CHARLEROI, Pa. — Drycleaning business owner Dan LaCarte and his four brothers built a going route service within their operation, and its intake is a big-block chunk of revenue. It’s time to talk all things routes. Let’s get your motor revved and runnin’ with a straight-up, both hands on the wheel, supercharged Q&A with the president of Model Cleaners.
Let’s find out how they ramped it up, and plan to keep it cruising, because adding new route clients is the ignition to cranking up a thriving route business. Now, revvv up!
Q: First, tell our audience about your business, Model Cleaners.
LaCarte: “Model Cleaners started in 1986 from one small location in Charleroi, Pa., with five employees. Today, the operation has grown in Western Pennsylvania to 15 locations and 11 pickup and delivery routes that service more than 100 local Western Pennsylvania and Morgantown, W.Va., communities.
“Model Cleaners has diversified into three other distinct divisions, specializing in uniform rental services, called Model Uniforms; apparel, embroidery, screen-printing and company uniform fulfillment services, called Model Apparel; and in addition, the company runs a beer company which is called Stoney’s Beer.
“The operation has grown from five employees in 1986 to a total of 225 employees in 2020. Five LaCarte brothers—John, Mike, Dave, Joe and Dan—operate and run Model on a daily basis.”
Q: Generally speaking, can an owner increase business significantly by adding route services?
LaCarte: “Absolutely! Adding route services to your operation can significantly increase your business.
“A route customer generally spends 30% more in business than a customer going to a store. With the added convenience of the route service, we generally see more pieces turned in, and see an increase in frequency of use from the route customer.
“Also, an interesting dynamic: We have seen with a route customer vs. a store customer that the route customer is less price-sensitive, uses coupons less, and has less quality-related issues than a store customer. The convenience of the route service trumps everything.”
Q: Specifically for your operation, how is your route business doing?
LaCarte: “Honestly, if we did not get into the route business, I am not sure Model Cleaners would still be here today. When I joined Model and the family business in 2004, we had one route and did close to $250,000 per year. Since then, we currently have 11 routes doing close to $3 million a year in the route business, and we have between 4-10% in yearly growth with the routes. Routes have been a core focus of ours throughout our entire drycleaning organization.”
Q: Routes are a game of volume. Can you explain more about the volume needed to be successful?
LaCarte: “If you do not add to routes, it can shrink. Routes are like a pile of sand, and when you don’t add to the sand pile, that sand pile can shrink.
“We have studied this dynamic over the years. If you do not add any customers to routes, then attrition can happen. People retire, move, change jobs or just cut back on cleaning. Yearly attrition on the routes can be between 10-13%, so you must add new route customers to the list every week.
“Today, we are a bigger route operation than in the past so we have to aspire to sign up more new route customers than before. Our weekly goals are to sign up between 25-40 new route customers. Our yearly goal (is) to sign up 1,300-1,500 new route customers. We strive to hit these goals to continue to grow the route business and offset yearly attrition.”
Check back Thursday for Part 2!