In the world of pageants, “the best” is typically reserved for the one who earns the crown. But did you know that numerous other young women win prizes or scholarships in other categories, such as congeniality, fitness in swimsuit, and talent?

Most spa owners consider their best service as the most popular or the most profitable one. And many, as you may know from your own sales results, would point to the signature facial or massage as the best.

While that basic service may result in the most sales, it’s probably not the service that’s earning you the most ink in the local paper, distinguishing your establishment as an expert in an area, reenergizing your staff, or even soothing the nerves of frazzled clients when you’ve made a mistake.

So, with a nod to Miss Congeniality, SALON TODAY offers this fun-filled look at all the “bests” on the spa menu. We gathered menus from around the country and surveyed their owners to determine what services they believe really make their businesses shine.

The Best Basic

Before we look at all the hidden gems on the service menus, we had to start with the winner of the popularity contest. In our unofficial survey, spa owners overwhelmingly stated that in recent years the hour-long massage has surpassed the signature facial as the most popular service.

Service: Essential Massage

Where it’s at: Habitude Salon, Spa and Gallery in Seattle, Washington

Menu description: A full hour of relaxation and light to medium pressure complemented by your own unique blend of Aveda essences.

Price: $98

Who performs it: massage therapist

Products used: aromatherapy oils, massage oil, blue oil, foot relief lotion

Length of service: 60 minutes

Average sold: 400 per month

Why it’s the best: “It’s a service that people do for themselves,” says owner Inez Gray. “And while they can be intrigued by a rock massage or other specialty massage, those that buy the essential massage really just want to be rubbed on for a solid hour.”

Greatest Escape

While some spa services are becoming maintenance, even an occasional spa experience can be an escape from frazzled daily life. Sometimes that can be a challenge, because clients want to continue the experience, but you’ve got to turn the room over to make a profit.

Service: The Hammock Massage

Where it’s at: Ginn Hammock Beach Spa in Palm Beach, Florida

Menu description: In an innovative combination of aromatherapy and massage techniques, the resort’s spa therapists have collaborated to provide the most luxurious treatment the spa has to offer. Following one blissful hour of aromatherapy, hot stone massage, Swedish massage and spiritual Lomi Lomi massage, guest will be led just steps outside to a private cabana where a hammock awaits. Guests can enjoy complete relaxation while they listen to the lulling waves of the ocean.

Price: $125

Who performs it: massage therapist

Products used: coconut lotion, aromatherapy oils, hot stones, hammock

Length of service: 90 minutes

Average sold: 40 per month

Why it’s the best: This service was the creation of Misty Sherwood and Kevin Benjamin, two Ginn Hammock Beach Spa employees who decided to combine the best elements of four different types of massage. “They wanted to create a Hammock massage that showcases all the talents of the staff,” says Thor Holm, director of spa, recreation and fitness. “This service commands the most attention from guests and the media because after the hour-long massage, the guest is led to a hammock in a private beachside cabana for a nap. While they are continuing the service, we’re turning over the treatment room.”

Top Product Pusher

When determining your most profitable service in the spa, you can’t simply analyze the profit margin for each. You also have to consider which one helps you move the most retail product. Many owners point to the basic facial as the most profitable, simply because it allows the best opportunity to retail multiple skin care products.

Service: Signature Facial

Where it’s at: Lather in New York, New York

Menu description: Our estheticians will recommend a treatment regimen based on your unique skin type. For dry or mature skin our efforts will be geared towards hydration, including a therapeutic regimen to thoroughly cleanse while replenishing moisture and improving the quality of the skin. For oily or combination skin, we’ll look to clarify, drawing on a therapeutic system to cleanse, tone, moisturize, and soothe. Our intensive arm and hand applications leaves even often-overlooked skin baby soft and smooth.

Price: $110

Who performs it: esthetician

Products used: cleanser, toner, exfoliater, masque, vitamin C serum, eye cream, lip balm

Length of service: 60 minutes

Average sold: 275 per month

Why it’s the best: “Unlike visiting the make-up counter at a department store, the facial service incorporates recommendations that are based on a professional analysis, so clients trust the recommendation,” says Shaana Melendrez. “Plus the service is an opportunity to sample all the products—the clients experience, smell and see the results when they are in a completely relaxed state.”

