Interview: How an F&B consultant disrupted the UAE’s five-star spa sector

Interview: How an F&B consultant disrupted the UAE’s five-star spa sector

“Solace Home Spa has luxury written all over it” says founder Panchali Mahendra

As managing director of Atelier House, Panchali Mahendra is a well-known name in the GCC’s F&B sector. Success stories in her restaurant portfolio include Michelin-star-winning 11 Woodfire and Marea Dubai. 

In 2022, she has broadened her horizons, venturing into the profitable, ever-growing wellness sector by introducing Solace Home Spa. Her luxury Balinese-inspired spa service brings the five-star trappings of a hotel spa directly into people’s homes with a range of services, from massages to facials.

“The UAE is a land of opportunities,” says Panchali, “And I’m glad to be able to nurture another homegrown business concept in the region.”

CT met with the hospitality entrepreneur to find out more.

Connecting Travel: What made you decide to diversify from F&B into the wellness space?
Panchali Mahendra: I always want to invest my time and energy in projects that I particularly like. I love hospitality so that's the reason I diversified, and I chose the wellness and spa industry because the other thing that resonates with me is the importance of taking care of yourself. Also, as we all know, the F&B hospitality industry is ever so demanding. It pretty much leaves workers with very little or no time for ourselves, so I personally had a need for this kind of home service. When you work such long hours, the body is tired and the mind is tired, and the best thing that you can do is to meditate or rejuvenate. A massage session is an ideal form of rejuvenation.


CT: Five-star hotels stand to lose local business to a home spa service that matches them on quality and service. Is that your comp set?
PM: I didn't use to love having spa sessions. It was very tedious with so little time to drive to a spa and then having to drive again at the end of the spa session in the heat and pollution. The whole purpose of having a spa session was defeated. That’s why I wanted to create a high-end spa experience at home, addressing the needs of busy mums and couples, and providing them with wellness and relaxation in their own space.

CT: Are five-star hotel spas the competition you’re targeting?
PM: Right now, I wouldn’t be able to say that was my competition because it's a very different concept. What I'm trying to do is something very high-end. I have not been able to experience this level of detail, this level of service and offering by any entity. I wanted to make sure that I am a pioneer – a champion in my own sector. For now, I'm not thinking of the competition, I'm just trying to build a brand on my own. But if we really have to compare Solace Spa, it would be with any great wellness retreat or spa in hotels or homes that offer the most luxurious holistic wellness spa concepts.


CT: What lessons from the F&B business have helped you establish Solace Spa?PM: Both wellness and F&B are part of the hospitality sector. They’re just an extension of hospitality and it comes naturally to me because I am part of that sector. I wanted to take the pillars and the ethos of the F&B sector into the spa arena. What I'm bringing from my F&B knowledge is an eye for detail; I ensured that everything was high-end like I do with all my restaurants. It has luxury written all over it. Most important are my therapists – they are experts like my chefs. I work with only the best therapists providing the best service.

Solace Home Spa prices start from AED325 for a massage; open daily for bookings between 10am to 8pm; call +971 50 684 3121, email booking@solacespa.ae or visit www.solacehomespa.ae 

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