The Quick Lube Circle
How do you know when it’s the right time to throw in the towel? For Pete Frey, former senior vice president of customer experience with Take 5 Oil Change, it was never an option.
When Frey was 64 years old, it came time for him to step down from his executive role. But after 34 years in the business, he decided to stay with the company. Instead of easing into retirement, he opened Take 5’s 500th location back in October 2019—a good thing for him and the company.
Here’s how his longtime career in the executive world has aided him in his franchising career today.
The Take 5 Model
Frey debuted with Take 5 in 1984, working as a service advisor when they started out with five locations. Since then, he’s gone from a general manager all the way up to CEO of the whole operation. Throughout it all, his history was ingrained in the customer service side, where he focused on developing it to be bigger and better.
One of these tasks included coming up with the new Take 5 Model. With the company’s mission statement—“To set service standards and achieve customer satisfaction that exceeds every customer’s expectation by maintaining the highest level of employee training and development.”—Frey had to find a model that exemplified it enough to differentiate themselves from the competition. The fastest way to do that, according to Frey? Disruption. And with that came the drive-thru experience, where a Take 5 customer could drive up, sit in their car while they receive their oil change, and be on their way, all without leaving their vehicle.
Frey says the drive-thru experience has been critical to the success of the model. To wit: When the company was sold to a private equity firm in 2011, and Driven Brands came knocking five years later, the model and Frey remained throughout all of the ownership changes.
“To be fortunate enough to survive the original ownership and make it through two private equities—this was a model that has proved itself,” Frey says.
The Take 5 Playbook
Acquisitions have always been the company’s sweet spot, Frey says. Back in the day, he says they focused on companies that have been in business since the 80’s for a deal. And when this happened, Take 5 didn’t want their model and mission statement to be convoluted. So, Frey’s next task was to find a solution. The result? The Take 5 Playbook. Essentially, the playbook is the brand’s model, but acts as an SOP to carry out the company’s mission statement throughout all Take 5 operations. e was in charge of coming up with the whole experience down to the last detail.
“The playbook diagrams every step and command for all positions associated with the customers oil change and their experience,” Frey says. “It creates smooth sailing and impressive results.”
Along with this, Frey made sure to include a comprehensive overview and real training allowing employees to perform all Take 5 duties and prepare them for a great career with advancement potential. Frey says the Take 5 model provided the company with a platform, but its concepts and commitment to training were superior to the competition.
Now, Take 5 uses Frey’s playbook to convert acquired buildings to their model and teach it to existing employees.
“The success is knowing the model, understanding the model, and putting an emphasis on people because they make the model,” Frey says.
The Pete Frey Playbook
Because of the previous two purchases, Frey found himself in a place where he had learned a lot from them and could afford to go out on his own, stepping off Take 5’s executive bus and driving his own: operating the 500th Take 5 quick lube. Not only did he know people that knew Take 5’s model like the back of their hand, it was perfect timing for him to wrap up his career on the exec side and make a lateral move into the franchising side.
“It felt like a good way to end my race by ending my career by making a difference and staying in the game,” Frey says. “The most important ingredient is people. I wasn’t afraid of the challenge of staffing up on a really good crew that didn’t require me to be there round the clock.”
With all of Frey’s knowledge, he was able to execute the full acquisition process. With his former role, he had a leg up on knowing how to spot a piece of property that would be a good site. Luckily, Frey knew the former owner of an old style car wash from the mid-90’s in Covington, La., which had been out of service for a couple of years. After putting together a deal to take it over, Frey started planning out his location’s redevelopment.
With two bays already in place, he was able to adapt it to the Take 5 model, making sure to keep its values ingrained in his shop and follow the playbook as suggested. As a constant reminder, the shop has the original mission statement mounted on the conference room’s wall, and their slogan—friendly people and fast oil changes—hangs on the door leading to the bays that the staff taps before they enter. But with his previous industry knowledge, he wanted to make his franchise stand out from the rest.
One challenge came when he was deciding what to do with the car wash. The property wasn’t suitable for a car wash anymore—he felt car washes were on the decline—and he wanted to do something more current. He needed to find a way to use the existing building, without having to tear it down, and finding a complimentary business that would attract customers to the site.
Instantly, he thought of his old high school friend, who owned and operated PJ’s Coffee, a New Orleans-local drive-thru coffee shop. It was a perfect: a strong business in the area that would attract customers and emulated Take 5’s drive-thru model.
“Here, it looks like two local brands getting together to do something big,” Frey says.
Before he knew it, construction crews began destroying the old car wash tunnel to replace it with a drive-thru PJ’s. Now, customers can drive up to get an oil change and get a deal on a cup of coffee all in one visit. Frey says that his years of experience working to understand what makes people tick helped in developing his location with ease.
Since opening in October, Frey has developed a little bit of his own playbook for his shop. In it, he requires this: no weeds in the garden, all banners must be straight, and everyone has to have each other’s backs.
The Return on Investment
With his two locations up and running, Frey says the business is starting to see return customers. And with the coffee shop opening less than two months ago, it will take a while to see the real return on his very own quick lube. Frey expects to see his return at seven years, but with approaching retirement, he knew early on that this investment would be an extra source of revenue that would aid his family for an additional 20 years.
“It was laid out for us, we had a property that could work, and I had a friend to do something unique with the location,” Frey says. “It’s really full circle.”
Were it not for that retirement, he says the opportunity—or even the idea—to go out on his own would’ve been unavailable to him. But with it landing at his front step, he just had to roll the dice and take a chance.
“As fate would have it, you jump at the opportunity and roll with it,” he says.