Best Express Service

For some clients, such as working women with tight lunch hours or professional multi-taskers, it’s all about the time commitment. These clients would rather sacrifice the relaxation and luxury for the desired result in a 30-minute turnaround time. Our panel reported that hands—and feet—down, the best-selling express services are manicures and pedicures.

Service: Express Manicure

Where it’s at: Lather Spa in New York

Price: $25

Who performs it: nail technician

Products used: hand crème, shea butter dry skin treatment, honey moisture masque, polish and the standard manicure tools and products

Length of service: 30 minutes

Average sold: 300

Why it’s the best: While Lather cuts out all the extra massage techniques to pare the service down to 30 minutes, it doesn’t skimp on the special touches. “It’s a fantastic service that still incorporates our most popular products, and we offer complimentary wine or champagne,” says Melendrez. “Our clients relax in our custom stations, which feature personal DVD players that play the selection the client chooses from our DVD library.”

Best Standout Service

While some spas focus on being all things to all people, others distinguish themselves with an expertise in a specific area. While they still offer the spa basics, their clients are drawn to them for what they offer that others can’t.

Service: Fatburner Wrap

Where it’s at: Suddenly Slimmer Wellness Center and Day Spa in Phoenix, Arizona

Menu description: This wrap is designed to target “hard fat/resistant fat areas” such as hips and thighs. During this wrap you are wrapped with ace bandages soaked in an enzyme that helps to break down fat (lipo). After 30 minutes, we unwrap and then wrap you in the mineral solution for 30 minutes, which will help to remove toxins. You can lose 6 to 30 inches with the fat burner body wrap.

Products used: lipase enzyme, mineral solution, ace bandages, impact gel

Length of service: Two hours

Average sold: 80 per month

Why it’s the best: Spa director Jeannie Gard says the spa has been performing the wraps for more than a decade, and has collected hundreds of pages of testimonials from satisfied clients along the way. “This is a wrap that slenderizes without dehydrating the body—and there’s a science to the way our technicians wrap the body that can specifically target problem areas,” says Gard. “The technicians measure the clients before and following the service, and the spa offers a guarantee—we promise female clients that they’ll see six inches of reduction and men four inches.

“We live in a society where we are oriented by instant gratification. We want a nicely toned body and we want to see results,” says Gard. “We definitely advocate a healthy diet and exercise. But, when a client starts a weight loss program and is discouraged by the lack of results, this service can offer a boost of encouragement and motivate them to get back in the gym.”

Best Profit Builder

When compared to the salon business, the spa is traditionally not as profitable. Services are labor intensive and incorporate expensive products and equipment, and few clients book on a regular schedule. Building on a successful cosmetics business, one spa tapped a new service that immediately built spa clientele and drove revenues.

Service: Eyelash Extension

Where it’s at: Interlocks Salon and Day Spa in Newburyport, Massachusetts

Menu description: Instant glamor is yours with our innovative and proven system. Your expressive, beautiful eyes won’t need mascara, and our individually applied, semi-permanent lash bonding system will stay with you through showers, and daily routines. Most importantly, our certified specialists have not only perfected the technique to artistically apply lashes one by one, but have also mastered the skill required to maintain your lashes, keeping them looking perfect month to month.

Price: $200 full set; $100 half set, $60 fill

Who performs it: esthetician

Products used: Novalash extensions, surgical glue

Length of service: 90 minutes for full set; 30 minutes for fill

Average sold: about 5 full sets and 20-30 fill per week.

Why it’s the best: Owner Ginny Eramo first caught the buzz about eyelash extensions from Boston salons and thought it’d be a great service to cater to her hair extension clients. “But those who get eyelash extension aren’t who we thought they’d be—they tend to be the average woman, not the fashion diva. And these women are crazy addicted—it’s a cheap thrill and it makes you feel so feminine.”

With clients returning every three to four weeks for a fill, this spa service develops a regular client base similar to that of your hair or nail business. “It’s also a profitable service from the get-go; our estheticians see the guests frequently and guests often add on other services. And it doesn’t have the ramifications of a waxing service, it’s comfortable—many fall asleep—and they leave in an upbeat mood.”

The Best Special

In any retail situation, specials are used to drive sales. In the spa, specials are an excellent way to test a new service you’re considering adding to your menu or to drive traffic during slower times.

