appearance and enhances the wash experience dramatically—something customers will remember.

Is it time to look at investing in new technology? Harrell’s Car Wash Systems can help you determine which upgrades will keep your car wash current and competitive.

Minnesota Hotdish

Minnesota Hotdish

Uncategorized

It’s cold in Minnesota—really cold. This time of year is particularly brutal, but our friends in the northernmost parts of the country have developed a tasty way to warm up: “hotdish.” Some might try to call it a casserole, but they would be wrong. Proper hotdish is an oven-baked, anything-goes, delicious mess of a meal…with tater tots on top. If winter travels have you trekking through the Land of 10,000 Lakes, carve out some time for a hotdish pit stop.

The Back Story

When scouring the Upper Midwest (and in particular, Minnesota) for the history of the hotdish, you’ll likely travel back to the Great Depression era. The first known recipes were printed in a 1930 cookbook by the Grace Lutheran Ladies Aid in Minnesota. Their version of the casserole-esque dish included ground beef, canned vegetables, canned soup, and macaroni noodles. During the Depression, home cooks were accustomed to stretching meat in creative ways, the “hotdish” casserole being one of them.

Over the decades, the hotdish became a staple of family dinner tables, church potlucks, and social gatherings. Everyone had their own take on what to add to the mix, which evolved over time (notable mention: the introduction of canned cream of mushroom or chicken soup.) Today, ask any Minnesotan about hotdish, and they’ll likely conjure a creamy, comforting picture of home in their mind’s eye.

The Breakdown

OK, so what’s inside the casserole dish? Well, pretty much anything, as long as you stick to the basic non-negotiable components: meat, vegetables, starch, and something creamy to bind it all together. Traditional versions are usually made with ground beef, canned vegetables (green beans and corn are go-to’s), and cream of mushroom soup. Meat is browned, veggies and soup added, and then the whole thing gets a layer of tater tots before heading into the oven to get hot, bubbly, and crispy. Part of the fabric of Minnesota, it’s a simple, no-frills, easy dinner to serve crowds. And pretty much everyone loves it (with ketchup on the side).

Nowadays, chefs and home cooks are elevating the classic. Restaurants have revived the dish on menus, sometimes trading out ground beef and canned soup for short ribs and béchamel sauce. The yearning for mom’s version from childhood competes with the struggle to stay sensible and reasonably health-conscious, resulting in a sort of hotdish hybrid that often marries the two. Minnesota-based food blog Pinch of Yum demonstrates one such marriage with a Southwestern sweet potato riff. Edible proof that traditions matter, yet evolve a bit here and there.  

Where To Pull Over

The best way to appreciate hotdish is probably in a Minnesota kitchen with a family that’s been perfecting it for generations. But that’s—you know—not always an option on your travels.

The next best thing is to stop into a restaurant that pours all kinds of experience and love into the casserole dish, kind of like The Mason Jar in Eagan, MN. Their Tater Tot Hot Dish sticks to the familiar basics: beef, corn, house-made cream of mushroom, tater tots, and lots of cheese. The Bulldog, with three locations sprinkled around the Twin Cities area, adds carrots and peas to their mix. Or opt for breakfast-style hotdish, like the sausage-laden one catered from The Buttered Tin in St. Paul.

Will Brake For Food: Kentucky Hot Brown

Will Brake For Food: Kentucky Hot Brown

Inspiration

The Bluegrass State might be known for its bracing bourbons, but there’s something entirely different here that can warm you down to your toes just as easily. (Well, almost.) Rich, warm, and smothered in the creamiest Mornay sauce, the Kentucky Hot Brown is the stuff of dreams come wintertime.

The Back Story

Way back in the 1920’s, The Brown Hotel in Louisville opened its luxurious doors. Some of the city’s most elite and wealthiest members frequented the hotel for ballroom dancing and drinks. Late into the night—when the band took a break—hundreds of guests would descend on the hotel’s restaurant for a snack. So in 1926, Chef Fred Schmidt whipped up something new: a hot, open-faced turkey sandwich reminiscent of Welsh rarebit, only better. After the usual ham and eggs the guests were used to eating for a late-night snack, it was a delightful change that grew in popularity and demand. Today, the iconic hotel still serves the Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich, along with establishments across the entire state.

The Breakdown

So what’s all the clamor about? Picture this: Texas toast topped with roasted turkey and Roma tomatoes, covered in a cheesy white Mornay sauce and broiled until bubbling. Then it gets a few final slices of crispy bacon, some parsley, and a dusting of paprika. It’s no wonder the Hot Brown earned a reputation as one of the most sought-after comfort foods in Kentucky.

