No Front Desk? No Problem


For years, Lavish owner Kristi Brehm talked about ways to improve her front desk staff. The Webster, Texas-based salon was using tried-and-true methods that just weren’t cutting it anymore for Brehm and she was looking for major change.

Then inspiration struck. On a trip to Serious Business, her creative juices started flowing after sitting in on a break-out session. That night, she went to dinner with her manager, where they continued their front desk conversation.

“I was struggling so much,” says Brehm. “We always knew we had to get the staff out from behind the desk, but didn’t know how.”

She knew something was missing from the equation, and as her manager kept throwing out the usual tactics—better training, etc.—Brehm finally said, “No. We need to start over.”

“My manager then said, ‘let’s just throw away the desk then if we’re going to start over.’ And I said, ‘YES!’”

Achieving a Goal

Once Brehm knew she was going to do away with her front desk, she had to hone in on what she wanted to achieve.

“I wanted more interaction and more intimacy,” Brehm says. “Clients want to see what’s going on.”

So Brehm began researching the no-front-desk strategy on the internet. Most of what she found was at hotels with virtual check-ins and check-outs and checking in on iPads. But this didn’t quite fit the bill for her space at Lavish.

“My guests need a place to put their stuff when they’re checking in/out,” she says. “They don’t like not having anywhere to set a bag down. So having nothing at all wasn’t an option.”

Then she started thinking about the Apple store and its layout. That’s when she came up with the concept of a table that sits in the middle of the salon’s retail area. The white oval table Brehm purchased is grounded by a funky light fixture hanging above it, creating a focal point guests are drawn to even though it’s not a traditional front desk. Three Macs sit on the table, ready for “front desk” staffers to check clients in and out.

Form and Function

Brehm admits clients were a little confused when the table was first introduced. Staff members also had to adjust—where do they stand if there’s no front desk?

“They are in the retail area, by the door—ready to interact with clients,” says Brehm. “Now, instead of a client coming to the front desk to be greeted, someone walks up to them as soon as they walk in the door. When we had the desk, that never happened.”

Her front desk staff’s new roles in the space have put guests at ease as well.

Brehm says, “Guests are sometimes caught off guard when so much attention is given to them when they walk in the door: They are greeted, asked about their appointment and then escorted to the table.”

After such detailed attention, guests feel very taken care of and ready for their appointment.

Of course, there are some occasions where all three terminals on the table are busy. In that case, staff members look up and greet the guest, the same as they would if they were behind the desk.

“The table also creates more intimacy,” says Brehm. “There’s a face-to-face encounter when you are standing right next to someone without a barrier between you.”

LavishTableHowever, this intimacy created a logistical challenge for Brehm that was not an issue when working behind a front desk.

“We put comments about clients in our software before like, ‘She’s always late,’” she says. “Three months prior to installing the table, we had to get rid of that because our computers are out in the wide open where anyone—including clients—can see them. We’re so much more transparent and authentic because of it.

And ultimately, this has turned out to be a positive change for the salon.

“If a client tends to be late all the time, we word it to say ‘Please allow an additional 15 minutes,’ instead,” says Brehm. “We must be positive instead of negative, which is always good.”

A beautiful, clean table with just three computers on top presents some logistical issues as well. Where do brochures, pens, etc. that are usually kept at the front desk go?

Brehm thought of all that, too. “There are discreet drawers in the desk that can be used and credit card terminals were integrated right into the Macs.

“During construction, we had to have wiring go into the floor. One of the legs in the desk is hollow, so the wires can go seamlessly through it and into the floor to be plugged in,” she adds.

For brochures, gift cards and any other necessities, a beautiful little box sits on the table with a pretty plate on top for pens. The result is a clean, uncluttered space that clients can set a bag on while checking in or out.

Ramping up Retail

The main goal of eliminating the front desk in favor of the table was to get staff members out on the floor interacting with guests in a more natural, organic way. Brehm says her strategy is working.

“There is so much more interchange that goes on between front desk staff and clients because they are sharing the same space,” she says. “Clients are given more assistance. With the front desk, staff members hid behind it—it was like this safe box they could exist behind.

“By stripping that away, it stripped away everything that came with it: Staff who didn’t interact with retail clients or check on clients whose color is processing, etc. Having the table encourages staff members to interact with clients more,” she adds.

Brehm finds the whole salon is just a more open, friendly and interactive space with the table. And although it was a risk—the table cost about $6,000—it’s one that has paid off.

Not only has she noticed a difference in her retail numbers, she’s also noticed a big difference in the overall client experience at Lavish.

“It has promoted so much better customer service by having the space set up this way,” she says.


