Level Up. Desk Less.

How the Deskless Salon is Boosting Retail and Retention for Apotheca Salon & Barbershop in Austin

Like so many other adaptations that salons have had to make over the past few years, the long-lived era of the bustling front desk may have met its demise and the debate is on across the country – is it a change for the better or worse?

Between covid-era restrictions and the evolution of technology, the role of the front desk has been redefined if nothing else. Client expectations have grown and management’s expectations have changed and that requires looking at front-desk operations through a new lens.

But, does a completely new experience at the desk make sense for your business? Are your staff and clients ready for the changes it brings? And, most importantly, is it possible to keep your client + staff + brand connection intact while desking less?

If you asked Steffan Bentley, owner of Apotheca in Austin, TX, you’d get a resounding yes! So, regardless of if your salon is ready to take the plunge and go completely deskless like Bentley, or you just want to dip your toes, Steffan shared his unique approach and a few ways Aura has leveled-up the front desk experience at Apotheca, while not leaving it completely behind.

Don’t Ditch Reception – Ditch the Transactions

Bentley explains that taking a hybrid desk approach has worked wonders for client experience, stylist control, and retail sales.

“Our front still has a desk, but at it is our Director of Guest and Staff Relations, which you might compare to a hotel concierge.”

– Steffan Bentley, Apotheca

However, unlike a traditional salon reception space, no transactions take place. Instead, Apotheca’s guests are greeted and shown a QR code upon arrival that brings up the salon’s app, which empowers clients to book, self-check-in and make payments, all synced with the salon in real-time. This allows the Director of Guest and Staff Relations to support the stylists and ensure customers have their best personal experience from start to finish.

The Relations team member, using an iPad, is able to walk clients through current promotions, tweak appointments, add previously purchased retail items, and prebook future appointments right on the spot – even before the guest makes it to the chair. The team member is also able to ensure that any products the stylist is recommending for their clients are on prominent display at each station during the time of service. 

Shift the Sales to the Trusted Professional – Your Stylist

“The stylist is the trusted professional and should be seen as such, by shifting all sales into the hands of the stylist, you are allowing the client to interact 100% with their professional service provider for their service and future product and service recommendations.”

– Steffan Bentley, Apotheca

To accommodate, Bentley purchased iPads for all of his stylists and had them perform all functions within Aura from day one. “It truly changed the paradigm of selling, because oftentimes, retail sales are lost in translation from the chair to the front desk. Now we keep the expertise in the hands of the stylist, allowing them to easily make retail and booking part of the service as a whole and it has truly leveled-up the whole experience,” says Bentley.

Make Checking Out Quick and Easy – Offer a Contactless Option

By putting technology into the hands of the stylist, a concierge can focus on ensuring that the professional retail recommendations of the stylist are directly in front of the client as the service takes place. That means the days of awkwardly walking around the retail area with the concierge are over, and instead the professional stylist is making informed and accurate recommendations for products related directly to the client. At the end of the session, when all services and products have been added, the stylist taps to release the ticket to the client, who uses their app to make a contactless payment. If a client doesn’t want to keep a card on file, no problem. The provider can also utilize the software to take a traditional payment in the salon.

“Having everything happen at the chair has been key not only to our retail success, but maintaining our goal of making sure each individual customer is heard, valued, and loved,” Bentley says.

This approach has worked well for Apotheca – across the past five months the salon is up an average of $32.48 in retail per client ticket.

Put the Control Into Your Stylists Hands and Growth is Inevitable

Being a stylist himself, Bentley knew when he opened Apotheca that he wanted to put more control into the service provider’s hands. Aura Salonware has allowed him to not only save on front desk payroll and training, but improves the overall customer experience while giving stylists the ability to control their own books.

With Aura’s intuitive workflow, stylists can book appointments right from the chair, while the software does all of the work to ensure everything is properly arranged on the books. While working, the easy to navigate provider app allows stylists to quickly reference formulas, client and appointment notes, all historical activity, and system-suggested add-ons based on the services the client is receiving. It truly is a game changer to empower stylists to look after their clients right at the chair, while simultaneously growing their sales.


Bringing on a desk-less approach to your salon is easier than you may think and the return is immediate. Stylists will instantly appreciate how technology allows them to confidently manage their books and grow total sales while improving their overall client experience – and clients will embrace the ease of the user-friendly app’s personalized, professional, and on-brand approach.

Contact Aura Salonware for a guided tour on how you can desk less and level up your salon.

About Steffan

As owner-founder of Apotheca Academy and Apotheca Salon & Barbershop in Austin, color educator, platform stylist and creative director Steffan Bentley strives morning til’ night to cultivate networks and systems of education, support, wellness and inspiration for everyone in his orbit, both in the beauty industry and beyond.

He’s dedicated to enriching his team in their careers; his students in their learning; his fellow salons in their teaching; his clients in their style journeys; and in uplifting nonprofits, community organizations, local artists and small businesses.

Elevating people, bringing amazing education to every stylist and salon, representing and furthering the LGBTQ+ community, making every client look and feel special and unique, and spreading good in the world is what Steffan is all about. He’s constantly on the lookout for opportunities for his team to shine creatively and push the envelope with their artistry and passion (and win amazing awards in the process!).

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