In fact, it’s garnered attention nationwide over the years. Everything from The L.A. Times and The Wall Street Journal to the Food Network and Travel Channel have covered the legendary sandwich. Naturally, a few variations cropped up in restaurants and home kitchens (Hot Brown casserole, anyone?) But ultimately, it’s pretty tough to improve upon the original masterpiece created nearly a century ago.

Where To Pull Over

Visitors, of course, want to experience the true home of the Hot Brown. That’s why all year long—but particularly during the Kentucky Derby—The Brown Hotel remains the busiest and best place to dig in.

In Lexington, Ramsey’s Diner is beloved for their generally authentic take with one small caveat: the cheese is added to the top instead of mixed into the sauce. And The Whistle Stop in Glendale is another beloved Hot Brown destination, with a touch of sliced ham tucked into the mix. Want a Hot Brown for breakfast? Head over to Wild Eggs in Louisville, where the “Kelsey KY Brown” is presented as the usual decadence, but with a crowning egg on top.

Photo: Sarah Jane Sanders

Will Brake For Food: New England Clam Chowder

Will Brake For Food: New England Clam Chowder

Inspiration

Massachusetts has a lot going for it: the gorgeous fall foliage, towns and cities brimming with history, glistening waterfront views, and a perfected art form that simmers in pots across the state. We’re talking clam chowder, and the New England version found in Massachusetts just may be the most beloved.

The Back Story

It’s hard to put our finger on exactly when clam chowder first became a “thing,” but most people agree it dates back centuries, at least in New England. Thought to be the brainchild of early European settlers, the Colonial version was thickened with crackers in place of cream back before milk was transported year-round, and made primarily with cod. Massachusetts in particular is known for its thick, creamy version, beloved in Boston and celebrated there as the authentic recipe before other regions began creating their own chowder spinoffs.

The first known recipe for chowder was published in the Boston Evening Post in 1751. Then it was referenced—quite reverently— in the famous novel Moby-Dick a hundred years later. These days, it’s written about and discussed regularly and served coast to coast. Time may have changed the composition of the iconic dish a bit, but it sure hasn’t touched it’s popularity.

The Breakdown

What you’ll find in the chowder crock varies by region (and even by chef). There are far more riffs than we can even list, so we’ll divide it into the two major categories: New England (“white”) and Manhattan (“red”).

When in Massachusetts, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything but the ultra-rich, creamy New England-style “chowda.” The main players: potatoes, salt pork or bacon, onions and of course, fresh clams. Thickened up by way of heavy cream or a flour roux, it’s the heartiest defense against a frigid winter’s night. There’s no telling how many bowls and Styrofoam containers Massachusetts ladles up each day, but we’re guessing it’s a dizzying number. Cracked pepper, a dash of hot sauce, and a few oyster crackers stirred in? Sounds like dinner is ready.

Manhattan-style chowder, its “red” counterpart, contains a tomato-based broth and often a slew of other vegetables. From there, the variations continue. Rhode Island uses a clear broth, San Francisco serves theirs in a sourdough bread bowl, and the adaptations just keep going and going.

Where To Pull Over

Road tripping in Massachusetts? You’ll need to stop for stomach fuel, and Union Oyster House is a solid bet if you’re in search of great clam chowder in Boston. Plus, it has some impressive historical significance as the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in America. For a no-frills, deliciously-straightforward experience, head to Yankee Lobster, situated smack on the waterfront where everything tastes fresher. Captain Parker’s Pub in Cape Cod has received award after award for it’s chowder, and will happily send you off with a to-go quart of the goodness. And when in Cambridge, Summer Shack will hook you up with a steaming, perfect bowl, no matter what time of year you visit.

 

Photo: Kristin Teig

Will Brake For Food: Indiana’s Tenderloin Sandwich

Will Brake For Food: Indiana’s Tenderloin Sandwich

Inspiration

Indiana may be marked by vast stretches of cornfields, but there’s something else Hoosiers have claimed when it comes to state cuisine: the pork tenderloin sandwich. Road trips to, and through, the state wouldn’t be complete without a stop for one of these massive works of culinary art.

The Back Story

Anyone who takes a bite of a tenderloin sandwich will notice its similarity to wiener schnitzel, the breaded cut of meat we associate with Austria and Germany. Legend has it, German immigrants in Indiana were the first to kick off the sandwich version about a hundred years ago. Many Hoosiers trace its origins back to Huntington, Indiana, when Nick Freienstein threw pork wiener schnitzel on a bun and added a few toppings. The idea proved successful from the sandwich cart he operated, and he eventually opened a restaurant that still serves the sandwiches to customers (aptly named Nick’s Kitchen).

