There is a new breed of valet service that might be coming to your city in the future, if the minds behind these ventures can figure out the right business formula.
“Valet Anywhere” in New York and “Luxe Valet” in San Francisco are envisioned as Uber-like services where a valet can be summoned — on-demand — to take your car away at a location you determine, (inside a neighborhood they serve). And with a tap on your smart phone, the vehicle’s return is ordered and brought back to you.
Can either of these companies pull it off?
I would say yes, but it would need to function in a radically different way from current valet industry norms.
The big problem with today’s valet services is low worker pay. Low pay does not foster the career professional. Instead it flushes out experienced valets. Rookies with no experience replace them. And this is where a lot of problems happen.
What kinds of problems?
- Keys get lost.
- Rims get scraped on curbs.
- Doors are mistakenly left unlocked, inviting theft of the vehicle’s contents.
- There are operational inefficiencies that happen because of rookie mistakes.
- And amateur valets also are more prone to engaging in aggressive driving.
When rookie valets eventually develop a level of competency, it usually isn’t long before they leave and then are replaced by more rookies. It is an on-going cycle of mediocrity. The best valets leave.
For companies like Valet Anywhere and Luxe Valet to succeed, a completely different business model is needed.
- They need to decide that their valets will be THE ELITE in this industry. I’m talking about real professionals who are diligent, skilled, dedicated, and well-trained.
There are a lot of schmucks working as valets right now, and a lot of schmuck managers commanding them. On-demand valet services will need to clearly be a cut above.
- They need to ensure that their valets are well-paid compared to regular valets.
In my opinion, a valet needs to be able to reliably earn an average $20 an hour or more in order to stick with this job for years.
In the new model, I would advocate doing away with tips, because negativity flows when a valet worker who is relying on tips gets stiffed. It’s not unusual for valet customers to burn a $4 an hour valet out of a tip. It impacts worker morale. It also creates income uncertainty.
I think the tip should be built into the pricing of the service fee.
Who would use such a service?
A user would be someone who wants to avoid having an amateur valet touch their car and whose time is valuable enough to make using a premium service like this a smart expense.
Examples of how this service could be used:
An event ends. Suddenly 100 delayed and annoyed valet customers are waiting in the cashier’s line, and the credit card processing is taking longer than unusual. Also, the valet department is under-staffed, adding to the delay in service.
But for the few people who used the on-demand valet service, they summoned their vehicle as they were about to leave. And now all they have to do is stroll outside to their waiting car. Their phone app even showed the location of their car on a digital map as it was en route, so they knew precisely when it arrived out front, and they knew the face and name of the elite valet that was about to be presenting their car to them.
Meanwhile, those stuck waiting to pay for their regular valet parking are wondering how those people skipped the line like that.
An arriving hotel guest doesn’t trust that his (or her) car will be in good hands with the hotel’s valet service. Instead he uses a phone app to summon an on-demand valet to rendezvous with him at this hotel. Right there on his phone he sees the face of the elite valet that has been assigned to pick up his car, along with his user rating as determined by previous customers. The driver’s record is also available showing how many cars the valet has moved in his career and precisely how many of the customer’s exact model this valet has moved.
When the meet-up happens, the valet takes the extra step of making sure the customer has taken all necessary items.
Then the car is driven to a secure lot where the spaces are wider than normal, and where customer cars are not parked beside publicly parked cars, substantially lessening the chances of dings, dents and scratches.
Visiting A Friend’s Home In The Busy City
There’s no available street parking. It’s raining. You don’t know the neighborhood. So you summon a valet. And when it is time to leave, you’re not walking down dark unfamiliar streets at night where you face the possibility of a mugging or worse. The car is brought back to the front door of your friend’s home. You safely get in your car and go home. Money well spent.
Business Meeting At An Office Tower
You just pull up to the front of the building. No wasting time hunting for a parking space, getting stuck in local gridlock along the way, and becoming ever more frustrated. You just pull up to the office building. The valet is waiting for you. Without delay you are already there.
On A Date
Time is precious. You should be enjoying the evening, not hunting for a parking space. Yet, you also don’t want a regular valet kid touching your car. So you summon a professional to handle it.
You arrive at the first destination and show her that you’re sophisticated; you know how to make plans.
By using a service such as this, as I see it, the idea is to side-step ordinary valet services and use professionals who care more, are more experienced, and have the right mix of skills and maturity.
And if a vehicle were to get damaged, hopefully these on-demand valet services of the future will be completely pro-active about it, instead of attempting to evade and dodge their damage claims, as is now typical.