Open Hair Care: These Two Salons Offered Their Services Al Fresco, and It Was a Hit - Mirror,Mirror

Piandré Salon and Azata Urban Salon found a way for their guests to have peace of mind.

Like all professions, the beauty salon industry was one of the hardest hit during COVID 19.

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According to Piandré Salon general manager Andrea Zulueta Lorenzana, they had never closed for more than two days. The business has been around since 1987, which means it has seen some very heady days in Philippine history.

“We were open during the coup in the 80s, during all major economic recessions and all major weather disasters,’ says Lorenzana. “This was the fi rst time that we had to close so it hit us hard.”

To stay afloat, Piandré pivoted to doing home service for clients. This worked for a while, but as new variants reared their ugly heads, Lorenzana and her team noticed that their clients, once comfortable with letting salon staff in their homes, started having services outdoors: in their gardens, balconies, by the poolside, in the garage. 

This made it difficult for the team at Piandré because they had to bring extra things like a shampoo bowl and extension cords.

“This is when we had the idea, that maybe it would be nice to set up an outdoor salon that had permanent outdoor fixtures, like outlets, and an outdoor shampoo bowl,” says Lorenzana.

The flagship salon is located at LZF Building in Timog Ave. The building is owned by the family behind the salon and had a roof deck as an events space.

Because no events were taking place, the decision was made to open an outdoor salon, dubbed Piandré Outdoors. Lorenzana says the design tweaks were easy: “We just removed the glass and now we have two spaces—one with a roof and another one under tents for a truly outdoor experience.”

By then, the stylists already had a year of home service under their belts and were grateful for this new offering. The clients were even happier: “They had not gone out for a year and a half,” says Lorenzana. 

The salon atmosphere in the Philippines is a communal one, with everyone always happy to see each other. Clients at Piandré had not seen each other for a year and a half, so this getting back to normalcy (slightly) was welcomed.

“You know before when our clients used to go abroad, the first place they go to is the salon,” says Lorenzana. “Or when they recovered from illness, or when they undergo huge stress, the first place they book is us. So they were grateful that we gave them another option to feel safe while getting pampered.”

Despite the temperamental weather, Lorenzana says it hasn’t been too much of a factor. “We have an indoor area where rain can’t get in. It’s quite comfortable when it rains. When it’s hot, it’s a little diffi cult but we have so many fans that it’s not that uncomfortable,” she says.

Way to innovate

For Azta Urban Salon, brand manager Ashley Cruz says that the decision to operate an outdoor salon was one of the many they made to adapt and innovate.

“We had to change revenue models at the onset of the pandemic. From the traditional brick and mortar service, we went beyond and ventured into social commerce for retail products, introduced home service, and opened outdoor salon extensions in select branches,” she says.

According to Cruz, the home service option caters to those who would still like to pamper themselves but are anxious about going out. Meanwhile, those who prefer the complete salon experience but with maximum social distancing can avail of the outdoor salons.

“There was a need for it, and we heeded the call,” she says.

The service experience and customers were also changed, along with the work set-up of employees, which factored in high standards and strict protocols for the safety of everyone involved. “We also became more critical in achieving efficiency in the operations, to manage cost better than ever,” says Cruz.

To start the process of converting the salons, they needed a resourceful operations team and supportive mall partners, which Cruz says they were grateful to have. “Execution is crucial because we had to maximize the spaces allotted for us, and set-up to mimic our styling areas,” she says.

First, Azta reached out to their mall partners with a layout so they could find an available space for setting up. In the Vertis North and McKinley branches, they were allowed to have an extension of the salon in an adjacent raw space. In Eastwood, they were permitted to use the outdoor area connecting our salon and the mall.

Cruz says the styling staff was very excited. “It wasn’t hard to convince our team when we discussed the plans, ‘cause they understand that this is for the welfare of both the salon staff and our customers to maximize social distancing while providing more available seats for clients,” she says.

Positive reviews

As for clients, they all gave positive reactions. “We’ve gotten positive responses from our customers and our outdoor extensions helped us open more slots, especially for walk-ins during those times when indoor capacity was limited,” says Cruz. She adds that their clients were impressed with how quickly the brand was able to pivot and fi nd ways to adapt to the “new normal.”

In the Vertis North and McKinley locations, the weather is not a problem because they are located inside the mall. Th e challenge is in an al-fresco space like Eastwood. “Since it’s not a covered area when it pours, we have to pack it up,” says Cruz. In this case, the clients are very understanding and will opt to reschedule so they don’t get affected.

Despite the open spaces, Azta still makes sure that the areas are well-ventilated. Factoring in the weather for a place like the Eastwood location, and the effect of hair products on the scalp means that for that branch, there are industrial fans constantly running.

“We couldn’t let them sit for a 4-hour session in a humid place,” says Cruz. “We also had to mimic our styling areas and use chairs, mirrors, and tools that we also use indoors. Overall, comfort is key and our team is committed to that.”

Now that the Philippines is slowly moving towards an endemic end goal, the plan is to keep the outdoor locations open for longer. “We still want to maintain minimum social distancing in our salons and cater to customers who prefer more space away from the crowd,” says Cruz.

This story originally came out in the April 2022 issue of Lifestyle Asia.

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