Back in 2004, the leaders of Bill Luke’s dealership in Phoenix sought a new facility layout that lent itself to both convenience and customer retention.
Before long, they found it, in the form of a new facility that sprawled across 17 acres and featured several amenities—including a 10,000-square-foot diner of which Guy Fieri would probably approve.
Restaurants and cafes are appearing in car dealerships more frequently these days, as owners attempt to make the dealership experience appealing to young customers who often prefer to make purchases online. Amenities like Bill Luke Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram’s “Luke’s Diner” offer comfort and convenience for clients, notes Susan McDaniel, the Phoenix dealership’s parts director.
And, while Luke’s Diner isn’t a major moneymaker for the dealership, McDaniel says “it is profitable, in the sense that we’re retaining business and bringing more business in by having it there.”
McDaniel, a longtime staple with the Bill Luke Dealership Group, explains the benefits that an on-site cafe can provide a dealership.
Separation from the Competition.
Bill Luke CJDR sits in the middle of a market that features roughly a dozen competing Chrysler Jeep Dodge franchises, McDaniel notes. As a result, the dealership’s leaders have always looked for ways to break free from the pack and produce industry-leading customer service.
Luke’s Diner plays a major role in those efforts to keep customers happy. The eatery was factored into the original design of the dealership, McDaniel says, in an effort to keep customers relaxed during their time at the facility.
The diner, which opens around 6:30 a.m. each day and has a handful of dedicated employees, offers a wide array of reasonably priced burgers, soups and salads, along with coffee that has earned rave reviews online.
The diner, in McDaniel’s opinion, personalizes the customer experience at her Phoenix workplace, offering “somewhere where people can go and watch TV, plug in their computers and work, and have a snack.”
McDaniel’s workplace, which produces a 5,600 average monthly car count in the service department, generates lots of foot traffic around Luke’s Diner. An estimated 400 customers per day walk past the dealership cafe, and it even draws patrons to the dealership from nearby schools, doctors offices, and a fire station.
Thus, Bill Luke CJDR gets a subtle boost in its sales pitches, as visitors stop in for “Western Burgers,” tacos, or cappuccinos.
“We do see a lot of business coming in from other areas” nearby, McDaniel notes. “And then they’re curious. They come in, meet the employees, look around, and we feel it actually brings business to the dealership that way. People get to know us.”
It Keeps Employees On Site.
When Bill Luke CJDR’s leaders were considering designs for their dealership, they sought ideas from the finest dealerships in America. One conclusion they came to: They wanted a rallying point for employees, where they could offer solid, $4.99 hamburgers, and even hold the occasional meeting.
In a way, the diner aids the dealership in its efforts for efficiency.
“Everything that we need is right here,” McDaniel says. “It’s just a lot more convenient and stress free for everyone—anything to keep our employees here on the lot … for a quick break, instead of going off-site for an hour or so.”
It Limits Customer Frustration.
If the overarching goal of adding a diner at Bill Luke CJDR was to aid in customer satisfaction, it worked. Some evidence: The dealership’s customer retention rate currently sits at 53.5 percent, and McDaniel rarely notices upset clients.
“It just kind of takes the customer’s irritation level down, from having to wait sometimes for their vehicle,” she says. “It passes the time for them. And they can do something productive—they can eat, or they can work, or make phone calls.
“In today’s world, we’re all so busy, and we’re all so pressed for time. We maximize every second of the day. When we’re waiting for our car to get done at a dealership, that’s time that’s taken away from our day.
“So, if dealerships can maximize that time somehow, the convenience of having something there to be able to do makes a lot of difference to people.”