Danny Daniele fondly remembers rolling through Delta Sonic car washes as a kid – him in the backseat, his parents in the front. Today, he's driving forward with his own string of car washes that put him in direct competition with Delta Sonic in Rochester and, soon, in Buffalo.
Royal Car Wash will construct its first local car wash on vacant land at 6645 Transit Road in Lancaster this summer and plans to open four more over the next five years.
At first glance, Royal looks a lot like Delta Sonic. Its tunnel setup is similar to that of Buffalo's biggest automatic car wash chain, its employees wear similar blue shirts and the design scheme employs brick and royal blue.
But there are differences, too. Royal doesn't clean interiors, and it doesn't have gas stations or convenience stores.
"We are very mindful that Buffalo is Delta Sonic's hometown," said Daniele, who is president of Daniele Family Cos. "We have a tremendous respect for them, and we believe there is enough traffic out there for the Royal Car Wash, as well."
Delta Sonic was founded by the late real estate magnate Nathan Benderson in Niagara Falls in 1967. It is the region's largest automatic car wash chain, with more than 1,000 employees. It has 10 locations in Erie and Niagara counties, four in Rochester and 15 more in New York State, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
Delta Sonic declined to comment, saying it's the company's policy not to comment on the competition.
Royal opened its first location more than six years ago in Rochester, another big Delta Sonic town, and has since added three more car washes in the Rochester area.
"We didn't know if we could compete," Daniele said. "It turned out that many locations were underserved and we skyrocketed quickly. There is always room for competition."
The Lancaster location was chosen purposely because it has high traffic volume, yet is far enough away from the closest Delta Sonic that it won't have to share its turf.
So what does Royal Car Wash have that Delta Sonic doesn't? Perhaps a better question to ask is what Royal doesn't have.
Royal does not have a salesperson taking customer orders. Instead, customers pull up to automated screens to choose the type of wash they would like. That eliminates the pressures of any kind of upsell, Daniele said.
Royal doesn't have tipped employees, either. Unlike at Delta Sonic, where employees at the hand-dry station receive tips, Royal forbids them.
Though it does provide free, high-suction vacuum stations, the company does not have a gas station, convenience store or interior detailing. Streamlining makes the car wash process faster and less expensive, Daniele said. It offers unlimited basic washes for as low as $9.99 per month, and, starting on opening day, Royal will offer free, unlimited car washes for 30 days.
"All we do is wash the outside of your vehicle. That’s gives us a tremendous advantage to focus on one thing and do it really well," he said.
So was the company "inspired" by Delta Sonic?
"We were inspired by visiting about 25 different car wash locations across the country," Daniele said.
Royal has four locations in the Rochester area and is developing another in Victor in addition to the one in Lancaster. Each location has 15 to 20 employees. Rochester-based Daniele Family Cos.comprises several real estate, hospitality and development companies.