Customer Service

“May I Take Your Order, Please?”

Create a nail menu that caters to your clients’ individual wants and needs. If you offer low-priced options and add-ons you can form an à la carte menu that may appeal to busy, choosy consumers.

Salons and spas must take extra care when formulating their service menu. Often the menu is the first piece of information that comes into the hands of a prospective client. The items you select and the direction you take can make or break your nail department. The menu must speak to your clientele. Depending on your target demographic, you may want to highlight à la carte offerings over complete service packages.

In the past several years, all-inclusive service pricing has predominated in our industry. We have created package upon package in our salons and spas. We have gotten pretty creative with unique names for these deluxe or theme services, like the Peppermint Pedicure, the Chocolate-Covered Manicure, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there is a market for these types of services and they can be quite successful in certain salons and during certain times of the year. But have we gotten away from the bread-and-butter nail services that help to produce everyday sales? If your nail services are not bringing in the profits you envisioned and if client retention is less than par, focusing on simple à la carte pricing might be the ticket.

Á la Carte Pricing

Á la carte pricing means each optional component of a nail service is priced individually. This method allows you to charge for the manicure, the paraffin treatment, and the reflexology — all separately.

With à la carte pricing, the client is aware of the exact length of time needed to complete the service and technicians can upsell nail services during down times. The exact price is known and the explanation of the service is given in a menu or marketing program.

Gretchen Monahan, owner of the G Spa in Boston, has an extensive à la carte menu that offers her clients more than 15 menu choices for nail services. She has several flavors available for the manicures and pedicures, which helps her staff customize services per a client’s individual tastes.

“Our spa is in a business district and we cater to women on the move who are extremely time-conscious. We provide specialty à la carte services such as the Foot Rub, the French Dip, and the Foot Love. All of these services provide a quick and easy way for clients to get pampered without having to spend hours in the spa.” G Spa’s menu boasts, “The quickie services are perfect for the client who wants all of the beauty without all of the time.”

In contrast, complete service packages provide the client with multiple services and extras all wrapped in one. Usually this service is provided in a spa setting where the client will spend a greater length of time being pampered and relaxed. Services like these make great gifts for family and friends and generally tend to see peak sales at seasonal times of the year.

Knowing Your Client

You must recognize your clientele’s needs and wants to produce a menu that best caters to them. Each salon or spa has traits of its own. Your location, size, and the knowledge level of technicians play a big role in what type of menu would best suit your nail department. Don’t make the mistake of creating a menu according to what you and your staff like — you should produce a menu that is dictated by your client demographic. In this day of computerization, reports can be produced from your software that will tell you exactly what demographic you have for your client base. Study this information so that your menu can cater as close as possible to your true target market.

There are many client types — teens, 30- to 50-year-old working women, stay-at-home moms, dot-commers, or any mix. Each demographic should be marketed to differently. Consumers are more educated and are being informed by a barrage of advertisements via magazines, radio, and television. We are told that looking and feeling younger is a great thing. The extras we can offer on our nail services menu can be very appealing to the client who is always looking for the latest and greatest.

Wendy Stumpf, owner of The Hand Spa in Lake Elmo, Minn., has been a nail technician for 18 years. She knows her demographic well. “Over 50% of my client base is retired women. I know that they are not on a time schedule and my packaged services are a big hit,” says Stumpf. “I include multiple services with my manicure. You receive the paraffin treatment and the hand and arm massage with every basic manicure. The pedicure service takes approximately 90 minutes and that is not a problem for my mostly retired clientele.”

On the contrary, Anthony Scoleri, owner of The Mane Stop in Haddenfield, N.J., sees a different picture. “I have seven nail technicians and 90% of my business is à la carte. We cater to a lot of working women and use our à la carte menu as a way to upsell to that time-conscious consumer,” says Scoleri. “They lead hectic lives and can- not indulge in big service packages on a regular basis. Our gift certificate sales — which are seasonal — are perfect for the multi-service packages that typically require two to six hours in the appointment book.”

Generally speaking, 60%-65% of monies deposited daily come from working women 30-50 years old. This population is on a perpetual time schedule and many times we fail to realize that when producing a service menu. This audience would be a fabulous market for à la carte pricing. If your business is located in a strip mall, the opportunities for à la carte pricing are also greater. You are visible and can promote these types of services to your passersby.

Marketing à la Carte Pricing

Once you have established that à la carte pricing is right for your business, getting a consistent marketing plan in place will be imperative. Your printed menu is the first place to start. List all services with an explanation of each. Make sure the consumer knows the service, the time, and the price.

In addition, boast about your quick, easy services on your menu. Let your clients know you recognize their hectic lives and are ready to serve them. Some examples of quickie services are hand and foot masks, reflexology, paraffin dips, hand massages, nail art, and hot oil treatments.

“If you have been doing nails as long as I have — which is 12 years — you have experience on your side. You know the precise amount of product and time you need to successfully complete the service,” says Teresa Nelson, owner of It’s a Nail Thing on Martha’s Vineyard. “With our new recipes for our Food for the Feet menu, we offer mini-services to refresh your feet. I can promote a Menemsha Marine Mask for $10 to a client who phones in for an appointment. We have several of these mini-services available for our clients.”

You can market an à la carte menu through your front desk coordinator. Remember, à la carte services can be used to fill dead times in the book. When you do confirmation calls, ask the client whether she would like to try a paraffin dip for the hands while her color is processing. Each week have a “confirmation quote of the week” which highlights an à la carte item as a quick upsell. Use the front desk’s knowledge of which technicians and which services need a boost. The à la carte menu allows for last minute bookings to help fill the day.

Your service technicians can and should be helping one another stay productive. If you see a fellow employee with downtime, offer the haircut client a half-priced hand and arm reflexology service at the end of the haircut. It is a lot more cost effective to offer a discount on a quick add-on than on a packaged service. The opportunities for technicians to increase their average ticket are endless when you have à la carte services available.

Some salons and spas will book 45 minutes for a typical 30-minute service to allow enough time for the upsells. If you have à la carte pricing, think out of the box. Have systems in place that allow for a consistent effort to upsell. Use your nail menu to produce sales and to help your clients see your nail department as comprehensive and unique. Break the service down, offering each piece separately and you may just see the average ticket increase because clients can basically “build their own” service.

Lisa Marie Arnold is a salon consultant and the owner of Gibsonia, Pa.-based Salon & Spa Solutions. She can be reached at (724) 444-6903 or [email protected].

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