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National Restaurant Association - Dressed for success: Today’s uniforms combine style and performance

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Dressed for success: Today’s uniforms combine style and performance

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WaitStuff Uniforms’ Port Authority® Stain-Resistant Roll Sleeve Twill Shirt

 

A recent remodel at Steve & Rocky’s restaurant in Novi, Michigan, spurred another change – new uniforms. For Steve & Rocky’s, selecting a new uniform was not just about creating a brand image but also about pleasing their internal customers, the waitstaff.

With employee input, leadership selected a palette of six vibrant colors that complement the restaurant’s color scheme and let each server choose which shade to pair with black pants. The result, says general manager Duane Brady, is a staff that takes more pride in the uniforms they wear to work each day. If you’re in the market for new uniforms, here are some ways to help employees dress for success.

  • Keep them cool and comfortable. If you can’t stand the heat, get uniforms designed to keep you cool. Lightweight fabrics, short sleeves, moisture-wicking material and ventilated uniforms are popular in today’s kitchens. “Gone are the days of correlating heavyweight fabric with better quality,” says David Bar, vice president of Happy Chef Uniforms, based in Butler, N.J. Moisture-wicking material is also treasured by servers, says Lory Struver, owner of WaitStuff uniforms, based in Prescott, Ariz. “It keeps your staff feeling good and looking fresh for customers.”
     
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    Happy Chef's mobile-friendly #SMART Waist Aprons. Protected by secure Velcro-close tabs, a center pocket is sized for tablets while a side pocket holds smartphones
    Find a flattering fit. The new uniforms for female servers at Steve & Rocky’s feature a feminine cut favored by the employees wearing them, says Brady. Fitted, gender-specific styles are replacing boxy, unisex uniforms in the front- and back-of-the-house at countless restaurants, says Struver, whose WaitStuff company outfitted Steve & Rocky’s. “Today’s uniforms fit more like something you would buy in the store for yourself.”
     
  • Be stylish, keeping your concept and brand in mind. Fashion influences are driving current uniform trends, says Marcee Katz, senior vice president of innovation for Chef Works in San Diego, California. The company’s new Urban Collection features hip, trendy and unique trims along with denim fabric aprons. “Most chain restaurants would like to have a more relaxed vibe,” says Katz.

    “Your uniform look is just as essential as your menu and food,” says Katz. “It’s about your brand image.” Select styles that match your restaurant’s personality, whether they be silk-screened T-shirts, culinary-inspired chef shirts or innovative long-sleeve dress shirts. Says Katz: “Or, why not offer a variety of choices within a color range so that everyone has an option to flatter their figure?”
     
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    Happy Chef chef coats come in a variety of colors and styles
    Color me stylish. Green tea, merlot, eggplant, custard. They might sound like menu items, but today they’re also uniform colors. While black and white still reign supreme – and are safe choices – new colors have sprouted up, particularly in the kitchen. With an increase in open kitchens, “the back of the house is becoming the front of the house,” says Barr, “and we’re seeing it freshened up with colors.”
     
  • Focus on functionality. Stain release and wrinkle-resistant options help uniforms stand up to the rigors of restaurant work and project a professional look. Katz is seeing an increase in shorter, above-the-knee aprons that are practical for busy servers. Happy Chef’s Smart line accommodates mobile devices; it features aprons with protective pockets for tablets and chef’s coats with headphone pass-through ports.
     
  • Invite employee input. Boost morale by letting employees know that you value their opinions. Barr suggests selecting two or three options and asking employees to vote. If it works for your concept, let employees have individual say about certain aspects of their uniform – like Steve & Rocky’s, where they select their shirt color. Or, you could require a certain shirt, but let employees show their individuality by choosing their own ties.
     
  • Contain costs. Don’t automatically choose the least expensive option, since it could cost more in the long run. “You get what you pay for,” says Struver. Uniforms take a lot of wear-and-tear; select a quality product that won’t need replacement next month. Evaluate which features are worth the investment.

    To cut costs, select in-stock items rather than custom-made uniforms, recommends Katz. You might want to use silk-screened logos, which are less expensive than embroidery, she notes, although embroidery could be worth the expense if it fits your concept better. Struver recommends simplifying your logo—removing details or colors—and selectively identifying which items to logo. Buying in bulk can cut your per-item cost.
     
  • Test out a sample. Once you’ve made a selection, get samples to examine in the light of your restaurant. Wear and wash the uniform a few times, and see how it performs, advises Struver.
     
  • Try them on for size. Since sizing can differ from one manufacturer to another, measure your employees and use a sizing chart for proper fit. Better yet, says Struver, borrow a “sizing set” from your vendor and have each employee see which size fits best.

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