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COVID-19: 5 ways to safeguard workers and customers



Cleanliness is next to godliness, especially in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic. C-stores, gas stations and car washes can do their part to help keep the population healthy with a few simple steps.

1 – Talk to staff about the seriousness of the situation and the need to take special efforts to safeguard both workers and customers. Health authorities indicate the virus can live on surfaces for a few hours and up to several days.

2 – Have cleaning solutions and tools ready. According to Public Health Ontario ( many commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19. Use only disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) and follow manufacturers’ instructions.

3 – Establish a cleaning routine and follow it. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least twice per day. These include dispenser nozzles, payment buttons, squeegee handles, fuel selector switches and trash receptacles. Pay attention to door handles and light switches to the c-store and wipe all counters and cooler doors with a disinfectant. Bathrooms need to be a constant focus and all surfaces need to be disinfected repeatedly throughout the day. Wipe and clean all vending systems as well.

4 – Staff safety is important. Make sure crews have disposable latex gloves if they are detailing cars and discuss the importance of keeping hands away from faces. Gloves should be discarded into a lined receptacle after each vehicle is cleaned. If reusable gloves are used make sure they are only used for a specific task.

5 – Know your cleaning products.

Cleaners: These break down grease and remove organic material from the surface. Cleaners can be used separately before using disinfectants and can be purchased with cleaner and disinfectant combined in a single product.

Disinfectants: These have chemicals that kill most germs and are typically used after surfaces have been cleaned. These have a Drug Identification Number (DIN).

Disinfectant wipes: These have combined cleaners and disinfectants in one solution. Disinfectant wipes may become dry due to fast-drying properties and should be discarded if they become dry and are not recommended for heavily soiled surfaces.

Bleach solution: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per five litres of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per litre of water.

RELATED READ: Prevention training video for operators and staff

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Two days of discovery at The Convenience U CARWACS Show

Con UThe Convenience U CARWACS Show, which took place March 3-4 in Toronto, continues to stand out as Canada’s leading location for insight and discovery for members of the car wash, fuel retail and c-store sectors.

Day 1 highlights

Attendees on the car wash side gathered to hear Karen Smith, compliance & training manager at Valet Car Wash discuss safety inspections and how operators can prepare. Smith took  attendees through a full slate presentation (Compliance in the Workplace; Are you ready for an inspection) that covered all the bases. She offered insights from information posting to Ontario Health & Safety requirements, to action plans and program excellence. Key takeaways were that its never too soon to implement a safety plan and the payoffs help keep your operation running smoothly. “If you see an issue, act on it,” she told participants. “Don’t wait for inspectors to discover a problem. Be proactive.”

Next, the stage was opened to Barry Munro who was promoting Car Wash for a Cure, an offshoot from Paving the Way for a Cure, a fundraising program that has raised more than $250,000 for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization (CSRO), a group that assists those challenged with spinal cord impairment. Munro is a survivor of a serious spinal cord injury. The injury has not slowed him in his efforts to bring this condition to the forefront of public awareness and his speaking date at the CCA’s morning seminar sessions is a good case in point. With Car Wash for a Cure, Munro invites members of the industry to help raise funds for a study of neuromodulation, one of the most promising therapies in spinal cord injury research today.

Next on Day 1’s agenda was a round table discussion hosted by Canadian Car Wash Association (CCA) president Jason Kaye and Terry McGowan, business development manager, Mosaic. The duo led attendees through a series of questions on marketing and building your business. ‘Do you use flyers, social media and other tools?’ and ‘How do you stand out from the competition?’ were questions thrown out to the crowd who took 15-minute breaks to discuss topics among table members. The questions earned a considerable buzz in the room with attendees creating a very vigorous discussion.

