Uniforms must follow form and function


First impressions mean everything in the hospitality business, uniform suppliers insist

IT’S no longer unusual to see hospitality staff cut a dash with modern, stylish uniforms – and there are sound commercial reasons why. Not only can clothing convey a positive message about a venue’s image – some suppliers say consumers have come to expect sharply dressed staff as their demands of food, drink and service have risen – it’s thought that fashionable and comfortable workwear can have a positive effect on team morale. For the workwear buyer, there’s certainly no shortage of choice, with plenty of suppliers on hand offering a multitude of options for shirts, aprons and suits, many reflecting the changing trends on the high street. But, as with everything in the current climate, cost has become an increasingly important part of the buying process.
The rising price of one key material means operators are weighing up their investment in staff uniforms more carefully, according to Tibard, the workwear supplier and manufacturer. “With the price of cotton continuing to rise at an alarming rate, there is no doubt that there is even more pressure being placed upon suppliers by buyers,” said Rick Shonfield, commercial director. “It is clear from dealings we have had with buyers that they are already doing a lot more shopping around. “The rise in the cost of cotton means that creating bespoke items, always a more expensive option, has become even more so and so if buyers are trying to create a point of difference they are looking to use a combination of ‘off the peg’ garments.”
Important though cost is, it isn’t the only practical consideration a workwear buyer must bear in mind. “Staff want uniforms that are comfortable to wear and often this means providing a tailored garment that suits the wearer,” Shonfield explained.
“Employers should take note of this as staff who feel comfortable in their uniform and look the part will project a much more welcoming image to customers, something that has never been more important in the current climate. To that end we always recommend that an employer carry out trials of garments with their staff rather than just leaving the decision up to the purchasing manager. By involving them in the decision-making process you add worth to the chosen garment because staff feel as though they have had a direct involvement and have hopefully ended up with a uniform that they are happy with rather than something that has been forced upon them.”
Style is another key ingredient buyers should consider, suppliers say, especially for image-conscious outlets like style bars and boutique hotels.
In the hospitality business, first impressions really do count, said Ruaraidh Macleod, managing director of Kylemark, the Ayr-based independent supplier of corporate clothing and staff uniforms.
“A simple, cheap-looking printed T-shirt used to be the standard for many bars and restaurants across the country, but now with service standards and customer expectations rapidly on the rise, the importance of having smart, well-dressed staff who are easily identifiable to the customer is a crucial factor in the success of any business,” he told SLTN.
“Formal shirts with crisp bib aprons are very much on trend at the moment with many establishments keen to promote their brand with quality embroidered logos to the front of the apron and often to the back napes of shirts.” Macleod also suggested the rise to prominence of food in on-trade operations was having an influence in uniform choices. “With many licensed premises relying on food service and dining for a large chunk of their revenue, waiting staff must look clean and competent,” he added.
“Long-sleeved mandarin collar shirts in black is a classic yet sophisticated look and with a nice embroidered logo to the left chest, a quality look is achieved.” So it seems that any operator planning to buy workwear has plenty to think about.
However, it appears that those who achieve the holy grail of price, comfort and style can look forward to better results for their business. Nick Jubert, managing director of Denny’s, the London-based chef wear and catering uniform specialist, said both customers and staff will benefit from the right workwear choice. “Uniforms play a vital part in creating and conveying a positive brand image,” he said. “Whether a classic waistcoat, colourful apron or stylishly tailored suit, uniform should be fit for purpose and comfortable to wear. The part that uniform plays in staff morale shouldn’t be underestimated.”