I knew I’d fallen hopelessly down the wondrous nail-salon-industry rabbit hole when my friend Claire’s birthday was approaching and my first suggestion was to throw her a pedicure party. Claire fell in love with the idea too, and, after confirming a date with one of my favorite salons, The Nail Bar in Hermosa Beach, Calif., the invitations quickly went out.

Even though each guest had to pay a $15 party fee several weeks in advance (which covers the cost of closing the salon down an hour prior to the party’s start, extra time after the guests leave for clean up, disposable dishware, and some beverages), we had no problem meeting the salon’s party minimum of five people (we wound up with nine). The party itself — which included manicures and pedicures (purchased by guests at regular price), snack foods (brought by us guests), drinks (brought by us and salon-provided), cupcakes (provided for free via Torte Dolci, a cake maker who’s friends with the salon owners), and unlimited after-hours time — went off without a hitch.

Much of the smoothness of our party was a credit to salon co-owners Sherrie McCarter and Jennifer Dumat, who’ve hosted 10 parties in under a year of first opening. “Usually only the host of the party has been to The Nail Bar, and she is bringing many new clients to us. Most times, they end up being repeat clients,” McCarter says of why the salon offers the parties.

I asked these party aficionados about the secrets behind the planning process, and the magic number is apparently two. Two weeks is the minimum amount of notice the salon needs from the client, and twice is the average number of times the salon contacts the hostess (the first call is to confirm the number of guests, get the party fee, and select the cupcake flavor; the week of the event, the call is to find out each guests’ service choices and answer any questions). The salon keeps plates, cups, and utensils on hand at all times, so the owners aren’t scrambling at the last minute.

The owners also offered up this advice and a few questions for you to answer before adding parties to your menu: Get together a list of services you want to offer and decide whether you’ll charge just for services or if you need to include an additional fee to cover costs. Will you close the salon during the event or will it remain open? Would you allow food to be brought in, or perhaps offer to have the parties catered? To advertise, you could include some general party information in your menu, make sure all of your techs know about the parties and talk about them with their clients, and put up a flyer in your salon.

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