Meanwhile, in the packed Cohen Ballroom, attendees heard from Ontario Convenience Stores Association CEO Dave Bryant, who spoke about the importance of uniting to stand up for the convenience industry to fight for, among other things, fair vaping regulations and the right to sell beer and wine in Ontario. He also highlighted the important of C-store Day, which is to take place August 22, in support of Ontario’s Children’s Hospitals.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 1.14.55 PMNext up, keynote speaker Lee-Anne McAlear took to the stage to talk about “Disrupting the disruptors” and exploring the convergence of technology and convenience. She pointed to block chain as a game changer in the convenience industry and challenged people to consider: “What does technology reveal that we can take advantage of?” She spoke about innovation and creativity, sharing four hacks to fuel disruption.

“It is not always the experts in the field who come up with new ideas,” says McAlear. “If we are going to meet the challenges of our future we need to be able to take in different points of view—different thinking.” She encouraged attendees to work across the innovation continuum, moving from incremental through to disruptive and pointed out that, especially in retail, “small changes—such as listening to employers, suppliers and customers—can be remarkably effective.”

Next up, Ontario Lottery and Gaming hosted a lunch-and-learn session designed to help attendees drive lottery commissions in store.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 1.14.42 PM“We are the single largest traffic driver into the convenience channel—in terms of transactions,” says Larry Colatosti, executive director retail sales, adding OLG has achieved $2.846 billion in C&G sales so far this fiscal year, ends at the end of March. That translates into $207 million in commissions for stores.

He spoke about new games, as well as a pilot project introducing new improved terminals

“This is one example of how we are committed to retail. Making sure you, we, have the right equipment in place to bring us into the future,” said Colatosti. “We continue to innovate at retail to make sure you can serve your customers, our customers.”

Dante Anderson, director, brand marketing for OLG, spoke about an exciting new initiative to reinvent the brand. “The opportunity is for us to reintroduce the OLG brand and create a new brand image that stands for fund, excitement and play.”

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Dave Ayres signs autographs

The afternoon kicked with the opening of the tradeshow floor. The room was abuzz with excitement, thanks in part to two special guests—Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Carolina Hurricanes emergency backup goalie Dave Ayres, courtesy of Last Call Beverages.

Day 1 culminated with a cocktail reception and the OCSA gala dinner.

Day 2 highlights

On the second day, car wash attendees gathered in the morning to take in a tour of southern Ontario’s leading car wash sites. More than 80 people boarded two highway coaches to head off to visit three locations-Crosstown Car Wash in North York, Popular Car Wash in Etobicoke and AutoSpa in Mississauga.

Crosstown featured equipment from MacNeil, Belanger, ICS and Autovac. Crosstown sported a 12-unit free vacuum ‘farm’ and showed off the power of its marketing efforts. Crosstown offers a monthly and annual pass program as well as other features such as a buy one Works wash and get another free (with-in 14 days). Popular Car Wash also featured free vacuums with LED lighting, a detailing centre and full-service 100-foot tunnel wash. Equipment came from Sonny’s, Mondo and Transchem. Promotions included three-tier rustproofing as well as ten automotive maintenance services and oil change. Popular also offers a subscription wash service.

Last on the tour was AutoSpa. This site is likely Canada’s best car wash facility and is run by Fred Misheal, an acknowledged leader among his peers in the industry. This facility has two conveyorized tunnel washes and three conveyorized detailing lines. This is in addition to its window and lube centres and Starbucks café. The wash system was built by Washtec with both Mondo and Mark VII supplying additional features such as chemicals.

Other attendees spent the morning with business coach George Anastasopoulos, who spoke about the new reality of mangers, who are being asked to do more and more. He shared three valuable and practical techniques designed to help people do less and accomplish more, including arguing effectively, confront easily and accountability contracting.

In turn, ShipperBee presented about effortlessly increasing revenues through passive profit generators, such as its network of transfer mailboxes, called Hives: Hive hosts are paid for every parcel that passes through the Hives. They also benefit from moving two potential customers—the drop-off driver and pick-up driver—through their locations as parcels move through the Hive network.

