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Valet Service Owner

Too many cars and not enough places to park them. As frustrated drivers decide it's easier to stay home, a new market niche opens for valet services who can help bring them out again.

Once an exclusive service available only at luxury hotels, classy restaurants, and gatherings of the rich and famous, valet services are becoming increasingly popular in the United States.

More than just a convenience, valet parking services offer a painless solution to the growing shortage of parking spaces that plagues North American cities. Almost everyone has experienced the problem of going downtown for dinner at a favorite restaurant, only to spend half an hour driving in circles looking for a place to park. When you finally do find a spot, it's usually miles away.

On the other hand, if the restaurant has valet parking, your problems are solved. Hand over the keys and a valet parks your car while you relax at your table and skim the menu.

Better yet, when you're ready to leave, you don't have to worry about remembering which side street you parked on -- the valet will fetch your car for you, bringing it right to the restaurant's door.

In the past, hotels and restaurants usually provided their own valet services. Today, these services are more likely to be provided by a valet parking company. Renting out their services to hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and private parties for a flat fee or per-car cost, valet parking companies have been growing in number over the past decade.

A quick glance through the phone book for any major U.S. city will turn up dozens of valet parking services. They range from small operations run by one or two people to major franchises operating across the country. In cities like Los Angeles, where everyone wants to be a movie star, valet parking is as much a part of going to a restaurant as the meal itself.

Still, a valet parking company isn't the easiest business to launch. The need is there, but the demand has to be created. And it's not an easy sell. Restaurants and nightclubs are not clamoring for the service. They have to be convinced they need it, and that it's good for business.

Brian Haupricht runs the Charlotte, North Carolina, branch of Ohio-based Parking Solutions, Inc. "It was hard to sell the idea of valet parking," he says. "People were so used to parking themselves."

Peter Jennings is president of Park America, a nation-wide valet parking franchiser in the U.S. "We get most of our business from establishments that want to offer valet parking on a complimentary basis to their patrons," he says.

Most of it is weekend work, and Park America charges customers between $100 and $200 a night. To justify those rates, a valet parking service has to bring in business.

As Parking Solution's Haupricht says, "It's the whole service aspect we're selling. The more cars we bring in, we feel those are guests that would be happy with the service and come back." Still, it took Haupricht four months to win over his first client in Charlotte.

Starting a valet parking service isn't quite as simple as offering to park people's cars for them. Insurance is a must, uniforms are a good idea, and a well-organized accounting and ticketing system is a necessity.

If you can raise the money, you might want to consider a franchise. A Park America franchise will cost you about $30,000. For that, you'll get an eight-day training program, a computer, a bookkeeping software package designed for the valet parking service, uniforms, brochures, flyers, parking tags, signs, stationery and an operations manual. Royalty fees are about $600 a month, or $800 after the business grosses $100,000 a year.

Park America franchisees come from a variety of backgrounds including banking, law, manufacturing and sales. Jennings is convinced the market is endless, pointing out that 148,000 cars are sold every day at auto dealerships across the United States.

"With parking at a premium, establishments need to find better ways to utilize parking spaces. And we stand ready with a solution."


National Parking Association
Dedicated to the advancement of the parking industry

Valet Parking Experts Inc.
A well-established business

Valet Bicycle Parking
One example of a successful company with a niche

Prestige Parking
A company specializing in large venues

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