Uber Deal Points to Meineke’s Company Makeover
In November, Driven Brands—the umbrella company for a slew of auto brands, including Meineke and Maaco—announced a strategic partnership with Uber, allowing the ride-sharing service’s drivers access to exclusive benefits for preventative maintenance, paint and repair from both Meineke and Maaco throughout North America.
“For us, it’s a great opportunity,” Meineke president Danny Rivera says. “Uber is a really cool and exciting business, and they’re doing great things. That’s what we’re trying to do at Meineke.”
Rivera says the deal not only signifies a new shift for the brand into a stronger fleet focus—a market segment that “provides a unique opportunity for us,” he says—but it also is part of a much larger, wholesale shift for the company in trying to improve public perception of the brand.
Meineke’s more than 930 North American franchise locations combined for more than $500 million in sales in 2014. Rivera sees the opportunity for more growth. He spoke with Ratchet+Wrench about the Uber deal, the company’s new focus on fleet, and how brands can distinguish themselves in a crowded industry.
How did the partnership with Uber come about?
It actually started off with a franchisee of ours who had a relationship with someone within the Uber organization. And he kind of implemented it for his shop. It started off as a small thing, sort of under the radar.
Then, we have what we call our franchise business consultants, which is similar to a field operations manager, who got wind of it and kind of passed it along to headquarters, and then that prompted us to say, “Gosh, that’s a great idea.” We loved the idea of partnering with Uber. And from there, we struck the deal.
How does the partnership work?
To be part of the Uber relationship as a driver, you have to go through a certain vehicle inspection. So, we have partnered with them to offer the inspection at a discount, and there are other services we offer at certain discounts depending on what the services are.
What does the deal say about Meineke as a company?
When we think about Meineke, we want to be relevant to consumers. We want to bring Meineke out of the, “You guys fixed mufflers back in the day,” and into being thought of as a relevant, contemporary company; we’re in total car care; we’re here to take care of customers and build relationships with customers; and we’re relevant to all segments and demographics of vehicle owners.
How does this fit into Meineke’s approach to fleet work?
That’s one of our new strategic focuses for the company moving forward. We’re in the fleet business a little bit right now, but it’s kind of in its infancy. I see a large opportunity with a lot of runway to get into the fleet segment in a much more meaningful way.
For us, it really comes down to capacity and predictability. We’re trying to get our folks to think of bays and capacity as something that is a precious commodity. Your bays should never be empty. And fleet provides a really nice opportunity to bring some predictability to the business. You’re not advertising for it. You have a national deal, or maybe a local deal, and you have just a certain amount of vehicles flowing through for fleet to fill your bays and feed your fixed costs. It keeps a shop busy and all good things flow from that.
There are difficulties with doing fleet work—having to float sales being a large one. Does Meineke help its franchisees with this?
We are. We are actually investing in some technology that I can’t get into the details of, but it would dramatically improve that experience.
Typically, when you talk to folks about fleet, there are two challenges that come up often. One is the backend processing and realizing of revenue. The other is getting authorization for work. Those can be tricky and time-consuming, but we’re investing in technology that can help dramatically improve that for our franchisees.
I think that’s one of the nice things about being a franchisee of a company like Meineke. The things we’re investing in, the typical mom-and-pop does not have the means to do that. One of the nice things of being a big company with a national footprint is having that ability to invest in things that others can’t.
Is fleet a realistic profit center for the average shop?
I think national shops and, specifically, Meineke are uniquely positioned to better handle something like this as a typical fleet provider.
The things fleet clients are looking for are standards, a level of quality, a name that’s backing them—they know we have a national brand standing behind it and that we have standards and quality checks. They know what they’re getting.
The other way we’re uniquely positioned is that we have locally owned stores. They are owned and operated by local people. If you’re a local owner, your livelihood is tied into this, and that person is going to do things and treat the business like an owner would.
Our national presence, standards, our ability to invest in technology, and having that locally owned and operated footprint of people who truly care, it’s really a unique position for us as a company.
What is the plan for Meineke moving forward?
At the end of the day, we really want to convey to customers peace of mind. The average person, their time is the most precious commodity they have. I think a lot of Americans feel that way.
So, our goal is to position the company to where we can provide peace of mind.Let’s get people back on the road and back living their lives, which is where they want to be. And let’s convey just a very easy experience. Let’s take a subject that’s very complicated and that there’s a lot of lack of trust around, and let’s make it very easy, very simple so folks know what they’re getting, why they’re getting it and what the decisions are for them so they can get back on the road and back to their lives.
When we pull it off, it’ll be unique in our industry.
How does fleet play into that?
Fleet for us, at the end of the day, one of the biggest keys to delivering a great experience is an owner-operator that’s happy. Part of that happiness comes from them making money on their business, so they can pay their bills, have a great life.
Fleet ties into that directly. If we can bring in fleet work, keep bays at capacity, pay some fixed costs and makes some money on top of that, it just makes the center more profitable and gets people more energized, be it the owner-operator, the technicians, the salespeople at the front. Everybody is more energized and that makes its way to the customer.
If you walk into any retail location that’s not making money, that’s likely not going to be a great experience; as opposed to a center where business is good and that just permeates through the