Delivering a quality wash, even in extreme weather
Before he broke ground, Braithwaite says he took quite a bit of time to learn not just what makes a good car wash, but also what users find disappointing. When he looked at reviews of existing car washes, he found similar complaints: For example, that the cars come out at the end are rather poorly washed; and in the winter months, many come out still wet, which results in frozen doors or windows.
The way to overcome that was to design a car wash that could deliver optimal performance in the kind of cold weather that Alberta is known for—to do that one needs the right equipment.
During his time visiting car wash operations and suppliers of services and technologies with Sorenson, he learned a lot about investing in the right equipment. This helped him decide upon AccuPump equipment for soap dispensing, SoBrite for the reclamation system, DRB Tunnel Solutions for POS and, for chemicals, Blair Ceramics and National Car Wash Solutions (CleanTouch).
In relation to finding equipment to withstand the cold, Braithwaite points to the blowers he uses to dry cars. A standard car wash might use two 10-horsepower drying motors, but in many cases, they are not enough to fully dry a car, and certainly not during winter. “We have 13 drying motors [at 15 hp each = 185 hp], and we went a step beyond and made sure that they have high-efficiency motors, so they also don’t burn up as much power when in use,” he explains. “We can also dial them up or down depending on the season, to further save on electrical usage. For example, in the summer when it is hot outside, you don’t need to have as much drying power.”
In addition, power gates help to improve their efficiency and everything is computer controlled, so they run only when the car is present.
Braithwaite explains that because of the car wash’s tunnel length, some 150 feet, partition walls are placed at the entrance and exit of the operations. Not only do those walls clearly mark the prewash preparation area and drying area, but also, they act as barriers to cold. “When it is winter and it is -30 or -40 Celsius outside, and you open your doors to let a car in or out, that cold air stays in those delineated areas,” he adds. “The cold does not migrate through the tunnel.”
As well, the tunnel floors are heated and there are infrared radiant heaters inside to prevent any freezing of the equipment. The water and soaps are heated as well, and the asphalt is heated so that vehicles do not hit ice when exiting.
Putting the customer first
“We focus on one thing, and we do it very well,” says Braithwaite. “We sell car washes and nothing else. Our value proposition is about a clean car experience that makes you feel good. Consequently, we focus on every aspect that amps up the good feeling. For example, our staff are directed to smile at every customer first and foremost, and for holidays we do something extra, like chocolates on Valentine’s Day or flowers for Mother’s Day. And training our staff is all about how to talk to the customers, to make the most of every opportunity and delivering a consistent service. This is achieved through video training, quizzes, mentorship, peer training, internal performance competitions judged by their peers.”
He adds that to help provide a good customer experience, it is also important that his staff is happy and enjoy their work. “We provide a work environment where staff are appreciated, provide opportunities to learn and support their hobbies and career ambitions through company projects, and of course, having fun with the daily routines to make work enjoyable.”