As the e-commerce explosion pushes companies to deliver more products and services to the homes and workplaces of consumers, businesses are transforming once-mundane work trucks into identifiable brand platforms.
Such vehicles have become an important marketing tool for franchise concepts with mobile and delivery businesses.
“Having all those branded vehicles driving down the road, a moving billboard, is helpful,” said Breann Loffing, vice president of franchise operations for Hoodz, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based cleaning service for restaurant kitchen exhaust hoods.
Hoodz outfits Ford Transit vehicles with a variety of tools, consumables such as filters and a high-pressure washer that extends from the back of the vehicle. There are various lengths and sizes of hoses to fit it. About 93 Hoodz franchisees have purchased two or three trucks each at a cost of $59,900 apiece.
Other examples of these customized vehicles include Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans turned into Aussie Pet Mobile’s traveling dog salons and Ford F-650 medium-duty truck chassis configured as Fleet Clean’s customized truck-washing platforms.
They are typically wrapped with the brand’s signage and marketing messages, creating a rolling billboard for the business. The cost of the vehicle is usually baked into the overall franchise fee. Often, a new franchisee will drive their customized truck home from the initial franchisor training session that launches their business.
“We’re seeing more franchises going mobile so they can go to the customer instead of expecting the customer to come to them,” Tom Scarda, owner of FranChoice, a New York City-based, national consulting company that matches people with franchise opportunities, told Trucks.com.
“It’s also easier to do business if you’re mobile,” he said.
Mobile-only franchisees, for example, don’t have to get tied up in leasing space for their business or acquiring real estate.
Among the best-known vehicles used in a franchised business is the Domino’s DXP. The nation’s No. 2 pizza brand customized the Chevrolet Spark minicar by leaving just one seat for the driver and adding warming ovens with the capacity to hold 80 pizzas. There’s a built-in cooler to keep soda and other foods chilled. Outside “pool” lights project the Domino’s logo on the pavement surrounding the car.
“For all the miles of driving our people do, having a car with five seats in it and a big trunk – and all the other things not built for pizza delivery – didn’t make sense,” said Patrick Doyle, Domino’s chief executive. We decided to repurpose the size and weight in the vehicle to make it better.”
Domino’s made DXP the subject of a national television advertising campaign. It sold 154 of the vehicles to franchises at prices ranging from $20,000 to $25,000 per vehicle before Domino’s discontinued sales because of a reconfiguration of the underlying model by Chevrolet.
More typical of these vehicles is the customized Mercedes Sprinter or Ford Transit “Euro” style vans that Dental Fix Rx sells to franchisees as part of the Davie, Fla.-based chain’s overall $92,500 franchise fee.
“It’s their office,” said Scott Mortier, executive vice president of business development for the dental equipment repair service.
Dental Fix Rx outfits the diesel-powered vans with a $25,000 package that includes all the tools required to fix items such as patient chairs, autoclaves and X-ray machines. There’s an onboard generator, an air compressor and a water supply to allow the franchisee to test dental equipment in the van.
“Every drawer has a label on it, and it’s delivered to you that way, turn-key,” Mike Parker, a franchisee in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who owns three Dental Fixit Rx vans, told Trucks.com. “You can’t really do your work without it.”
Fleet Clean’s trucks require a franchisee investment of $75,000 to $115,000 each because they are bigger and must be more durable than a van. They carry 1,000 gallons of water, enough to wash 35 to 55 trucks. The all-aluminum body, which improves fuel efficiency, and floor prevent corrosion not only from continual exposure to water but also from harsh chemicals.
There's also a customized drop-deck for water-reclamation equipment on the back of the chassis behind the rear axle.
Feedback from franchisees – who own as many as 11 of these trucks – helped Fleet Clean execute a recent redesign of the rig, switching to a stainless-steel frame for the pressure washer because aluminum frames couldn’t take the tremendous vibration, and increasing the height of the truck to allow for better venting by machines.
“If we create a new efficiency for everyone, it’ll result in mutual success,” Scott Marr, chief executive of the Melbourne, Fla.-based franchisor, told Trucks.com.
Food trucks are the most prominent among the growing number of mobile franchised platforms.
Tikiz Shaved Ice & Ice Cream, a mobile franchise specializing in Hawaiian shaved ice and ice cream, has more than 20 trucks in service. Another 70 additional franchise agreements have been signed – with each franchisee committing to purchase two or three trucks.
Just one truck, built on a Ford E-350 cutaway van chassis, accounts for about $105,000 of the Tikiz $135,000 to $146,000 franchise fee.
The vehicle is outfitted with special batteries allowing the Tikiz franchisee to operate the van for an entire business day. Additionally, a special high-end alternator allows the operator to start the truck up and operate off electricity for 15 to 20 minutes if the battery charge runs low.
Inside, the Tikiz truck relies on aluminum, stainless steel and powder-coat painted metal components for durability. A collapsible service tray is mounted on the exterior of the truck to hold the flavored syrup customers apply to their shaved ice.
“It’s exciting for kids and adults to pick their own flavor – and it dramatically increases the speed that people can go through our line,” said Brian Tollefson, chief executive of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Tikiz. “We can do almost 400 customers an hour. Most food trucks can only do a fraction of that.”