Grease Monkey International

Grease Monkey

Grease Monkey International speeds ahead with organic growth

by building a trusted reputation for quality performance.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Grease Monkey International is the nation’s largest independent franchisor of automotive oil change centers that prides itself on having a management team made up of former franchisees from multiple automotive brands. “If anyone were looking at a franchise model today, I think they would want the people helping them with their future to have had experience in that role,” COO of Franchising Ralph Yarusso says. “Our management team has a plethora of experience as operators – they have intimate knowledge of the day-to-day operational challenges that franchisees go through. That means a lot.”

Founded in 1978, the Denver-based company differentiates itself in a saturated industry first by being independently owned. “Grease Monkey recently acquired SpeeDee Oil Change & Automotive Service, a perfect sister company for us as both systems are independent and are not owned by an oil company,” Yarusso explains. “We have national deals with all the big players in the oil industry, but we are not required to buy a certain amount of product from them like most quick lube stores are when owned by an oil company. For example, we have a great deal with Mobil and my franchisees buy it at a price as good as anyone else in the industry. However, our franchisees are not required to do so, making Mobil be more competitive.”Grease Monkey Fact Box

Its second greatest differentiator is its Grease Monkey Certified Pit Crews that offer customers a service experience that is second-to-none in the automotive industry. Crew members must attend training to become certified. “This is a rigorous course,” Yarusso attests. “It’s in response to our customer surveys that communicated that they want to come in and have their service done right, fast and performed by certified technicians.”

All Grease Monkey locations offer a specific time guarantee for each customers’ vehicle from when the vehicle pulls into the bay until service is complete. “We start paying back a dollar of every minute we go over,” Yarusso adds. “We respect our customers’ time, know their time is important and it’s important to us, as well, so we live up to the commitment. It’s part of our ‘less hassle, more hustle!’ customer experience.”

Lastly, Grease Monkey differentiates itself with a required training program from Grease Monkey University at its headquarters. A minimum of 18 courses must be taken online followed by an in-store evaluation by the regional director to ensure proper procedure is followed. “We have more than 200 courses online as well for furthering or continued education for franchisees and staff members,” Yarusso says. “The entire crew of each store has to be certified for the center to be designated a Certified Pit Crew center.”

Franchising Globally

Grease Monkey and its affiliates operate 514 locations throughout 34 states, including 87 corporate owned centers, and more than 100 centers in Mexico. The company last summer signed its first master franchise agreement in Colombia and has a presence in China and Saudi Arabia, as well. “We are currently looking at further international expansion in Peru and Canada,” Yarusso adds.

The company is seeing significant growth in Texas with seven new locations under construction and in development. “We are doing a corporate spec store in Houston to develop the market and we will refranchise that location later,” Yarusso says.

New franchisees are assisted by the corporate support center with site selection, built-to-suit opportunities and formal training. Once the nitty-gritty is complete, franchisees begin to set up their centers and support center personnel assists with securing equipment and vendors. In-store training is held with regional directors for one week before the store opens and one week after. “Generally, we let them swim after the first week and if they need more support we stay longer,” Yarusso says. “We will circle back multiple times as the regional director is required to visit each store four times per year.”

Grease Monkey studies each site to determine whether a new franchise location could be a detriment to a neighboring location. “As a former franchisee, this is near and dear to my heart. We are very sensitive to encroachment issues. To assist us with analyzing locations, we use a third-party vendor to run unbiased analytics,” Yarusso explains. “If we find that the addition of the proposed location may harm an existing franchisee, we will not allow the site to be developed.”

A Good Fit

Successful Grease Monkey franchisees are generally those with a background in business, rather than those with automotive experience. “Having an automotive background is a plus, but we sometimes prefer them to not have automotive experience because it’s easier to teach them our proven model that way,” Yarusso says. “Good business people – the ones who understand profit and loss statements, purchasing and a good customer experience – that’s more important than anything. People with a business mindset make terrific franchisees.”

As a U.S. Air Force veteran himself, along with several others in management, Yarusso says a highly incentivized veterans program is a top priority. “We are able to heavily reward our veterans,” he adds. “To Armed Forces Veterans, we give a deep discount on licensing fees and offer a royalty rebate program for the first two years they are in business. It’s an area we are going after aggressively because, selfishly, we know that veterans make good franchisees. They understand systems, discipline and standard operating procedures.”

Grease Monkey will launch the same program by May 1 for its SpeeDee stores, which the company acquired at the end of January. “We continue to look for steady growth; growth in unit economics and unit growth,” Yarusso says. “We have seen tremendous growth in all the aforementioned categories, especially in the past four years. Opening 35 new centers in the last 18 months, that’s good organic growth. Next year is our 40th anniversary and we are excited about that and have already begun talking about making it a special year.”


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