Excerpted from carwash.com.
Kentucky-based Cheetah Clean Auto Wash recently had a brand facelift; the six locations are now part of Cheetah Clean Holding Company. With a new LLC and support from partners Blue Equity, Cheetah Clean’s leadership now has fresh motivation to take the chain with express and full service locations to the next level.
However, this entrepreneurial spirit for change and growth isn’t anything new to owner Jeff Fields — it runs in his blood. Before Cheetah Clean existed, and actually before Jeff was even born, his great grandfather ran Fields’ Cleaners, a laundromat and dry cleaning business, which eventually spurred another laundry business: an auto laundry. Thus began the family carwashing tradition.
When Gillian Fields opened the doors to Fields’ Cleaners in 1947, he had no clue that this business venture would trickle down into generations of his family. His son, Jeff’s grandfather, opened the first automatic carwash in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Then, his grandson, Jeff’s father, opened full-serve Tender Touch Auto Care. Eventually, Jeff opened Cheetah Clean Auto Wash, solidifying a fourth generation in the market.
Cheetah Clean opened in 2007, 60 years after Fields’ Cleaners opened for business.
Today, Jeff’s father still works in the industry as a distributor for PECO, and a fifth generation Fields has joined the running — Jeff’s daughter Kaylee is Cheetah Clean’s director of marketing.
However, would Gillian be able to predict what the business in 2022 would look like? Probably not. From his great-great-granddaughter’s efforts in modern digital marketing to company moves thanks to the explosion of industry growth, the market has changed drastically in the past three quarters of a century.
In fact, Cheetah Clean Auto Wash’s recent partnership with Blue Equity, an independent private equity firm out of Louisville, Kentucky, truly catapults Fields’ business into the modern era of carwashing. Following the growing trend seen in our industry and others, this new investment in Cheetah Clean will assist Fields’ goals of building more Cheetah Clean Auto Wash locations in his home region. “We are looking forward to expanding in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana along the I-65 corridor,” he shares.
5 Diamond Service
Before following his familial destiny, Jeff left his Southern Kentucky community and headed out to Arizona to see what opportunities awaited. He eventually found a niche in hospitality working at AAA Five Diamond rated hotels, such as The Ritz Carlton and Arizona Biltmore. As described on AAA.com, five diamond rated hotels are considered the “ultimate luxury,” and five diamond rated restaurants are considered “leading edge.”
After returning to help his father with the family business, and eventually starting his own carwash, Jeff felt inspired to give carwash customers this same five diamond experience. Cheetah Clean achieves this through stellar customer service for guests coming through the carwash tunnel, a quick five minute wash time, highly specific washing processes, unique benefits for unlimited members and more.
Impressive technology, such as license plate readers (LPR), user friendly point-of-sale (POS) systems and newly installed belt conveyors, entice one-time customers to convert to members, but it’s the members’ experience that keeps them coming back month after month.
In fact, Cheetah Clean reports that the company as a whole has a 15% membership conversion rate, and one location boasts more than a 20-month retention average. These praiseworthy statistics could in fact be due to a unique member benefit Cheetah Clean’s competitors don’t offer — roadside assistance.
The brand’s roadside assistance program, which is officially called Auto Mayday, is included in all four Cheetah Clean unlimited plan options, ranging from $34.99 to $54.99 a month. As long as members are within a five mile radius of any of the six Cheetah Clean locations, Auto Mayday is an option for a jump start, flat tire change and gallon of gas delivery. For an additional $20, Auto Mayday members can get help in the event they get locked out of their vehicle. Jeff describes Auto Mayday as, “Something unique to the industry.”
With impressive membership retention rates, it’s easy to assume this unique benefit is helping members stay loyal to Cheetah Clean Auto Wash.
Part of the Community
With a mission that reads, “To have a positive impact on the communities we serve,” Cheetah Clean Holding Company had to put some actions behind what Jeff describes as a “BIG promise.” Of course, working towards this mission wasn’t a difficult decision since the family-owned business has strong roots in the Southern Kentucky community after all.
Of all their customer impacting strategies, Jeff shared that the business is big on using the technology available, such as LPR and POS systems, to recognize and personally welcome repeat customers back to the wash. He explains, “Saying someone’s name is one of the most powerful service motives we can employ.”
Additionally, Cheetah Clean Holding Company is thoughtful with monetary donations too — the brand has donated a total of $150,000 to various causes including Court Appointed Child Advocates, back to school initiatives and more since 2013.
Most recently, the Cheetah Clean team partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for a weeklong campaign where Cheetah Clean donated a portion of sales for every vehicle washed. By the end of the week, the wash raised $15,178 to assist the AFSP in funding suicide prevention research, the new mental health hotline (988) and more. The fundraising event wrapped up at the Out of the Darkness Walk in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Cheetah Clean participated in a team walk to further fundraise for the cause.
On par with other leading brands in the carwash space, Cheetah Clean is also committed to helping the planet, with plans to install a completely enclosed water reclamation system in upcoming new development projects. “We recycle every ounce of water that we can,” Jeff notes.
With these initiatives and accomplishments, the Fields family has built a strong brand that knows its identity — a fun one with commendable ties to its community and customers. In fact, Jeff concludes, “I believe the most successful operators will be the ones who truly build brands. Operators who can break out of the commoditized carwash space and create more of a high end experience for their clientele will continue to take more market share.”
As a seasoned professional with experience in both the hospitality and automotive industries, carwash owners can feel confident taking that advice and running with it, just like Jeff did.
Read the full article on carwash.com HERE.