“With more than 5,000 attendees, the 2020 Convenience U CARWACS Show provides an ideal opportunity to showcase our Hives, and their value, to gas and convenience retailers throughout Canada,” said ShipperBee’s founder and chief executive officer, Jim Estill.

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 1.10.41 PMThe show itself was well attended and well exhibited. The car wash and fueling sector-related part of the Convenience U CARWACS Show was a buzz of the latest equipment and offered a Who’s Who of the industry. “This is where people have been coming for solutions to operation questions and finding them,” said Steve Wickens, account executive, ChargePoint, a company showing off new equipment for fast EV charging. 

On the convenience side, exhibitors and attendees connected to discuss the latest product and equipment innovations, as well as burgeoning opportunities for c-store operators looking to diversify their offerings.

Norman Katz, sales manager, Maple Leaf Displays, comes to the show year after year: “I found it was well attended and lots more vendors to meet and conduct business with. I am looking forward to 2021 show.”

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Carwash for a Cure seeks campaign supporters

Industry initiative is raising money for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 11.53.39 AMDuring The Convenience U CARWACS Show in Toronto last week, attendees on the car wash side gathered to hear Karen Smith, compliance and training manager at Valet Car Wash, discuss Safety Inspections and how operators can prepare to keep their site safe for customers and employees – it was a fitting segue to discuss the industry-wide fundraising initiative. 

Smith took close to 100 attendees through a full slate presentation (Compliance in the Workplace; Are you ready for an inspection) that covered all the bases. She offered insights from information posting to Ontario Health and Safety requirements, to action plans and program excellence.

Key takeaways were that its never too soon to implement a safety plan and the payoffs help keep your operation running smoothly. “If you see an issue, act on it,” she told participants. “Don’t wait for inspectors to discover a problem. Be proactive.”

Following Smith’s discussion, the stage was opened to Barry Munro who was promoting Carwash for a Cure, an offshoot from Paving the Way for a Cure, a fundraising program that has raised more than $250,000 for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization (CSRO), a group that assists those challenged with spinal cord impairment.

Munro is himself a survivor of a serious spinal cord injury. The injury has not slowed him in his efforts to bring this condition to the forefront of public awareness and his speaking date at the Canadian Carwash Associations’ morning seminar session was a good case in point. With Car Wash for a Cure, Munro invites members of the industry to help raise funds for a study of neuromodulation, one of the most promising therapies in spinal cord injury research today. 

To get involved in this industry-wide fundraising initiative, contact Karen Smith.


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Pivoting Mammoth

Sonny’s Mammoth Air Drying System 

Pivoting MammothSonny’s Mammoth Air Drying System features a compact blower that dries the side of a vehicle—the ideal primary side drying solution for short tunnels, as well as a perfect finishing dryer for high-volume locations.

Pivoting action changes the orientation of the air drying system towards the exit of the tunnel as the car passes by, effectively drying the rear glass and bumpers of cars, trucks and SUVs at conveyor speeds up to 140 cars per hour.

To learn more, visit or call 855-695-3141

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Coinless Mobile: Go mobile. Go unlimited. Stay simple 

have_it_all-01A mobile app with a wide variety of features? It sounds like a big project to implement across all of your store locations, right?
With Coinless Mobile we can seamlessly integrate your loyalty program, unlimited packages, marketing suite, and more across every one of your convenience store locations.
With a few small pieces of equipment, your wash can be looped into the app in just minutes via wifi.

Learn more at 

Photos: Chantale Lecours

Crevier Group’s new wash site in Beloeil, Que. offers efficiency and quality

Not long after he was named VP of Crevier Group’s fuel division in early 2018, Jean-Claude Clément was tasked with choosing a vehicle car wash system for the company’s showcase service station off exit 112 on Highway 20 in Beloeil, Que., a 20-minute drive east of Montreal.

“To make such a decision you need to consider many things to make sure the system you choose is right for the business,” says Clément. “You need to look at the area and market profile, the type of traffic and the location.”

