Adding a Grooming Salon to Your Facility
By Kathy Rose
Offering grooming as an additional service at your facility is a great way to add revenue. While you may already offer simple grooming, such as exit baths for boarding or daycare clients, a full service grooming salon will bring in new clients and more income.
The following outlines how to design a floorplan, the steps for hiring a contractor and the equipment needed to open a full service grooming salon, from the ground up. If you do already offer grooming, this is also a great tool for expansions or upgrades.
Designing an Effective Floor Plan
Creating an effective floor plan is crucial for an efficient salon. Well organized salons have at least four area considerations in their floor plan. Smaller salons may combine spaces but regard should be given to the tasks at hand:
- Receiving and evaluating clients
- Holding area for the pets during their stay
- Bathing and drying (the “Wet” room)
- Styling and finishing.
Even the smallest space should incorporate the four main areas into the salon design. Keep in mind, as the salon size increases, so does the importance of the floor plan. This will require exact measurements of the space you have chosen. Being just a little bit off in measuring can prove to be frustrating and costly when installing large equipment such as kennel banks and tubs.
It is also important to consider the size of the walls where large equipment will be placed. An error by an inch can cost a lot of money in redesign, construction or product return. Consider how the doors, including cage doors, open in relation to adjacent walls. It is difficult to place a large dog in a cage adjacent to a wall when it opens away from the wall instead of toward the wall.
It is important to consider the order of things; dogs check in, go to holding area, proceed to bathing and drying and then perhaps back to holding area prior to being groomed in the styling area.
There are many useful programs and application tools available via the Internet for designing a space. I have found www.floorplanner.com to be the most user friendly. This site is cost effective and provides video tutorials that are easy to follow.
Walking through your prospective space should ignite a spark of creativity. Keep the four areas in mind when evaluating the space. The first impression should be warm and inviting. Pick a theme and carry this throughout the salon, or continue the theme that you have in the rest of your facility.
• Reception/Evaluation Area
If you choose not to have a separate reception area for your grooming clients and plan to check them in with your boarding and daycare clients, an evaluation area is still a must. A designated area for evaluating the clients’ pets helps to reduce stress and can serve as a holding area while pertinent information is gathered.
Your initial reception of clients will set the pace of the entire experience. They deserve the time and attention for a thorough evaluation, especially on the first visit. Perhaps even more importantly, this initial evaluation provides the opportunity for you to interact with the client and pet and create a bond. Placing the pet on the front desk or evaluating small pets on the floor does not speak professionalism. Set up a designated table for pet evaluation.
• Holding Area
Whether waiting for retrieval by the pet parent or waiting for a procedure, at some point during a pet’s visit he will require a place to wait. The holding area should be a comfortable area where the pets can be easily monitored.
You could either setup a separate area for holding of your grooming clients or keep them in your general boarding area. Although, some clients may not be comfortable with this due their perception of disease spread within boarding facilities. Another option, which could also be an upsell for you, would be to offer them daycare for the day, if that is one of your service options.
Play pens or built–in enclosures strictly for the grooming clients are also popular and pet parents like the cage free feel. You may choose to utilize a combination of housing options offering the client a choice at a price. Whichever method is employed, the pets should always be carefully monitored.
• Bathing and Drying
The bathing and drying area is best placed separate from the rest of the salon. An enclosed “wet” room will help control humidity, aid with hair containment and help to control dryer noise. This will reduce time spent keeping a clean shop and help to maintain a professional spa atmosphere.
Plan on the installation of an exhaust fan vented outside. This will help to expel the warmer air, reduce some humidity and provide an extra source of ventilation.
Ideally, all surfaces in the “wet” room will be made from water resistant materials such as tile board or tile. But all the areas adjacent to the tubs must be water resistant. If electrical outlets are to be placed near the wet areas be sure that they are ground fault protected or GFCI.
• Styling and Finishing
The styling and finishing area is best stationed away from the wet room and near the reception area. Consider installing a “viewing” window for the clients. This will help contain trimmed hair and give clients the chance to view their pet’s grooming procedures, but at a distance.
Make sure to install abundant electrical outlets. Contemplate installing floor outlets during the build out. This will reduce the need for dangerous extension cords.
Lighting is also a major consideration for this room. Try to make use of as much window light as possible. Natural ambient light is easiest to work with. Track lighting is also a good option because you can direct the flow of light to avoid shadows.
It is important to think of the separate areas discussed above. It is strategic to consider their spatial relationship to each other. How does the typical workday flow? Check in clients, proceed to holding area, bathing follows, next dryers, on to styling, and then inevitably back to holding area.
