In The News
Rent A Frog Valet ( RAF Valet ) has been featured in numerous publications over the years. Here are a few articles from the press.
WARREN PRESCOTT’S DRIVE
Rent A Frog’s big leap into the largest privately held valet company in Fort Worth
BY SCOTT NISHIMURA
There must be an entrepreneurial opening for “randomness” in the Fort Worth market, because Rent A Frog Valet founder Warren Prescott has vacated that niche.
“I was the go-to guy for randomness,” Prescott, 42, says. Next year, Prescott will celebrate his 20th year in business as what’s now Fort Worth’s largest locally owned valet service.
Prescott estimates he parks 200,000 cars a year now as the valet for Sundance Square downtown. He has 300 employees. He runs the valet for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and has a roster of dubs, museums, restaurants, entertainment venues, churches, and TCU events as clients.
And Prescott readily acknowledges he typically has the highest valet rates in town. “We are not the cheapest,” he says. “We are the most expensive, actually. I always want to be charging the most. That allows me to do a good job with less jobs.”
For what he’s built, Prescott says, “I’m scared every day. I wake up scared.” Of what? “Losing what I’ve built.”
There was a time when Prescott, who graduated TCU in 1992 with a journalism degree and launched his valet service on the side in 1996 while working in sales for a staffing agency, would have done virtually anything to make money and build his company.
In 1998, Prescott hired his first employee, Jason Murray, a high school buddy from Houston. To save money, they lived together for a few years in a small apartment in southwest Fort Worth. “We had two king-size beds butted up against each other, with a barrier of pillows in between us,” Murray, who worked for Prescott for three years and now works for his in-laws at The Mulholland Cos. graphics company on Fort Worth’s North Side, recalls.
To appear busy in the early years, Prescott would pay employees to stand on Hulen Street with signs promoting fake valet service at non-existent clients. “The best way to grow the business was to be seen,” Prescott says.
In time, demand for “randomness” surfaced. “The title of the company at the time never stated valet service,” Murray points out. “We just got the reputations of good clean-cut guys who would do just about anything, legally.”
They drove clients’ cars to California and, for one customer, between Fort Worth and a vacation home in Michigan during the summers. The trick: They had to shuttle a gigantic Irish Wolfhound on the Michigan trips. “On his back legs, he was like seven feet tall,” recalls Murray, who drove the dog on one of the trips and accidentally scared a motel maid with it. “I couldn’t even see out the back mirror, the dog was so big.” On one of his own drives with the dog, Prescott recalls the dog was fond of nuzzling up to his caretakers at night. “It was like sleeping with a hairy man,” he says.
One holiday season, Murray accepted $20 per hour to walk around in a turkey suit at an Arlington restaurant whose owner was giving away Thanksgiving turkeys to employees. Murray and another team of valets braved a wedding reception at Lake Worth where drunken groomsmen shot bottle rockets at them. One client called to ask the Frogs to remove a dead mouse she accidentally ran through the rinse in her dishwasher. “We opened up the dishwasher, and there were mouse parts everywhere: Murray says.
And another time a landlord called the Frogs to ask them to clean out the rent home of a hoarder tenant she had just evicted. “We got the garage open, and there were 50 cats: Murray says, adding he remembers Rent A Frog declined that job. But it’s been awhile since the Rent A Frogs readily accepted those kinds of jobs. Which doesn’t mean the phones have gone silent. One woman called earlier this year to say she wanted the Rent A Frogs to wake up her two sons every morning for the rest of the school year so they could get to school on time. Prescott bid $50 per day per boy. The woman declined. “We don’t take those kinds of jobs anymore: Prescott says.
Rent A Frog – Fort Worth Valet Staff
Prescott got his introduction to the business through a college job as a valet, which he credits to the work ethic of his father, who owned a legal headhunting company. “I was expected to provide my own spending money, my own gas money in school,” he says. Once he launched his company, it took several years for Prescott to feel as if he was making progress. He launched the service in December 1996 after his staffing agency exited a valet service it had been offering. “I wasn’t married, I had no kids, I had (business) relationships, but I had no accounts: Prescott says.
His biggest problem: cash flow. He made $8,000 or $9,000 a year in those first few years. He’d do a job, but not get paid for 30-45 days. “I had the expenses right away,” he recalls. “W-2, payroll taxes. That hurt. I never felt like I was ahead for the longest time.” He calls Murray’s hiring the company’s first big turning point; at the time, Prescott was still working the company on the side.
Murray’s hiring meant somebody full-time was helping manage it. The pivotal event came in 2000, when a friend convinced Prescott to splurge on software that automated management and let employees — many of them students — decide their own schedules online so Prescott and Murray no longer had to call employees to fill schedules. Prior to that, “we had a three-ring binder,” Murray recalls. We’d call every (employee) on our list. We were on the phone constantly. That red folder was our lives.” “Getting this information into the hands of our employees allowed us to grow our business: Prescott says. “It was a game changer. I wasn’t spending time (anymore) trying to get jobs filled.”
In 2003, the company landed the Colonial golf tournament business on what Prescott says is still a handshake agreement with no contracts. Technology has also made the customer experience more pleasant. A customer who leaves her car at the Sundance valet, for example, can send a text message to the valet station before she’s ready to leave and have the car brought around.