Crevier Group operates 220 service stations across Quebec and distributes petroleum products, notably Chevron, in seven Canadian provinces.

Photos: Chantale Lecours

Photos: Chantale Lecours

In the end, Clément opted for a touchless LaserWash 360 Plus from PDQ for the company’s new Beloeil site, a system he became familiar with during the 22 years he spent building and running Pétro-T’s network of 150 service stations across Quebec. 

“I’d bought several earlier generations of that model and they always worked well,” recalls Clément, who left Pétro-T in 2015.“It’s a reliable car wash that we thought offered the right mix of efficiency and quality for the Beloeil site.”  

Impressive development

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 12.58.28 PMIn operation since July 2019, the new car wash and four-island gas bar are part of an ambitious plan by local promoters to develop the entire 1-million-sq.-ft. site into a multi-functional commercial, entertainment and residential oasis within commuting distance of downtown Montreal.


Dubbed the Faubourg du Richelieu, the $125-million project by Groupe Lobato involves the construction by 2021 of commercial and office space, a 100-room hotel and convention centre, a water park, a sports facility (including an indoor soccer field), residential condos and the project’s pièce de résistance—a marina on the historic Richelieu River. Deals have also been inked with Tim Hortons and A&W. To date, only the Crevier service station, a 99-slip marina and several condos are built on the land, which is still mostly greenfield.

However, work is to begin soon on 400 parking spaces conveniently located adjacent to the wash site. The spots are expected to be in heavy demand starting in January 2021 when Montreal’s Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine Bridge-Tunnel, which runs over and beneath the St. Lawrence River in the city’s east end, will close for repairs for one year.  

 “Commuter traffic on Highway 20 will be backed-up right to our door,” says Clément.  “I’m sure many people will decide to simply park their cars here and take the bus. Having 400 cars here every day will be good for our gas and wash business.”

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 12.58.18 PMThe Crevier service station is one of four that the company operates within a few kilometres of one another on both sides of the river. Of those sites, the Beloeil location is the only one with a convenience store and a universal fast charge superstation for electric vehicles (EV). 

The fast charging station is one of 10 that Crevier operates at service centres across Quebec in conjunction with Electric Circuit, Canada’s first public charging network for electric vehicles, which offers 240-volt and 400-volt charging stations in the parking lots of partners in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. Crevier’s Beloeil station is the first with rapid charge facilities, which recharge most cars to 80% in only 20 minutes.

 “EV is getting big in Quebec,” says Clement. “That’s why we are working to install them at every station in our network whenever we renovate or build new.”

Site meshes with business plan

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 12.58.40 PMClement says that Crevier was “in no rush” to build a car wash in the first phase of the Beloeil site—plans originally included the gas pumps and EV charging station, plus a well-stocked convenience store.

But, his hiring and being tasked with finding the right car wash system for the site dovetailed with Crevier’s increasing interest in the retail side of its service station network. “We used to be more focused on the sale of petroleum products,” says Clément.  “But our model has changed over the past four or five years.”

With the addition of the Beloeil car wash, Crevier now operates five automatic washes, including four in Quebec and one in the Eastern Ontario border town of Hawkesbury.  

They are all different makes and models and include both touch and touchless equipment. “We’ve got a bit of everything,” says Clément.

“We went for simplicity, we didn’t add any extra features or gadgets like Lava Baths or Armor All,” he says of installing the LaserWash 360 Plus at Beloeil.  “We went for a standard format where people can choose between three kinds of wash—regular wash, wash with wax and super wash, where we put three-colour foam on vehicles, which puts on a nice show.”

 In the spirit of keeping it simple, there are no apps; instead customers can pay at the pump or inside. 

 Clément suggests it is too early to know if Quebec’s famously cold and snowy winters—coupled with the notoriously strong winds that whip across Beloeil and its low-lying, farm-rich St. Lawrence Plain region—will be a problem for the new wash.

