Instead of a front desk, Lavish owner Kristi Brehm modeled her reception area after an Apple...
Instead of a front desk, Lavish owner Kristi Brehm modeled her reception area after an Apple store where a salon greeter welcomes the client and helps them check in.

A few years ago, Lavish Salon owner Kristi Brehm took radical action when she eliminated her front desk entirely. The Webster, Texas-based owner found herself frustrated with the lack of interaction between her clients and front desk staff, but didn’t know how to motivate the staff to get out from behind the desk.

After a lot of debate and discussion with her manager, Brehm knew what she had to do—start over. “I wanted more interaction and more intimacy,” she 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 researching 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 chose with a unique light fixture hanging above it creates 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.

“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.”

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

On occasions where all three terminals on the table are busy, 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.”

However, 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 built-in 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.

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.

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