By David Hobson
VERSATILE: The right uniform reflects the personality of a restaurant, whether that’s casual, formal or in between.
COMFORT: A good uniform must fit properly.
Restaurant workers’ uniforms are among the most creative uniforms of any industry. In many cases, restaurant uniforms are light years ahead of uniforms in most other industries in terms of being effective marketing tools. Whether they are to look professional, casual, elegant, festive, sporty or comforting, restaurant employees, especially servers, often wear attire that reflects the brand identity of the restaurant. Restaurant operators should plan carefully to provide uniforms that will convey the desired image to guests, customers, business associates and the general public.
Well-thought-out uniforms are an integral part of a marketing program. They help customers feel the intended mood of a restaurant by complementing more obvious marketing materials. When planning updates to employee uniform designs, however, you may wish to consider a variety of factors that impact how effectively a uniform makes an impression of the restaurant’s brand identity in the customer’s mind.
Marketing and Uniform Design
Uniform rental companies provide assistance to customers that goes beyond simply providing new uniforms, picking up dirty uniforms, washing them, and delivering clean ones. These companies can also ensure that your uniforms are ideal from a functional standpoint, based on the jobs for which they will be worn. They help customers select styles, fabrics, and colors that convey the desired business image to everyone who sees uniformed employees.
The Uniform and Textile Service Association (UTSA) is an international trade organization representing these firms. UTSA recommendations for uniform design and development include:
- Design on the basis of safety and functionality concerns first. Textile service providers have up-to-date knowledge of the latest textile developments and technologies and how they will perform under various conditions. For more on today’s high-performance fabrics, see the SIDEBAR accompanying this article;
- Maintain a consistent marketing message. If you use a professionally-designed logo on uniforms, make certain that all logo colors and background colors are consistent with the same colors used in other materials, such as menus, wine lists, carry-out bags, signage, etc. This consistency will help your restaurant appear organized and professional;
- Different uniforms for different players. Uniforms with varying textiles and designs, but with common color themes and logos, can be planned for workers in widely different occupations within one company. For example, a bartender working in air-conditioning may need to wear a heavier fabric or longer sleeves than on-the-go servers or cooks standing over hot stoves.
- Think about colors. If you’re developing a new color scheme and branding program for your restaurant, think carefully about how prospective colors will work in uniform design. For example, colors like orange and lime green are trendy and can help convey a festive image; however, they also can look terrible on people who do not have the right coloring to wear them. If you want to use high-impact colors, a consultant from a uniform rental company can help you incorporate them attractively into uniforms that will look good on many people;
- Accessorize. Top off your uniform ensemble with caps, aprons and other elements that reflect the uniform color scheme and incorporate logos or other graphic elements;
- Differentiate. If possible, include a visual point of visual distinction that customers will easily remember. A uniform services company can help you design a visual element that will reflect your restaurant’s brand and fit well with your overall uniform scheme. For example, if your restaurant’s brand identity is a casual wine bar serving trendy menu items, a wine-splash graphic on servers’ aprons might be appropriate. If your restaurant serves French food, an embroidered French flag emblem at shoulder level could add a point of distinction;
- The right fit. Remember that proper fit and state of repair also impact the appearance of uniforms. When you rent your company’s uniforms, instead of purchasing them, uniform rental professionals expertly measure and fit each of your employees. Professional garment replacement and mending, staples of a rental agreement, will ensure that uniforms are maintained in an appropriate manner.
When your company’s uniforms provide comfort and convenience for employees, and also work effectively to lay the groundwork for good customer relations, you’re getting the greatest possible benefit from your investment in them. Visit www.uniforminfo.com to learn more or to find a UTSA member by location.
David Hobson is president of the Uniform and Textile Service Association. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
New Uniform Fabric Technologies
In the past, your employees may have been working hard for hours after the fresh, professional appearance of their uniforms disappeared. You may have faced complaints from servers concerned about the appearance of their uniforms, bartenders who felt constricted by their uniforms when dashing from one end of the bar to the other, or kitchen staff wishing for lighter-weight fabrics.
Uniform manufacturers and service providers now make it less complicated and less difficult to meet employers’ and workers’ needs. Today’s uniforms are engineered to be better than ever before. They are less constricting and soils are much more easily removed. State-of-the-art textile features of particular interest for restaurant uniform applications include:
Hydrophilic fabrics used in work apparel are 100 percent polyester knits, but these are not the polyesters of the 1970s. They combine the advantages of both all-cotton fabrics and cotton/poly blends, using spun yarns that give a truly cotton-like feel. These fabrics have the softness and breathable qualities that active workers prefer, and excellent soil release properties that enable them to look like new after laundering. They also resist wrinkling, compared with 65 percent cotton/35percent polyester blends that offer reduced wrinkling, but are less breathable. And the new fabrics’ durability makes them cost-effective because they hold up well with intensive laundering and wear by physically active workers.
Lycra®, which is commonly incorporated into fabric blends in consumer clothing to add stretch capability, is less suited to work-wear because it can be hot to wear during extended activity. Also, its limited durability may make it unattractive to employers. However, wicking Lycra® is now available and may increase the wearer’s comfort during active work. Or, instead of using Lycra®, a mechanical stretch can be woven into uniform textile fibers.
Flame-Resistance Enhances Safety
Alternatives include a flame-resistant finish that can be added to cotton garments, with the finish also increasing the fabric’s color retention. Nomex®, an inherently flame-resistant textile, is available for production of uniform pants, shirts, coveralls and outerwear.
Dan Bendall is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He is also a member of Foodservice Consultants Society International. He can be reached at 240-314-0660.