“Bad weather shouldn’t be a challenge,” says Clément. “Car washes are built for winters. The entrances and exits are heated, as are the cement pads, which are heated when electronic sensors detect a risk of freezing. Those heat-active systems should help to avoid any ice buildup.”

He expects the same solid performance from the new wash in Beloeil as the earlier generation models he installed years ago for Petro-T.  

“These are solidly constructed systems that respond to our needs, which are providing an acceptable wash at the best price/quality ratio for both purchase and operation,” says Clément.  “I’d make the same choice again today.”
Originally published in the November/December issue of Octane. 

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The great car wash debate: Touchless versus friction

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 10.46.54 AMTo touch or not to touch—that’s the question for many car wash customers. And, many of these customers ask whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of the automated tunnel wash or to take arms against a sea of troubles and go with the touchless express option.

Were Hamlet alive today, what option would this prince of Denmark seek out to gleam his ride?

Both formats come with pros and cons and each operator has to understand their unique market to determine which is right for their customer base. 

“The oil companies are the largest operator group of touchless systems in Canada,” says Bill Barber of Mississauga, Ont.-based Washlinks, a leading equipment supplier to the trade. He believes companies such as Suncor and Co-op use touchless rollover wash systems because of the small footprint involved with express installations and the opportunity to greatly limit surface damage. “Touchless rollover systems are less costly to build and are less challenging to operate. This makes a good fit for sites where companies want to keep staffing levels and costs down.”

 Where touchless systems often fall short is speed and volume. As Barber points out, that there are two ways to make more money in the car wash business: One is to increase the number of washes per hour and the other is to increase the average revenue per vehicle. Touchless express rollover systems can typically run about a dozen cars per hour, however a standard friction tunnel with a conveyor accommodates one car per foot of tunnel per hour. 

“With a tunnel wash, volumes are considerably higher and the outcome is often superior to what a rollover touchless system can achieve,” he says, adding that oily residue following a rain can be very hard to remove from vehicle surfaces without the aid of brushes and soft cloth scrubbing.

Alberta-based car wash operator Sylvain Blouin, president of Rock-N-Wash, says touchless wash sites can deliver customer satisfaction, but operators must pay attention to the details. “If designed properly with sufficient chemical dwell time, a wind door to allow a two stage—acid and alkaline—presoak chemical application during the summer months, and with the right high-pressure impact water, as well as the proper front and rear bumper application, and excellent chemical selection, yes, I would consider it. That said, during the summer months, with road film and bugs baked onto clear-coat paint finishes, friction is often the only way to remove everything.” 

Blouin says that if touchless sites are not designed properly, they can be a challenge for the operator.  “If the design is incorrect and the chemicals don’t have enough dwell time to do what they are designed to do, it does not matter what technology is used, the results won’t be great. An operator should look at the design first, then the technology.”

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 10.37.02 AMHe knows what he is talking about, having operated a touchless tunnel for four years. “At first, we were not achieving the same results as friction because our original design was incorrect. It was painful, but after some layout and chemicals and applicator changes, we were able to achieve results as good as friction. With only water and chemicals to work with, touchless is definitely more challenging to operate, however, many consumers do prefer this format because it tends to be more gentle on vehicle surfaces.

His new site, which is to open in 2020 in Sherwood Park, just outside of Edmonton, will offer a hybrid system with both friction and touchless options.

 According to Blouin, both systems have their benefits and he wants his customers—be they Hamlet or the Wilsons from around the corner—to have that choice. “In the end it’s all about customer service and meeting unique needs,” he says, emphasizing operators must know their customers and then deliver the services they demand. Success follows.
Originally published in the November/December issue of Octane. 

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That’s entertainment! Operators win by enhancing the wash experience

Car wash is a highly competitive field. Operators battle on price, programs, and overall customer experience. Sites that succeed in this market have to go beyond the basics of clean tires and a spot-free finish to win and retain customer attention. To really keep customers coming back, you have to make the most of the overall experience. Where does your site stand as a source of ‘Wow!’?