Prescott estimates Rent A Frog parks “hundreds of thousands of cars” per year now He doesn’t disclose his sales for competitive reasons. The company’s regular clients today include the Fort Worth Club, Ridglea Country Club, restaurants like Ellerbe’s and La Piazza, the Kimbell, Modern Art, and Amon Carter museums, and Casa Mariana.
Rent A Frog also supplements the valet services of River Crest Country Club and Bass Hall. Rent A Frog also donates about $50,000 in valet services per year to organizations such as the Lena Pope Home, Boys & Girls Clubs, and Gary Patterson Foundation, Prescott said.
Rent A Frog’s management staff includes three employees at the company’s Camp Bowie Boulevard offices, one downtown for the Sundance business, and six weekend supervisors who’ve been with the company for more than 10 years. Prescott says he’s no longer in the mode of pursuing business. “I don’t solicit business,” he says. “It’s hard enough to do a good job with what’s on our plate.” And as Fort Worth continues to grow, he and competing valets will grow, he said. “We all make our business on volume.”
Source: Fort Worth, Inc. Premiere Issue
Keys to Success
Warren Prescott figured out early on that when life throws you a curb, you park cars
By Tiffany Figueiredo
As seen in 360 West Magazine
With his New England prep-school pedigree and a journalism degree from TCU, Warren Prescott is the last person you would expect to find working at the valet stand, but the owner of Rent a Frog Valet is happy with his career choice.
I make my living on the curbs of Fort Worth,” says Prescott. At 36, the youthful-looking Prescott has become a fixture on – or perhaps just outside of – the Fort Worth social scene, commanding a small army of clean-cut valets through his Rent a Frog Valet service. (RAF serves Arlington as well, and Prescott also has a branch in Southlake called Golden Triangle Valet to serve Northeast Tarrant County and Dallas.)
During the busy party season, it’s not unusual to spot Prescott at several events in a single night, although you may not realize that he is the man in charge. He has no special uniform and works right alongside his employees, helping people out of their cars, running back and forth to park and retrieve vehicles, and picking up the trash after an event. The anonymity suits him well.
“It’s not glamorous, but I’m not a social butterfly. It was a weird dynamic at first, having friends at parties see me and say, ‘You’re parking my car?’ But now people are used to it and expect to see me. I enjoy seeing everybody have a good time.”
Whether it’s the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, a Jewel Charity event, a fashion show at Neiman Marcus or a baby shower in Westover, Rent a Frog is one of the common denominators. Since starting the business out of his apartment in 1996 after graduating from TCU (he parked cars throughout his four years there), Prescott has become the go-to guy, thanks to his intimate familiarity with most venues and his seamless service. Plus, he knows how to deal with the red tape as well as the bumps and bruises that come with moving a lot of vehicles in a short time.
“There are certain types of insurance and permits that are necessary to park on residential streets and we have them all,” he says. “Some guy running a valet business out of his house isn’t going to have that. I’ve lost business to other companies because we charge more, but we charge more because neither the event planner nor the guest ever has to worry about liability if we’re doing the job.”
Prescott also runs background checks on all of his employees, which can number in the hundreds during party season. Despite the company’s name, Rent a Frog is no longer populated solely with TCU students, as was the case at first. Many of the valets are longtime part-timers and moonlighters who have day jobs. Some of his best workers are students from Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I know I can count on them. They have a great work ethic and they’re not parking cars for beer money. They’re parking cars for bill money.”
While parking cars might seem a no-brainer, acts of nature, unorganized clients who underestimate the number of guests and tipsy partygoers all conspire to make it a complicated production (witness this year’s Cattle Baron’s Ball mud-covered fiasco in Dallas, although partygoers sung the praises of the valiant valet parkers).
Prescott got through the local monsoons with much less drama. “I’ve done a good job it the valet service was a non-event, if you don’t really remember the valet,” he says.
Now winding down a busy party season, one in which he donated his services to several charitable organizations as he does every year, Prescott says he is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Courtney, and their two small children…and maybe getting in a little hunting with his dogs.
Until then, look for Prescott at a curbside near you.
-This article is “At Your Service” from the December 2009 issue of 360 West magazine.
Ten years ago, when Warren Prescott launched his Rent a Frog Valet venture from his apartment, he never dreamed that he’d be running four additional businesses, each a spin-off from the parent company that continues growing by leaps and bounds.
-Fort Worth Business Press
Monday April 23, 2007
I own a valet-parking company. Six years ago I embraced technology with a passion to help my business run more efficiently.
“When you walk into a room, make sure people know who you are and what you do. Business rarely just comes to you.”
Need a valet for your fancy dinner party? Or someone to stand in line to buy your movie tickets? How about a reliable person to get your Mustang to your summer home in New England?
From waiting tables to bartending, weeding yards to parking cars, Marcus Craig, a junior at Texas Christian University, figures he’s worked just about every part-time job.
When business soothsayers of the ’80s predicted the future belonged to the service sector, Warren H. Prescott didn’t give it a second thought.
As the owner of Rent A Frog College Personnel Service, battling seasonal demand has been a blessing in disguise.
In this day and age of rental cars, rental movies and rental furniture, it seems like everything may be “borrowed” for a fee. But who would want to rent a Frog?
– The TCU Daily Skiff
Thursday August 31, 2000