This week’s buzz phrase: facial hair.

The first sign is a new report from the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly that hotel guests think less of employees with beards. Respondents in the school’s survey said that the most effective employees happen to be good-looking and clean-shaven, and they tend to smile.

The study, conducted by Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University faculty members, considered how appearance translates to assurance. The researchers asked a panel of 102 consumers drawn from a national panel to judge employees' knowledge and courtesy and their ability to convey trust and confidence—all based on their photograph. From this comparison of carefully designed photographs of models, hotel guests ascribed greater assurance ability to clean-shaven men, and to all men and women who smile and are attractive.

The beard effect did not influence the guests' assessment of the African-American models, but the bearded Caucasian men were judged less effective than their clean-shaven counterparts (smile or no smile).

Would restaurant guests come to the same conclusions regarding restaurant employees? We have no reason to believe otherwise.

Based on the results, the authors suggest that hospitality employers take these measures:

1. Adopt a no-beards policy, with certain exceptions (such as religious belief). “Employers may set grooming or facial hair standards as long as the employer does not discriminate against Title Vii protected classes….based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability,” the authors note.

2. Incorporate “genuine smile” practice as part of their normal training. The authors also point out that since smiles reflect the work environment, ”an effective way to obtain frequent and genuine smiles is to create an organizational setting that fosters genuine positive emotions among employees.”

3. “Establish guidelines for associates’ appearance” that include rules governing factors such as sideburn length, hair color, makeup and more. “Terms that are subject to individual interpretation should be avoided, such as ‘professional appearance’ and ‘appropriate length’ in favor of more concrete phrases,” the authors advise.
    
Access to the study report is available for a limited time.

At least during the month of November, one restaurant chain is defying the conclusions of this study and rewarding facial hair cultivation. Del Frisco’s Grille is participating in Movember, an international campaign that encourages men to grow moustaches throughout the month of November to draw attention to men’s health issues.

Each of Del Frisco’s units hosted Nov. 1 shaving parties to help participants start the month with a clean shave, and the company has an official team to raise money for the cause. Company c.e.o. Mark Mednansky, who normally sports a goatee, jumped in the barber chair at the Dallas Del Frisco’s and allowed the bottom half of his goatee to be shaved off.

Throughout the month the company will run a Moustache Mondays promotion: Guests who arrive with a moustache receive free appetizers. On select days moustached guests can also receive $10 gift cards. Any female guests who sport fake moustaches or a festive moustache on a stick can join in the promos as well. And a percentage of a special Man Up Stache Up menu will be donated to the Movember Foundation.