Waving Them In
When it comes to highly competitive car wash markets it doesn’t get more serious than Atlanta, GA and its surrounding area. In just a 30-mile radius of downtown there are 72 express tunnels vying for a piece of the car care pie.
Randy Ready and his Fast Trac Car Wash partners have recently opened their second location in the Atlanta metro area and are relying on a mix of new school cool with old school Southern hospitality to capture their piece of the market.
“Obviously this is a crowded market,” Ready says. “We stand out for our esthetics and customer service. We are not in the car wash business. We are in the people business.”
Fast Trac takes its dedication to customer service and friendliness seriously. Potential employees of the two-location enterprise are much more likely to be hired on positive attitude and niceness than on previous car wash experience and knowledge. As Ready says, “I can teach them to wash a car. I can’t teach them to be nice. We hire for attitude and train for aptitude.”
Of course a car lot full of lovely people is all well and good, but if the wash can’t get a car clean it doesn’t stand a chance. Fast Trac might put attitude before aptitude, but not by much.
The newest location opened January 1 in Smyrna, GA and is a sight to behold. Not just for its all-new, high-end equipment, but for its design as well. The one-acre site features a contrasting mix of stone and polished aluminum that helps draw in customers from busy Cobb Drive. The polished aluminum gives the site a modern high-tech feel, while the stone offers a hint of the natural world. The site’s signage is done in laser-cut aluminum — a feature not found at many wash sites.
Another unique feature of the wash is the large billboard poking its head out above the wash building. The billboard was built by CBS on the site when the location was a Shell gas station. When Ready and his partners bought the site and converted it to a car wash, the billboard was updated with a digital sign and a new coat of paint to match the color scheme of the new business.
Although the billboard was built and is operated by CBS, Fast Trac receives monthly rent and the use of the sign for its own promotions. The digital board can rotate a maximum of seven advertisements. When all seven are not sold, Fast Trac is able to place their advertisement into the rotation free of charge.
Ready has been in the car wash business for 28 years. He started washing cars at the age of 14 in Detroit, MI. He has held many different positions over the years: manager, developer, designer, and operator just to name a few. His career has brought him to Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, and even Hawaii.
With decades of experience under his belt, Ready knows what it takes for a wash to be successful. He is all about the customer experience. If he has one piece of advice for fellow operators, it is to never underestimate the power of the wave.
“I am very big on waving and being exceedingly friendly to people,” Ready says. “It doesn’t take much effort if someone passes by to give them a wave. They will wave back. You get back what you put out there.”
After just six months of operation, Ready’s wave has already begun to pay dividends; the per-car ticket is steadily on the rise. He is viewed as a friend by his customers, and receives a slew of waves and honking horns whenever he is on the lot.
“If I am out on the lot in the morning trying to get something done I have to keep my head down,” Ready says. “Otherwise I will just spend all my time waving and talking to customers.”
Despite years of full-serve experience under his belt, Ready has fully embraced the express exterior concept.
“Express is just so much easier to manage. We want to open multiple locations. Having a consistent model is much easier with the express concept.”
As a former full-serve operator, Ready knows what a clean car looks like and is quite happy with the performance of his new express. He is even happier when he reflects on the scores of labor he used to have to manage at a full-serve facility. Fast Trac has just two employees on site during the week and three on Friday and Saturday.
All of the wash equipment and vacuums are Sonny’s, dryers are Proto-Vest, reclaim and spot-free systems are by SoBrite, chemical management stations are Aqua-Lab, and the pay stations are DRB.
The wash features three automated pay stations that offer four wash options: $5, $10, $15, and $18. The top-of-the-line offering features Lava Shield, Rain X, bug treatment, tire shine, triple foam, undercarriage treatment, and spot-free rinse. The menu board takes it design cues from a smartphone, with plenty of easy-to-read icons laying out the offerings. Car wash customers are welcome to use one of the 22 free vacuum stalls powered by five, 20-horsepower producers.
In addition to tunnel services, Fast Trac also offers express detailing and emission testing. The detail center currently only offers two services — hand wax and carpet shampoo —priced at $39 each. The express detailing services can be purchased at the pay stations prior to entering the tunnel. If detailing services are purchased, customers simply pull into an available detailing bay at the tunnel exit.
All cars in Georgia must have their emissions tested once per year as a requirement of vehicle registration. Although the process is regulated by the Georgia Clean Air Force, emissions testing is offered at private facilities like the one located at Fast Trac. The site is licensed to conduct emissions tests on cars model year 1998 and newer; older vehicles must be tested on a different piece of equipment. The test takes approximately 10 minutes, and all who choose to get their car tested at Fast Trac receive a free car wash.
Despite just opening their second location at the start of the new year, the Fast Trac partners are looking to open a third location sometime in the next two years. They already have their eyes on a piece of property they believe to be promising. Ready’s philosophy of site selection is simple, he follows on the heels of QuickTrip gas stations and Super Walmarts. As he puts it, they don’t build bad sites and spend a ton of money on research, so you might as well follow their lead.
Wherever Fast Trac decides to build its next location you can rest assured that the facility will be visually unique, feature top-notch equipment, and offer service with a smile and of course a wave.