That’s the view of Ric Shonfeld, commercial director at workwear supplier Tibard, who said the ‘first impressions count’ adage has never been more true than it is today.
“More often than not that first impression is made by a member of staff, so there is no doubt that the way they are presented, as well as their manner, plays a very important part in how the venue in question is perceived by the customer,” he said.
“Stepping into an establishment to be greeted by personnel in crease-free uniforms suggests cleanliness and attention to detail, and provides a positive start to the experience.”
While it is important that employees are smartly-dressed, comfort is also high on the agenda.
“Dressing your staff in the correct workwear in terms of style, fit and design will help them to feel confident and relaxed and therefore more likely to perform to their best,” said Shonfeld.
Dressing staff in the correct workwear will help them feel confident.
In order to ensure that staff are as comfortable as possible in their workwear, he advised operators to involve their staff throughout the purchasing process.
“Staff want uniforms that are comfortable to wear and often this means providing a tailored garment that suits the wearer,” added Shonfeld.
“To that end we would always recommend that an employer carries 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.”
Shonfeld said workwear will tend to last longer the less frequently it is washed. That being the case, it is vital that each employee is provided with several changes of clothes, so they are not forced to wash their work uniforms on a daily basis.
For chefs and back of house staff, Shonfeld recommended purchasing five jackets, three trousers, two skull caps and five aprons (totalling around £75 per person), while for front of house employees he recommended three blouses or shirts, five aprons and bibs, at a cost of around £50 per person (front of house staff are usually expected to supply their own trousers).
Purchasing the workwear is only half the story, of course. It is equally important that any staff clothing is kept clean and presentable.
“You may spend a long time choosing the right look for your establishment, but if that item is not processed and cleaned properly, it will still look dirty and give a negative impression,” said David Hill, sales and marketing director of Johnsons Stalbridge Linen Services.
“And critically, with kitchen wear, you have the added risk of cross-contamination so it has to be cleaned to the right specification.”
Hill said restaurant and pub operators are increasingly outsourcing their laundry requirements to ensure that the highest hygiene standards are met.
“With a commercial laundry, uniforms will be washed at specific critical temperatures,” he explained.
“The minute you ask staff to launder their own clothing in a domestic environment, you are exposing your business to the risks of washing items at too low a temperature, and risking the potentially serious hazard of cross-contamination.”
Hill added that the choice of fabric is another important consideration, with many operators switching cotton, which can shrink, for polycotton.