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“Upping the experience is holistic, from the minute the consumer enters the site to the minute he/she leaves, everything in between forms part of creating the experience,” says Sylvain Blouin, originator of Alberta’s Rock-N-Wash and the operator of a new car wash site going up in Sherwood Park.

Blouin remarks that when he developed the Edmonton Rock-N-Washlocation, he had as many as 50 competitors in the area. To win over customers, he stepped up the entertainment level with a dedicated on-site radio station playing ’50s and ’60s classic hits, displays with coloured foams, and twinkling lights and themed secondary services such as a ’50s-style soda counter.

“Be creative, be different, you and only you know the location/market conditions of your wash facility. Have fun with it and make it fun for the consumers,” he says, adding that at the minimum the site offered music playing in the background, tri-colour foam brush and foam wax as well as pleasant scents in wash chemicals, and friendly interactive staff.

“Our slogan is ‘Revolutionizing the Car Wash Experience®’ so, creating a unique, fun experience truly begins during the design stage. We’ve planned this new facility to offer 12 different complementary services. Our Groovy Rock-N-Wash® fans will be able to enjoy any of our services and use one convenient loyalty payment method for everything and actually earn rewards,” he says. Blouin’s Groovy Rock-N-Wash will also be hosting weekly Cruise Nights. “Given our theme, there’s obviously going to be Rock’n Roll music playing inside and outside of our facility.”

According to Blouin, the new site will offer tri-colour foam, laser light show and lava soap/wax in the automatic. “Upstairs we will have a retro waiting lounge where consumers can relax while we detail their vehicles or celebrate birthday parties. The lounge is also where our Groovy Car Clubs meet for their monthly meetings. We’ll also maintain our online presence on several social media platforms and continue to interact and build relationships.”

Innovation drives market

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 3.39.24 PMManufacturers have been pushing the entertainment envelope for years with innovative lighting and chemical products. A leader is TSS, a company that has recently partnered with US-based National Carwash Solutions, a company with brands such as MacNeil and Ryco. TSS has announced Blaze FX, an in-wash lighting and arch display system that generates excitement with a holistic approach to engage the senses.

“When your wash site offers something amazing, people put this on social media and this drives business and loyalty within the younger demographic,” says TSS vice-president Bobby Jones. “There is so much disruption in the market, operators need an edge to stay in the game.”


Mikiz Pitt Stop dazzles the local market

A good example of a small operator that has stepped up their wash program is Mikiz Pittstop in Lunenburg, NS. Operators Alex and Mike Pittmanhave utilized their PDQ Laser 360 and tri-coloured foam applications to create a twilight laser wash entertainment feature. They report that this utilization of their wash equipment has created an entertainment draw that has families showing up for an evening drive through the facility before grabbing a quick dinner at the site’s small takeout café.

“I’m a fan of ’60s and ’70s culture, especially the cars, and this fits right in,” says Alex Pittmann. “People can now drop in during the evening for our Twilight Laser Wash, grab a quick bite and maybe wash the dog all at the same time. It’s a package where all the pieces fit together in a community where this is something new. It’s a small market and we took a bit if risk with the investment, but it’s paying off with customer support.

To a large extent the entertainment factor is the result of the creativity of operators and how they maximize entertainment opportunities using their equipment resources.  Here, Sylvain Blouin concludes, “Focus on the overall experience, and customers will come back over and over and over.”


U.S. example points to power in partnerships. Will we see this level of team play in Canada?

In the US, Northfield Park, Ohio, operator RockStop Gas & Wash is offering the ‘Vegas’ experience to its gas and fuel customers. The site, located about 30 kilometres between Akron and Cleveland, has partnered with the Hard Rock brand and offers a casino (Rocksino) and entertainment complex adjacent to its car wash, forecourt and c-store. The forecourt features Hard Rock-style lighting effects and LED TVs, which broadcast music videos and commercials. RockStop also delivers entertainment with a car wash with soundtracks for guests to enjoy and a full retail store including limited edition Hard Rock merchandise. RockStop also utilizes coloured foams, fruity scents and hard-driving tunes to keep customers thinking about the total experience available at the location, which is Ohio’s number one gaming destination.

