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Grease Monkey Undergoing Image Overhaul

A nationwide image overhaul of Grease Monkey franchises is underway and should be mostly completed by next spring. The changes focus on women, which are the majority of Grease Monkey’s customers.

In business since 1978 and headquartered in Colorado, the Grease Monkey network includes about 180 U.S. shops that offer oil changes and preventive maintenance work. The company hired a national market research firm and queried existing customers and non-customers. From a facilities standpoint, they wondered: What would compel people to try Grease Monkey for the first time or visit more often.

“The word ‘spa-like’ came up quite often in focus groups,” said Mike Brunetti, vice president of franchise development for Grease Monkey International. “And they wanted modern.”

Customers typically spend about 15 minutes to one hour at the shop, depending on the time of day and the amount of work being done. “Their time in the store is brief, but we want it to be pleasant, not garage-y,” Brunetti said.

So, instead of the stereotypical grimy auto garage decor with a stale pot of coffee, Grease Monkey plans to focus on snazzing up its waiting areas with soft colors, fresh drinks and snacks, Wifi, a digital menu board, and clean bathrooms. “Guys are less discriminating, but, frankly, they love it, too,” Brunetti said. “They just aren’t going to say it.”

The company has retained its logo but changed its tagline. Instead of “Preventive Maintenance Pros,” signage now says “Oil Changes & More.” The market researchers found that most customers didn’t really know what “preventive maintenance” meant, Brunetti said. The company’s services, which include fluid, filter and flush work, will remain the same.

Optional outdoor improvements include new parking lots, outdoor seating areas with umbrella tables and awnings. For the interior upgrades, franchisees can choose from three different color palettes.

Grease Monkey began testing its new design guidelines in the summer of 2011, primarily in the Colorado area.

This is the first major image upgrade for the company. It’s mandatory for all U.S. franchisees, although there are minimum options that cost less. The company is offering special financing through Direct Capital Corp. through March 31, 2013. Financing options include the addition of new equipment.

So far, the costs for franchisees have ranged from $15,000 to $76,000 for a gut job, Brunetti said. The costs could go higher if an owner decides to rebuild from scratch with all the suggested changes. “The whole reason we did this was to increase business,” Brunetti said.  “We didn’t say to paint a wall just to paint a wall.”

Grease Monkey is looking into similar initiatives for its approximately 70 franchises in Mexico and China.  Any changes in those countries, however, would take research into customer preferences, Brunetti said.                                    — Sarah Hollander

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