1984 turned out not to be the year of Big Brother, but it was the year Chrysler introduced the first minivans, as well as the year America cleaned up in gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Across the country in Metairie, Louisiana, the first Take 5 Oil Change opened its doors, and the quick lube industry hasn’t been the same since.
In the fall of 1984, Take 5 was known as Rapid Oil Change. It offered quick oil changes, minor repairs and other maintenance services. Since then, it has seen expansion, faced disaster and become part of the community.
In the mid 1980s, the automobile world was quite different, but even in the era of skinny ties and Ronald Reagan, it was clear consumer trends were moving toward quick and convenient niche services. Take 5 Oil Change recognized the average number of vehicles per household was increasing and saw the potential for growth. They met those needs with convenience and speed.
What started in Louisiana, just outside New Orleans, spread to eight states and across the southeastern United States from Virginia to Texas and 60 locations, with five more shops opening in the coming months. Among the newest locations is the first Take 5 in Florida. To date, the company has opted to limit franchising the brand but it continues to consider future options to do so.
“All but three locations are company owned, and the large group in the future will be company owned,” said Marc Graham, CEO of Take 5 Oil Change. “We are completing our analysis on franchising right now and will see where that carries us in the future.”
Through this rapid growth during the past 31 years, the company has ensured its brand is respected while its customers know they can trust taking their vehicles to any Take 5 Oil Change.
“We have a legacy of very high customer care and trust,” explained company president Pete Frey. “We spend an inordinate amount of time assuring every employee understands the critical nature of that trust and its play on retention and acquisition of new customers.”
Over the past three decades, the company has managed to endure boom times and recessions. While the word, change, is in their name, Take 5 has stayed on course by keeping it simple for the techs and customers.
“We focus on premium oils, air filters and wipers,” Frey noted.
That doesn’t mean they don’t know how to adapt to industry evolution. Over the years, Take 5 Oil Change has changed course when they needed to. Notably, in 1996, Take 5 piloted its first five-minute drive-thru oil change concept. The concept reflected a new direction in the business model. At that point, Take 5 pivoted to improve the customer experience and the speed of the service they provided. Eventually, the company converted its Rapid Oil locations to the five-minute format. When they did, it was called an advertising agency’s dream because it emphasized the oil change, not the schedule.
Where Take 5 Oil Change has had to change is in the way they understand the ever changing, ever complicated vehicles rolling into their shop. Today, every modern vehicle is loaded with more technology than one might have found in an entire RadioShack back in 1984. To that end, it has been essential for techs at the shop to truly understand changing automotive technology.
“We have a group of people here who are car lovers,” said Lenny Saucier, director of training. “They stay on top of technology naturally.”
This includes Take 5 Oil Change’s executives, many of whom have been in the industry over 25 years. Top-down knowledge of cars is further coupled with a strong training department that digs deep into evolving automotive technology.
Even as the company plans to open five new locations and expands into a new state, its executive team is still cautious about getting too big or extending too far from New Orleans. While there are always fears of having to keep an eye on distant locations, the team at Take 5 Oil Change doesn’t think distance is a barrier.
“We are blessed with a pool of strong talent,” Graham said. “We look for growth organically and by acquisition more for the opportunity than the state to state consistency.”
He added if the company were to decide to go to another state, for example, California or Illinois, the concern isn’t distance but ensuring there is a vice president on the ground to run it so it follows the same level of quality as the rest of the locations across the country.
“We have a very strong business intelligence system, so technology will take care of it from there,” Graham explained. “We already stretch from Dallas to Virginia and have no issues staying on top of every metric to operate the business.”
As with almost any business that had operations in or around New Orleans in 2005, it is impossible not to address how Hurricane Katrina affected the company. In true Louisiana fashion, Take 5 bounced back.
“Katrina was devastating to our region,” Frey said. “Our company was hit hard just like everyone else. But in that moment and days that followed, we truly realized how blessed we were and how hard work and dedication paved the way for our employees and customers to return home.”
Following the storm, which left New Orleans in very bad shape, the company was blessed to have employees that were overwhelmingly loyal to Take 5 Oil Change and the community.
“During the recovery, exposure to customers who were not yet familiar with Take 5 was on full display, and we delivered,” Frey added. “The Katrina chapter is when we grew up. We learned how much we appreciated the company we had built and the folks we worked with, never forgetting how fragile life is and how quickly it can change.”
For the team at Take 5 Oil Change, the days after became the season that harvested true optimism about the future and what was possible. Since the storm, the company has strived to give back. Beginning in 2007, it designated 12 weeks each year to collect donations and raise funds for the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans and The Children’s Miracle Network. In 2014, the Change a Child’s Life initiative raised and donated $109,000 for the hospitals. In 2015, the company held its 5th Annual Bowl-A-Thon in support of the hospital.
Being a part of each community they serve is crucial to Take 5. It’s at the root of why they’ve been successful.
Frey said, “10 years later, we are thankful, and our mission is still to make our customers smile.”