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Octane. 



Wash operators share 5 strategies to reduce staff turnover

Good hiring practices set the stage for employee retention

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Staff turnover is expensive. Operators who fail to hire and keep good employees can run heavy costs for recruitment, training and supports. According to Peoplekeep, a US-based benefits provider, the cost of replacing an employee is about 16% of annual salary in high-turnover, low-paying jobs where employees earn less than $30,000 a year. For instance, the cost to replace a full-time worker earning $10/hour is more than $3,300. 

Here are five tips to help stay on the right side of employment challenges.


  1. Thoughtful recruitment

    Have a solid hiring plan and stick to it. This includes a formal interview and hiring process. Go beyond simple basics—‘Can you wipe a car window?’ or ‘Can you work the POS system?’—and look for soft skills that will make a difference in customer experience. Is the applicant energetic? Does the applicant have good social skills? 


At Valet Car Wash, an Ontario-based multi unit operator, compliance and training manager Karen Smith sees recruiting as an ongoing process. “Even if you don’t have a position available, be prepared to find something if a ‘perfect’ applicant comes along.” She recruits through organizations, such as Second Chance in Guelph, Ont. and the YMCA, while using federal government programs to assist with training. 

Valet Car Wash also relies on Indeed, Facebook and word of mouth. “Friends tell friends if the employment environment is good,” she says adding that the company looks for employees with similar core values. “When the fit is there, retention is high. During our interview I tell applicants about Valet’s values and ask them to give two examples of core values they possess.”

Valet also works with local universities and colleges to post job openings on online career pages and the company has had some success with local high school co-op programs, resulting in hiring after the co-op term finished. “This includes students with disabilities, who have developed into valuable employees,” says Smith.


  1. Show, don’t tell

    When workers see management creating positive interactions with customers this goes a long way toward connecting the dots in an operation. The same is true of simple tasks that need to be done well. As part of an effort to get everyone on the same service page, management must be prepared to clean floors to demonstrate standards and techniques.

At Tony Heembrock’s Dreams Eco XPress Car Wash in Okotoks, AB, new staff participate in three four-hour introductory shifts to shadow a co-worker. “Then, new workers do a full shift with a supervisor. You can’t just let new people take on a roll in the business without meaningful supports. There is too much at stake,” says Heembrock, adding his company’s HR process has earned respect from workers, many of whom have been with the company since the beginning. 


  1. Set high standards for training

    Don’t wing it, instead be prepared with a full training and intake program that includes manuals and expectations regarding the job itself, as well as how workers should behave with one another: Negative employee interaction stands out as a leading cause of staff turnover. 

As well, your training program should take applicants to higher levels of understanding. Create a culture of success and support, and then follow through with on-going training to keep staff up-to-date regarding industry innovations, such as new chemicals and systems.

Heembrock uses a substantial employee handbook to clearly outline the job, performance expectations and details about the company. Dreams Eco Wash relies on suppliers to provide added information on new products and technical data for items, such as waxes. All the information is shared with staff.


  1. Think benefits

    It’s a competitive world and businesses that offer more to employees experience lower turnover. A good wage is a starting place, but benefits, including monthly prizes and recognition, as well as health plans, go a long way toward keeping workers happy at work. 


  1. Communicate with workers

    If you don’t ask, you don’t know. Conduct exit interviews to gather valuable information and help management get on the right track. Take this one step further by talking to satisfied workers to find out why they stay. Take the information and fine tune it as part of your employee retention plan. 


While Valet doesn’t do exit interviews with general labourers, they do so for managers and supervisors. Smith says this offers tremendous insight and helps shape how the company operates: “The goal is continuous improvement in everything we do.”