Create these areas relative to typical order of procedure. Avoid bottlenecks, especially in cramped spaces. Always take in to consideration the direction of door openings and alter this if needed. It is much more efficient to change door opening direction during the initial build–out rather than in hindsight after the painting has been completed.
Designing your floor plan is a strategic part in the build–out of your new salon. Creating an efficient plan and following some basic concepts can help you to create the salon of your dreams.
Hiring a General Contractor
Simple renovation construction or a complete new salon build–out is an exciting adventure. Unfortunately this can also prove to be a stressful process. Hiring the right contractor can make or break that experience. Researching prospective contractors is vital!
Start your search for a contractor early in the planning stages of your salon. Once a relationship has been established, your contractor can provide a good resource for construction information regarding many aspects of salon renovation, design and build–out. You should be able to provide a basic concept of your design plans when speaking with prospective contractors. Keep in mind it is usually more cost effective to adapt your design to the space than to adapt the space to your design.
It is wise to have a general idea and a sketch of an effective grooming salon floor plan. A contractor may not be familiar with how an organized grooming salon operates or even the process involved. Prepare a sample floor plan showing the operation of the main work areas with a broad indication of plumbing, electric, and lighting needs.
Chances are you will need at least one permit from the department that enforces building ordinances and codes. It is possible that electrical, plumbing or other specialized jobs may require separate permits. A licensed general contractor should be able to determine the legal requirements for renovations and secure the necessary permits or provide sub–contractors that can provide the necessary permits. Confirm this in your initial consultations with prospective general contractors.
Document the insurance requirements such as personal liability coverage, property damage and worker’s compensation. Make sure to see certificates from all sub–contractors. Contact your state’s division of Workman’s Compensation for regulations pertaining to your area and make sure the contractor is in compliance.
Once you have secured the space to be renovated, make sure to detail the scope of work to be completed. Clearly identify the services and materials that will be provided. Establish a written schedule with completion dates and penalties for preventable delays.
Get a written contract. This should include a bid based on the job and a price breakdown for labor, materials, permits, subcontractors, etc. Don’t make any changes without documentation. This is called a Change Order.
Determine if sub–contractors will be hired and if so, make sure you have copies of their licenses and insurance requirements. Confirm your contractor will be on–site to oversee all work being performed.
The contractor should provide a schedule for payment that corresponds with a time–line for completed work. The payment schedule should be detailed and include a clause permitting you to withhold at least ten percent until all inspections are passed and you have received a release of lien from the contractor and all sub–contractors. This is vital and will help to eliminate the chance of future leans being placed by sub–contractors who were not paid by the general contractor. An average deposit at signing is twenty percent, but may vary dependent upon the scope of work and your area.
Build–out of a new salon or renovation of an existing area holds the expectation of future rewards. Doing your homework and following a few cautious steps can help to make the process not only bearable but also successful.
There is a vast amount of equipment available to the pet grooming industry that will accommodate every budget and preference. As services, floor plans, budgets and individual tastes vary, so shall the equipment choices from one salon to another. Never the less, there are a few key factors to consider when setting up your salon.
Safety: Is the equipment safe for the pet, client and staff? Some manufacturers of electrical equipment, such as dryers and dehumidifiers, are UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed which may offer an added safety buffer. UL Listing means that UL has tested representative samples of the product and determined that it meets UL’s requirements. These requirements are based primarily on UL’s published and nationally recognized Standards for Safety.
Efficiency: Does the equipment help to make the job more efficient?
Reliability: Is high maintenance or frequent replacement required to keep the equipment safe and efficient?
Ergonomics: Does the equipment contribute to comfort, safety, efficiency, and ease of use?
Aesthetics: Is there eye appeal?
Value: Is the importance or usefulness worth the price?
Stationary grooming tables, because of conservative cost and portability, may have a place in the salon. Many are available with adjustable legs to provide a variety of heights. Unfortunately adjustments can be cumbersome between dogs so they are best suited for portable use or set for use at a stationary height.
For everyday grooming of a variety of dog breeds ranging from tiny to giant, the hydraulic or electric adjustable tables are the way to go. Electric and hydraulic tables offer ergonomic benefits to improve stylist and pet comfort as well as safety. They are both offered in a variety of sizes and some models even offer a rotating top.
The hydraulic table is usually more economical than the electric and still offers the benefit of easy height adjustment with minimal physical effort. The up and down movement can be a bit shaky but the lower cost is a plus.
The big benefit of the electric table is the greater height variances available and smoother action for lift and lower. Typically electric tables are priced higher than the hydraulic tables.
