This is a very interesting post. Being a "car guy" who spent a good portion of my youth in self serve car washes, I have always taken a particular interest in self serve car washes. Much of the success of a self serve car wash has to do with location, traffic counts, ease of ingress and egress etc. However, as with most businesses effort on behalf of the owner, can make a huge difference as well. I know a particular self serve car wash that for several years never really made much money. As I drove by, every day, year after year, I was always intrigued about it because I noticed the location never had many customers. The majority of the time it sat empty.
Several years went by and one day, I noticed there were several cars there, and after some time, the location became packed, even though, no large building projects had been completed and the traffic counts were basically the same. Eventually, I stopped in to wash my car and ran into the owner working around the location on a Saturday afternoon. I asked him what he changed over the last several months.
He had indicated that he had recently bought the location for next to nothing since the previous owner had never made a profit over 10 years. So obviously I asked him what he did different.
He said the only thing he did was to stop by every day before and after work, (yes he had another full time job) and make sure everything was clean, tidy and in proper working condition. Previously the location was known for quarter machines malfunctioning, machines taking money and not working and poorly working equipment. He simply made sure everything worked well, and posted his phone number on every machine indicating that if for any reason the machinery didn't work to call right away and he would take care of it. Now its one of the busiest locations I have seen. As in many cases, if you are looking at a business opportunity, look for simple improvements you can make to increase profitability, not just the net profits.