Service: Quick Fixes

Where it’s at: Contour Day Spa in Plantation, Florida

Menu description: These specials go into effect from 9 a.m. and must be checked out by 2 p.m:

Blissful Mondays: Full head of shoulder-length highlights and a deep conditioning treatment.

Tantalizing Tuesdays: Journey to Eden—start with the ancient treatment of hand and foot reflexology. This treatment creates a healthy balance through enhancing circulation to the corresponding organs and meridians. Then soak in a hydrotherapy bath with mineral salts and exotic aromatherapy oils. As you relax in the tub, you will experience a neck, shoulder and scalp therapy treatment for total renewal. Followed by steam and sauna session.

Wonderful Wednesdays: Refresher mini facial and a stress reliever massage.

Perfect Thursdays: Refresh your face with a mini facial, treat nails with a spa manicure, and be ready to step out with style after your mini pedicure.

Price: $99

Who performs it: stylist, esthetician, massage therapist or nail technicians, depending on the service

Length of service: 2 hours

Average sold: about 10 per day (fewer on Monday special)

Why it’s the best: “Most of our customer base are professionals, and while that’s good for business, it makes early morning during the week slow,” says owner Fanit Panofsky. “The quick fixes are a win-win—they keep our staff busy during our slower morning hours and they offer miniature packages for our clients at a great savings. They are also a great way for a client to try a new service.”

The Best Local Tie-In

One of the best ways to create a unique destination experience for your guests is to leverage the assets of your environment—whether that means incorporating local culture into the service or a local ingredient into a product.

Service: Coquina Scrub

Where it’s at: Ginn Hammock in Palm Beach, Florida

Menu description: Ginn Hammock Beach guests enjoy seeing coquina shells on their beach walks. Now the coquina shell can be found in a product only available at Ginn Hammock Beach. The coquina, a sedimentary rock composed of tiny, glistening shell fragments, is blended with natural emollients to create an exfoliating scrub. The golden scrub is applied in a wave-like motion to the entire body and is followed by the application of a refreshing lotion.

Price: $75

Who performs it: massage therapist or esthetician

Products used: coquina scrub and coconut moisturizer

Length of service: 30 minutes

Average sold: 15 per month

Why it’s the best: “We partnered with CD&P Health Products to create products that incorporated an indigenous ingredient for a unique experience,” explains Holm. “They worked on different formulations until the consistency and fragrance was just right. Now we can offer a service that nobody else has, and our guests love to take home the scrub as a way to say, ‘I was there.’”

Best Crossover Service

To build a thriving overall business, it’s important to market to your own clients and get your salon crowd into the spa and vice versa. The best way to do that is with a service that includes elements of both.

Example: Goldwell InnerEffects

Where it’s at: ME Salon & Spa, New Hope, Pennsylvania

Menu description: Instant Care Regeneration.

Price: $65 as a pampering service; $40 as part of a correction service

Who performs it: massage therapist or hair stylist

Products used: Goldwell InnerEffects RePower Treatment or Goldwell InnerEffects ReSoft Treatment

Length of service: 30 minutes as a pampering service; 15 minutes as a corrective service

Average sold: 15-20 per week

Why it’s the best: This deep conditioning hair treatment brings the spa to the salon floor in a unique way. When it’s performed as a pampering service, the client dons a red cape that signals to staff that “the spa” has entered the salon floor. Staff use hushed tones in conversation with the client and offer iced lemon water as a refreshment. A massage therapist, using the treatment recommended by the stylist, performs a 30-minute head and neck massage while the treatment is processing. The client can opt to have the service performed in a treatment room as well.

“Clients love the service because it’s pampering, but also because they see and feel the effects in their hair immediately—and they leave with their hair in the best possible shape,” says owner Gloria Henning. “Staff love the service because it’s new, it offers the client instant gratification, and it integrates our spa and salon world.”

Best Basic with a Twist

While there’s no doubt the basics bring in the money, every other spa in town has the same offerings. To tantalize your core clientele, attract new ones, and pique media interest, you have to shake up the menu, and you have to do it often.

Service: Wassa Body Embrace

Where it’s at: Habitude in Seattle, Washington

Menu description: Dead sea salts, infused with rose geranium sourced in Africa, exfoliate and invigorate with a full body scrub. Relax as you are wrapped in a cocoon to infuse and moisturize your skin. Enjoy a luxurious full-body rub with pre-warmed Shea Butter from the nuts of wild African shea trees.

