“Every time you slice the cake, it gets bigger”
Tommy’s Express is coming to Europe next year. That’s why Carwashpro.com took the opportunity to speak to Ryan Essenburg during the Car Wash Show Europe. Essenburg is the founder and spokesman of the successful American car wash company. “We have a strong faith in the network effect.”
“Tommy’s was created initially as an equipment product line to be really aesthetically appealing” explains Ryan Essenburg, about the birth of the international car wash brand. “We wanted to change the environment of the car wash from an industrial zone to something that looks nice, spacious and welcoming for consumers. ”
“My dad’s name is Tom. The name Tommy comes partly from that, but also from designer products like Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Bahama, etc. The name has trendy and fashionable associations. And that is also what we are trying to do with the environment of a car wash. We make it look less of an automotive service and more like a retail business.”
The car wash industry has changed a lot in recent years. What new innovations are playing an important role at Tommy’s?
“When I started at the company, I grew up in a world of equipment and hardware. I tinkered with nozzles, changed brushes and was tuning mechanical things all day long. But today the hardware is very tried and true. We can wash over 200 cars an hour in a space of 40-meters. And have everything ready to deliver a clean, shiny, dry vehicle and do it quickly.”
“The innovations that seem to be the most transformative nowadays are the innovations in software. For example, we recently created a new technology with pay per wash through our own app. This allows customers to bypass the queue without having to have an unlimited subscription right away. That way you still offer customers a VIP experience.”
“For example, we’ve literally been able to add millions of dollars in business value to our franchise partners with one app update. By simply adjusting things in the app and really looking at the customer experience – how someone joins the program and likes to wash their car – you can already accomplish a lot.”
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Tommy’s Express is coming to Europe and the Netherlands. For example, the first Tommy’s Express will open in Utrecht next year. A big step?
“Yes absolutely, we are really honored and grateful to be working with the best partners in the Netherlands. With ACE Car Wash Systems on the supply side and Mark de Graaf of BOB Autowas on the retail side. They have fantastic washes and are known all over the world for their great operations here in the Netherlands. And they will be our franchise partner, as well as our support system in terms of equipment and installations and product line here throughout Europe. So we are grateful to have them on the team and for the growth of Tommy’s Express to begin here in the Netherlands.”
And in addition to the Netherlands, there is already a first location in France?
“That’s right. It’s a project that has been in the works for a while. The location is about an hour’s drive north of Paris. And so that will be the first Tommy’s Express to open in France. We are also very much looking forward to that. It’s a market where there are still a lot of opportunities.”
Is there enough market left in the Netherlands for Tommy’s?
“One of the things that is unique in our philosophy and in our thought process is the density model, which allows us to build locations. And that goes beyond what anyone ever thought possible. We call this the network effect, where a club membership has the same price no matter how many different locations there are. But the more locations you have to redeem it, the more valuable it is to the customer. The more outlets there are where someone can redeem their membership, the more the brand will gain and grow and have the most members. So we are trying to build a dense market and serve the market with maximum potential.”
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And the ambitions are big: in 10 years to 500 branches in Europe.
“These numbers may sound big, but they are achievable. We believe that every time you cut the cake, the cake grows. In the end, there are more pieces. And you can divide those pieces, and so the cake gets bigger and bigger. This is how we look at car wash locations. It is all about demand.
“What’s really important is that supply comes first. People tend to dwell too long on the opportunities within a market: will this be a good market or not? Whereas if you look at consumer behavior, you see that everyone around the world has the same needs and desires. Everyone appreciates a clean, shiny and dry vehicle. Everybody appreciates speed and doesn’t want to waste time. And everyone appreciates a fair price. If you can include those three things, it could work anywhere.”
“At Tommy’s, we don’t think consumers are different. You sometimes have to create or change habits, but that has to start with the offer. A customer has to be able to get the service first and then the demand follows. Everywhere we build or have built car washes, it’s similar to our business in the US. So it’s all about providing the same customer experience.”
Listen back to the full podcast with Ryan Essenburg here.