Today, you can find riffs on the tenderloin sandwich all over the Midwest, but Indiana claims the fame for their pork-only, deep fried, oversized sandwich. And most Hoosiers you ask will have a strong opinion on which places serve the best versions (and maybe the worst).

The Breakdown

The concept seems simple enough: a tenderloin on a bun. But any good Hoosier knows there’s a lot more to it than that. First, the meat. It’s the star of the show, and begins with center cut boneless pork loin pounded thin (about a quarter of an inch) until it reaches an impressive circumference. Next, it gets dunked in an egg and milk mixture, then flour, and finally crushed crackers before being deep fried to crispy, crackly, golden perfection. Finally, the enormous pork patty gets stuffed inside a bun, along with a slew of toppings—typically onions, pickles, mayo, and mustard. If done correctly, the tenderloin outsizes the bun by a sizable margin, creating a delicious dilemma about how to approach the first bite. Some handle this with a knife and fork; some just pick the whole thing up and start chomping.

Where To Pull Over

The pork tenderloin sandwich is on literally hundreds of menus across the state of Indiana…so where to stop? For true tenderloin historians and purists, Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington is a must. Considering the stories that swirl about it’s status as “the original,” it’s well worth the visit. The Mug in Greenfield was recently voted one of the best in the state when it comes tenderloins, serving fresh “farm to curb” (it’s a drive-in) fare. And when in Indianapolis, urban-dwellers will point you toward The Aristocrat, a pub-style eatery just north of downtown.

Great American Road Trip: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Great American Road Trip: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Inspiration

The list of national parks has been growing for over 100 years now, pointing travelers to some of our country’s most beautiful and beloved destinations. One of the newest additions is sandwiched between Cleveland and Akron: Cuyahoga Valley. Designated a national park not too long ago (October 2000), the area draws more than 2 million visitors a year for hiking, off-road biking, bird-watching, camping, kayaking and even golfing.The park is open 365 days a year and the entrance fee is hard to beat (completely free). Below, we’ve pulled together a few highlights to help you plan your trip to Cuyahoga Valley.

When To Go

Every season brings a different look to the park and a different activity to enjoy, so this really comes down to personal preference. Summer is popular, of course, and a great time to explore the waterfalls, wander the trails and do a little catch-and-release fishing in the Cuyahoga River.

Don’t discount winter for a visit, though. When there’s more than 6 inches of snow on the ground, the park rents out winter sports equipment: think snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and ice fishing. But if you ask a local park ranger, we hear they favor autumn, when sweeping views of the valley are transformed with color.

What To Do

Here, it’s a beautiful mix of farmland, forest, river, waterfalls, and rock formations, so there’s no shortage of scenery to behold. Most visitors set off for the hiking trails: the Buckeye Trail is long-distance, occasionally muddy (it crosses several streams) and carries you out to more isolated areas of the park; Ledges Trail offers a 2.2 mile easy hike and an overlook with picture-perfect views across the valley. One of the most popular hikes is the Brandywine Gorge Trail that leads to a stunning waterfall–easily a visitor favorite.

To spot wildlife, head to Beaver Marsh, where you might encounter a great blue heron, wood ducks, otters, and yes, likely beavers. There’s a boardwalk across the marsh, making it easy to venture near the water and all the creatures who love to call it home.

Paddlers can canoe and kayak down the Cuyahoga River for a different way to take in the landscape. Worth noting: the park recommends this only for experienced paddlers, as they don’t actively clear hazards from the river and warn that conditions can fluctuate.

For an in-depth look at the valley, book a seat on the train. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers 3.5 hour excursions all year long, giving you great glimpses of all the natural splendor during the journey. Some of the rides even offer beer and wine tastings, murder mysteries, and fun kids’ themes (Polar Express!).

Good To Know

If you plan to stay overnight, the park has primitive camping for $25 through the end of October (nearby state parks also have campsites) plus two beautifully historic lodging options: The Inn at Brandywine Falls and the nine-bedroom Stanford House.

For those who want to hike, run, or bike long distances along the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail but don’t want to make the return journey, you can hop on the train one-way (bike aboard) for just $5. The proper way to flag down the engineer is by waving both (not one!) arms overhead at any of the boarding stations.

And finally, a word to golfers: there are four golf courses within the park. So if hiking and biking aren’t your thing, plan to visit Cuyahoga Valley and tee it up instead.