Fuel and wash sites embrace digital solutions

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 11.00.52 PMGlobal market analysts at Accenture recently looked at forecourt and the retail fuel sector to determine leading forces of change in the industry. Key among the discoveries is that digital systems provide the tools necessary to navigate the considerable changes impacting the forecourt and related services, such as car wash. 

Disruption is accelerating

In Fuel Retail Digital Survey 2018, authors Neale Johnson, managing director of Fuel Retail Europe, and Brian Gray, managing director of Retail Fuel North America, found that disruption to the market, from electric vehicles (EV), consumer behaviours and other factors, are accelerating.

Here in Canada, EV sales are moving forward at breakneck speed. In fact, sales have increased by more than 66% every year for the previous five years. These days about 8% of vehicle sales in Canada are electric.

The provinces and federal government are helping drive this change. For example, Quebec uses a quota system to push EV that requires auto dealers to sell a minimum percentage of EV or pay a penalty. British Columbia has recently expanded its zero emission vehicle policy to ensure that no gas-powered vehicles be sold in the province after 2040. Also, The federal government has increased its rebate program for electric vehicles.

Here, opportunities exist to develop more charging sites alongside traditional fueling centres.  Canada sports just 5850 EV charging stations, a number that shows fewer than one charging station for every 100-km of road across the country. The uptick is that with chargers taking about 30 minutes to juice electric vehicles, fuel centres have longer periods during which to sell convenience and culinary products.    

Commitments to digital investments

In the survey, 80% of respondents said they planned to make significant investments in digital solutions during the next five years. Operators said that these investments would allow them to better engage with customers and improve services. Investments include apps and POS systems to boost speed of service and enhance loyalty. Already we are seeing wash-site operators take up the digital challenge and run with it.

 For instance, Ontario-based operators such as Valet Car Wash and Klassic Car Wash have developed their own apps that are available via the App Store, Google Play and other sites. Users can load cash, activate washes, earn loyalty bonuses and explore other features. In the App store alone, there are more than 100 wash and fuel site operators, including Shell, McEwan Oil and Co-Op.

According to Mike Black of Valet Car Wash, Canada is more advanced than the U.S. when it comes to digital payment systems. He says that in the U.S. the wash business is 70% cash, with operators using coin boxes, while sites in Canada are exploring contactless payment, cards and apps.

At fueling sites, the coming fifth generation of Internet connectivity (5G) will bring huge enhancements to marketing and convenience at the pumps. Already auto manufacturers, such as Honda and Land Rover, have are installing features so that vehicles can facilitate payments for gas and other items. In Canada, our systems are not prepped for this activity and gas apps, including Shell and others, are not ready yet to perform purchase functions at the pumps. With 5G, however, everything is on the table, such as beacon technology delivering marketing messages to onboard visual displays and digital payment portals effortlessly taking payment.

Analytics enhances performance

With the increase in digital investment comes the ability to enhance analysis. Operators are now better able to predict customer behaviour thanks to sales tracking made easier through apps and POS tools. In wash systems, for instance, sensors now measure and work with electronic dispensers to more accurately deliver chemicals and water to the wash process. Operators are able to examine every stage of the system and fine tune for performance that can increase profits, as well as customer satisfaction.

At the forecourt, digital analytics creates greater efficiency in fuel delivery, margin control and staffing. And, the tools are all accessible remotely, allowing management to review and input from anywhere at anytime.


Digital maturity is the goal

The report emphasizes the need to continue investments in skills training, automation and partnerships. The authors say these are essential for operators to realize their digital aspirations. Already 42% of fuel operators report they are digital savvy and have launched systems to take advantage of the shifts in technology.

Better foundations needed to realize digital value

Fuel retailers may only be at the start of their journey, but they know where they are headed,says Accentures Brian Gray, adding that 75% of retailers surveyed saw digital systems as a major benefit to their business.