On-demand fueling is growing

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There are UBER eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and many more, all fueling our new propensity for convenience. The Anything, Anytime, Anywhere. We Get It” slogan for Postmates service really sums it up in the meal-and-grocery delivery realm.

So, it’s no surprise that on-demand fueling is moving forward and will soon be enjoyed by boaters, too.

Not sure convenience a big trend? Well, the National Restaurant Association reported to Huff-Post that off-premises dining (includes carryout, delivery, drive-through, curbside pickup and food trucks) now accounts for a whopping 63% of restaurant traffic nationwide. So, it’s now big business and growing faster than a White House tweet.

Enter Citgo Petroleum Corporation’s former Chairman and CEO, Alejandro Granado, who launched Wahii. Most on-demand services own their fuel trucks and make deliveries themselves. But Wahii LLC follows the Uber model more closely in that it connects the consumer with the fuel supplier, with no stake in the fueling infrastructure.

According to Granado, Wahii was born from a frustration over the fueling experience, particularly the hassle of filling up his empty boat. “(Granado’s) wife used to leave the car empty, and the boat was always empty, too,” Sthefany Azevedo, COO of the Miami-based Wahii told the publication, CSP Fuels. “It was a headache. He said: there’s got to be an easier way to do this. Why not connect distributors with an app so you can order fuel whenever you need it?”

That’s just what the Wahii app does. Boaters can request delivery of specified gallons or a fill-up of either ethanol-free REC-90 gasoline or off-road low-sulfur diesel. The user provides details for the delivery including the boat’s location – trailer, marina, home -- and the boat’s name, length and description. Moreover, the boater can specify a day and time for the delivery. The Wahii app then links up the boater with nearby available distributors, shows their fuel pricing information and any delivery fees, and the user picks whatever is best.

According to Wahii, this process is much easier than the traditional fuel-ordering transaction, which often requires the boat owner to call distributors to check their availability and fill out a credit application form to open a line of credit. Instead, Wahii uses the credit-card verification system that places a hold for the order amount. “We’re ensuring payment to distributors in 72 hours,” said Azevedo. “Nowadays you have to wait up to 30 days to get the first paycheck.”

Wahii reports it is currently connecting boaters with fuel distributors in four south Florida counties (Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach) stretching down to Key West. It is working with 20 distributors and has about 100 active users. Plans call for expansion beyond the Miami area and beyond marine fueling. It plans, for example, to introduce its service to the Northeast, connecting heating-oil distributors with consumers there.

While Wahii is targeting boaters, the on-demand fueling model is growing faster than President Trump can say “bigly.” For example, Booster Fuel just raised $9 million in funding from investment groups that see increasing demand. Filld, WeFuel, Fuelster and Purple are among other big names, but an industry leader is clearly Yoshi.

In the past 12 months, Yoshi has spread from its original San Francisco and Nashville markets to 16 nationwide, including: Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Tampa/St. Petersburg, St. Louis and just debuted in the Washington, D.C., area with parts of Maryland and Virginia, reports Tech Editor Peter Holley at The Washington Post. By the end of this year, Yoshi is slated to launch in nine more markets.

Holley contends there are millions of people who think a once or twice weekly trip to the gas station is a forgettable inconvenience. Yoshi is banking on the idea that there are millions of people across the country like urban professionals whose demanding schedules and disposable income make them ideal candidates for outsourcing the fueling time and chore that comes with boat and car ownership.

My guess, Holley is right. So when it comes to fueling convenience, we boaters and our boats is a logical target market – even better than a car because our fill-ups are normally much larger than your typical 14-15 gallons in the car.

Even more, if we recognize we are all becoming “creatures of convenience,” is it worth taking time to examine our dealership and marina operations with this question: What can we do to add convenience to our customers’ experiences?

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