Archived Comments

34 Comments (Comments are closed)

  1. Katy Sievers says:

    Love this! Lavish has always been so beautiful!
    My question is regarding the Macs & credit card terminal. When we first opened, Salonbiz was impossible to use with our Macs. We had to buy other computers so that we could work more efficiently. That was frustrating. We want to use Macs in our new location & look into credit card terminals who charge less that will work with Salonbiz. Will you share what you are using?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      From Kristi:
      “We currently use Mindbody software and are locked into using their cc processing company if we want online sale capabilities which we do. Our entire software is on the cloud so very little ‘wires’ were needed to make this work.”

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Hi Katy,
      We asked Kristi and she said that they currently use Mindbody software, but are moving to SalonBiz at the beginning of the year. SalonBiz is now very Mac-compatible, and even has an iPad app for ease of use. SalonBiz will have a list of the credit card processors they recommend; someone there will be happy to help you find the most competitive option.

  2. Mari Velasquez says:

    looks like a great idea, we are currently trying to figure out how we can do without a receptionist but what do you do when a client needs to checkout or purchase their retail? Does the stylist check them out?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Kristi shared with us that she uses a ticket system. They escort the guest to the table, introduce them to a guest coordinator and hand them the guest ticket to check out.

  3. How did you handle the telephone? That’s usually a front desk task.

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Hi Shirley! We Asked Kristi and she said that they use a call center to handle that, so there are no phones at the front.

  4. How do they handle cash transactions and the phone calls? We have a decent size salon and spa and are in the Summit Salon Program where the service providers have work tickets to present the front desk staff upon checkout. Just curious on how to make that work.

    • Neill-TSP says:

      From Kristi:
      “Our staff uses tickets as well. They escort the guest to the table, introduce them to a guest coordinator and hand them the guest ticket. We started using a call center about 10 years ago so no phones at the front. Works great!!”

  5. Nancy Ravagnani says:

    This concept sounds fool-proof. Did you have any drawbacks from front desk personnel because they now need to be on their feet all the time? This would defiantly double my retail space.

    • Neill-TSP says:

      From Kristi:
      “Our front desk have not been at a seated front desk system for the past 15 years so this was not really a change for them.”

  6. Sarah E. says:

    Where is the cash register?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Kristi told us that they had the table built with a locking cash drawer in it, so there’s no need for a separate space for cash & credit card slips.

  7. Jo says:

    What about phones? Where are they and where do they take those calls?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Hi Jo,
      Kristi said that they have a call center that handled their phone traffic, so phones aren’t a problem.

  8. Sarah says:

    This is very exciting. Can you tell up what company made the table?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      From Kristi:
      “I worked with a designer who has now retired, so I really don’t know who made the desk. We custom designed it with a custom cabinet maker.”

  9. Lucy says:

    Where’s your cash register? Lots of people still pay in cash and some even by check.
    Allowing the guests to see everything on the computer is problematic, and I can imagine would get intrusive when trying to book an appointment.

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Hi Lucy,
      Kristi told us that they had the table built with a locking cash drawer in it, eliminating the need for a separate space for cash register. She says she hasn’t had a problem yet with the computer being on the floor, and that they just keep personal information to a minimum on the screens anyone on the floor can see.

  10. Corinne says:

    Where did they get it? I want one!!!

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Kristi told us that for the table, she worked with a designer who has since retired. We’d suggest contacting a local cabinet maker in your town and seeing what they could do to make a piece customized just for your space.

  11. Jan hill says:

    Fantastic innovation!

  12. Steve Rash says:

    Love this innovative idea. I just did a major remodel. I wish I’d thought of this concept. Although I love what we did design wise I am concerned about my retail.
    Thank you for sharing

  13. Lorraine says:

    How do you handle cash/check payments. What about phones?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Hi Lorraine,
      Kristi had the table custom-built with locking drawers for cash & checks, and has had an off-site phone service for years that handles booking. With their system, there’s no need for a phones or separate registers on the floor–everything just works together!

  14. Brooke says:

    How do you guys handle taking appointments over the phone? Do you have separate staff for that?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      Hi Brooke,
      Kristi said that they started using a call center about 10 years ago, so there are no phones at the front. They’re all very happy with the system.

  15. What salon software do you use? Great idea! Also where do you out retail bags and returns?

    • Aveda Means Business says:

      They currently use Mindbody but are switching to Salon Biz after the first of the year. Their retail bags are kept in one of 4 drawers they had built into the desk. Hope this helps!

  16. Beth says:

    How did you handle all the electrical cords?

    • Neill-TSP says:

      We planned to have the wiring go into the floor. One of the legs in the desk is hollow, so the wires go seamlessly through it and into the floor to be plugged in.

  17. congratulations Kristi I enjoyed reading your article

  18. Corinna says:

    Love this idea! Definitely inspirational

  19. Barbara Hunter says:

    Way to go Kristi. You are so creative. I’m not surprised that you would come up with such a beautiful and functional idea. Congrats!

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