Non–corrosive, professional pet tubs can offer years of value and ease of maintenance. Professional pet tubs offer many advantages over typical mainstream tubs. Pet tubs are elevated; a must when it comes to a professional operation. They come in various sizes and offer built in ramps, doors, shampoo holders, racks, hair traps and a variety of other upgrades to suit different requirements and budgets.
Stainless steel is a solid choice and may offer many years of service if properly cared for. The tubs in my salon are more than fourteen years old and still look and function as new.
Most tub manufacturers also produce tub racks to fit their tubs. A rack in the tub will help to elevate the pet from the tub floor and facilitate easier rinsing. I recommend placing a heavy rubber mat that has drainage holes, on top of the rack. This provides a softer platform and will help prevent long nails becoming entrapped in the rack crevices.
It is advisable to place rubber floor matting in and around all wet areas. Some durable rubber mats have drainage holes and can be trimmed to fit specific areas such as tub grates and kennel mats. Other choices for slip–resistant matting with drainage can be found in many wholesale pet supply companies or online.
• Shampoo Systems
Shampoo bathing systems can help to reduce shampoo costs, energy and time. There are a large variety of systems available to choose from. Compressor driven pre–mixed shampoo applications, recirculating and non-recirculating all function differently. Some will require electric, others depend upon water pressure for shampoo dilution. I have used most of these over time and find that what works well for one salon is not right for another so the best bet is to get direct information from the manufacturers.
High velocity dryers save time without the use of heating elements. Some manufacturers offer quiet motors that are controlled by a variable speed dial for fine-tuning the airflow to the velocity you need. The twin motors warm the air without a heating element. This helps to make drying faster and more comfortable for the animal. Washable filters help to keep pet hair out of the motors. The variable speed allows the dryer to not only high–velocity dry, but also gently dry at lower velocity, dry pet faces, small dogs, and cats.
There is a diversity of fluff dryers available with a variety of amenities. Fluff dryers use a heating element to heat the air and provide a steady flow of warm air at a lower rate than high velocity dryers. The purpose is to be able to direct the flow of air onto the pet while brushing. These are available as stand dryers or wall mountable in a variety of styles and makes.
Walk-in kennel dryers can provide safe, hands–free, stress–free drying for one or two pets simultaneously. This method is especially good for cats, puppies and senior pets that do not tolerate high velocity blow–drying. The best walk-in kennel dryers provide easy access to the filter, timed auto shut off and temperature control. A glass front allows monitoring of pets at all times. The average pet will dry in twenty to thirty minutes. As with any piece of equipment, pets should be monitored at all times.
• Keeping the Humidity Down
The use of a dehumidifier may prolong equipment life, reduce drying times and improve HVAC efficiency. A dehumidifier can change humid air conditions in the bathing area into dry, arid air. This helps to dry pets fast and keep a healthy environment for staff as well as pets. A humid environment results in hard to dry pets, rust forming on valuable grooming tools and equipment, and promotes wet pet odors and mold. I have witnessed a huge improvement in reducing humidity in our salon environment by adding the use of a dehumidifier.
• Clipper Vacuum System
Clipper vacuum systems will improve efficiency all around. The hair is vacuumed as you clip, reducing the floor vacuuming time and keeping the bulk of clipped coat off of your table and floor. The constant airflow over the blades keeps them cool, which prolongs their life and helps to keep them sharp. Repeatedly going over the pet with the clipper is not needed because the coat is lifted as you clip, providing a smooth finish. This also reduces the amount of scissor finishing needed to complete the groom.
Your budget will probably determine equipment choices. Make a list of must-haves descending to the wish list. Contact various manufacturers to get estimates for services, warranties and pricing. Industry trade shows are the best resource for gathering information and getting hands-on demonstrations and information about the products and equipment available.
Setting up an efficient, safe and appealing salon requires careful research. Many manufacturers offer assistance in designing your dream salon and may offer discounted packages, free or reduced shipping, or additional perks such as shampoo or other supplies. Take full advantage of their knowledge and, above all, do your homework!
Hiring the right contractor and designing your floor plan are key steps in the build–out of your new salon. Creating an efficient plan and following some basic concepts can help you to create the salon of your dreams.
Kathy Rose is an internationally acclaimed speaker, contest judge and columnist for Groomer to Groomer magazine. A four time GroomTeam USA award winning travel team member, Kathy has designed and built multiple successful grooming salons with nominations for top boutique salon in the country four times and cover of Groomer to Groomer Buyer’s Guide.