From Fast Food to Fast Lube - The Story of Ricky Brooks and Express Oil Change
Not much, and while the differences between the two are glaringly obvious, operating a popular fast food franchise and spending time in the food service industry is exactly where Ricky Brooks, current CEO of Alabama-based Express Oil Change and Service Center, began his career.
"In 1976, I was, at age 23, the youngest franchisee that Sonic Drive-In restaurants had ever had to that point," Brooks
"I operated those restaurants for five or six years.
I did well, sold them and then went into the financial services industry for 15 years."
From 1981 to 1996, a time period he
calls relevant to his
entry into the fast lube business, Brooks
worked on investments and insurance for many high-net-worth clients.
In the middle of this crucial 15-year period that he
collaborated with a client who would help alter the course of his
"In 1987, I was approached to raise the capital for an individual looking to build and develop three Express Oil Change
"There were probably 11 or 12 stores in the chain.
When I did the due diligence on Express Oil Change
, I really liked the concept.
It had the same type of volume and margins as the restaurant business that I'd been involved with and it was a very good business model."
completed the due diligence, the developer decided that he
could no longer move forward with his
investment in the three Express Oil Change franchises.
had just been introduced to the industry, he
decided to jump in with both feet.
"For personal reasons, he
couldn't do it, so I purchased the lot from him that he
had already bought and went into the Express Oil Change business," Brooks
, the attraction to the fast lube business was directly related to the experience he
gained as a restaurant franchisee and the sharp contrasts between the two industries.
got into the fast lube business for a couple of key reasons.
One of these reasons is the significantly better hours of operation.
"We're open six days a week, closed on Sundays, and we're open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily," Brooks
"In the restaurant business, you must have a maximum number of people working a minimum number of hours.
In the fast lube business, we build an elite team of all full-time career employees, and the hours of operation are more conducive to a quality family life for everyone involved."
Armed with solid reasons, and both franchise and financial knowledge, Brooks
went into business with his partner, Joe Watson.
was directly responsible for obtaining investments, acquiring the real estate and overseeing the building of the facilities for the project.
"I was supposed to get everything done, and my partner would operate them," Brooks
"Originally, I only anticipated doing two or three in Birmingham."
The duo opened their first Express Oil Change store in April 1988, and business continued booming, much to the surprise of Brooks
We started developing Express Oil Change
In 1995, Brooks
and Watson had successfully built 11 more locations, giving them 14 stores at that time.
We bought the founder out in March 1996 and immediately owned 25 of the 48 Express Oil Change stores," Brooks
Since then, Brooks
has helped develop an additional 150 units.
Today, there are 88 corporate stores and 111 franchise units in operation, and there seems to be even more exciting changes on the horizon for Brooks
Express Oil empire.
"Earlier this year, we acquired a chain of tire dealers called Tire Engineers
, which has seven stores," Brooks
"They've been in business more than 60 years and are a high-quality business with a great reputation.
The culture of Tire Engineers
and their values are completely aligned with the Express Oil core values and company culture."
The Tire Engineers acquisition will enable Express Oil Change and Service
Center to develop a high-quality tire dealership and provide added value for their customer base, while continuing to offer a fast oil change and complete mechanical services.
"Express Oil Change has always been unique to the industry," Brooks
"We will be able to provide customers with not only a 10-minute oil change and mechanical service, but also same-day tire sales and service under one roof," Brooks
"I think that adding co-branding opportunities and developing in the tire industry will enable us to be an even more valuable service provider for our customers.
It's a partnership that is already producing measurable results.
"We've always sold a few tires on a convenience basis, but our customers are responding very well to the co-branding between Express Oil Change and Service
Center and Tire Engineers
We are having excellent results so far," Brooks
"Our customers are voting with their hard-earned dollars and are rewarding us by doing business with us."
Express Oil Change
will also be updating all their stores in the corporate operations.
"We'll be doing a facelift in the corporate operations at a rate of 6-10 stores a month and conclude at the end of June 2014, when we have a facelift on 100 percent of our stores," Brooks
Just as positive things are up ahead for Brooks
and Express Oil Change
foresees fair weather for the fast lube industry as a whole.
"For 25 years, I have been very bullish on the automotive maintenance industry," Brooks