Price: $101

Who performs it: esthetician or massage therapist

Products used: sea salt scrub, shea butter

Length of service: 60 minutes

Average sold: 12 per month

Why it’s the best: Gray shakes up her menu periodically by giving her clients different global treatments. “Having experiences that are unique and fresh help attract media attention. For example, we chose Africa to piggyback on some of the Brad and Angelina media attention, as well as the Product Red Campaign,” says Gray. “The new services also motivate the staff and we have a theme to decorate around. Even if our regular clientele end up choosing the basic services, they’re excited to come in to see what new things we are doing. All it’s costing me is the words on the special menu, but I’m creating a whole new venue for promotion.”

Best Staff Pleaser

When you create your spa menu, clients aren’t the only audience you have to consider. It’s also important to design services that inspire and motivate your staff, while showcasing all their talents. After all, who’s excited about a week packed with basics day after day?

Service: Bamboo Indulgence

Where it’s at: Lather Spa in New York

Menu description: An intoxicating full body experience—luxuriate in the steam of our Vichy shower while breathing in the stimulating scent of lemongrass. Enjoy a head-to-toe exfoliation using our popular Bamboo Lemongrass Foaming Body Scrub, and relax with a moisture massage using soothing oils and lotions.

Price: $85

Who performs it: esthetician or massage therapist

Products used: bamboo lemongrass body scrub, sea kelp body wash, lavender whipped body crème

Length of service: 45 minutes

Average sold: 200

Why it’s the best: Melendrez says staff members love to perform the service because it almost always exceeds the clients’ expectations, leaving them pleased by the spa and the technician. “The lighting in the room is relaxing, the smell of the product is refreshing and clients love the Vichy shower. They often are so amazed by the results, they buy the scrub to take home.”

Best Avenue to a New Market

Every spa is looking for new clients—why not add an entirely new demographic to your appointment book?

Service: Eveline Charles Beauty Bootcamp

Where it’s at: Eveline Charles Academy in Edmonton, Calgary

Menu description: Beauty Bootcamp is a fun and creative place where girls, ages 11-15, will be inspired in the areas of self-esteem, healthy lifestyles, skin care, hair care, make-up and teen fashion. Learn valuable lessons now for lifelong healthier hair, skin and self image!

Price: $250

Who performs it: Staff members from the academy and the salons

Length of service: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday

Average sold: The 30 spots available for each of the weekly summer sessions have been sold out and there’s a long waiting list.

Why it’s the best: “In the summer months, our enrollment is lower in the academy so we had some available space,” says Lina Heath. “We decided to create a camp program that targeted girls who were in junior high school and transitioning to high school—the camp’s purpose is to bring self-confidence to girls by teaching about beauty, fashion, hygiene and health.”

Heath says the target market for the camp are both the girls who have a love of make-up and fashion and those who don’t know much about either. The salon is not just grooming future Eveline Charles clients, but possibly students for the academy as well. “The mothers have expressed so much interest in the camp we’re considering an adult version for next year,” adds Heath.

Best Return on Equipment

Whether you purchase or lease, spa equipment is an expensive investment. Before you show them the money, make sure the equipment you select will result in a wealth of profitable service revenue.

Service: Effect Treatment

Where it’s at: La Bonne Vie Spa at Dolphin Bay in Pismo Beach, California

Menu description: La Bonne Vie offers Dermosonic treatments using the latest technology and approach to cellulite reduction and body contouring. Cellulite may not respond well to weight loss, exercise or creams. However, Dermosonic is delivering results. Many clients say they can see improvements after only one session.

Price: $150 for single treatment; $810 for package of six; $1,530 for package of 12

Who performs it: Aesthetician

Products used: oxygen-botanical serum for firming and contouring, massage gel, ultrasound gel, and Dermasonic machine

Length of service: One hour

Average sold: 25 per month

Why it’s the best: “This service really makes a difference. It’s a newer technology, and unlike some of the older techniques, the client doesn’t have to buy a body suit to wear during treatment and the non-invasive technique doesn’t hurt,” says spa director Zipporah Andrews. “In fact, it feels like you are having a massage.”

Andrews believes the service sells itself. “Most clients will initially purchase a single service to try it out. But they usually see an immediate effect and will purchase a package, resulting in follow-up appointments.”


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