Full service tunnels were the industry standard for many years. With the ever-increasing costs for land and labor, many businesses are migrating to flex or express tunnels with free self-serve vacuums. As an example an express tunnel operation included three automated entry tellers, one tunnel, and 20 free vacuum stalls. The owner noted that the first 20 customers through his tunnel in the morning each used the free vacuums provided. The problem was that the next 20 or more customers could not get access to the vacuums. Many customers left annoyed and frustrated.
Applying a different paradigm resulted in a more satisfactory result for an adventurous entrepreneur in Northern California. The owner built an express tunnel with a 10-drop central vacuum island. Customers using the express tunnel are given a unique code to access five minutes of free time on the vacuums. Each pinch valve is connected back to a central pay point.
Customers who need more time or just want to vacuum their car without using the tunnel can purchase codes and/or gift cards from the central pay station. The results for this site were staggering. Monthly vacuum revenue for this site has exceeded $20,000 per month.
Washing the exterior of the vehicle is only half of the equation. Customers love a clean interior just as much, if not more, than a shiny polished exterior. On average, customers will spend as much time on the interior of their vehicle as the exterior. It has been found that free vacuums are a thing of the past. Customers will pay to clean the interior as well as the exterior. Gone are the days when vacuums only cost you money.
Doug Garratt is the president of EXACTA Car Wash Systems, a provider of payment systems for the car wash industry including tunnels, automatics, self serves and vacuums.