Uniform approach can pay dividends

• On display: the trend for open kitchens means chefs and kitchen staff are in view like never before, underlining the importance of clean workwear.
• On display: the trend for open kitchens means chefs and kitchen staff are in view like never before, underlining the importance of clean workwear.

Workwear which is both functional and stylish can boost venue’s image, firms say

THE trend for open kitchens seems to be gathering pace in Scotland, with customers now able to view chefs and kitchen staff at work in a growing number of bars and restaurants.
And while the feature is often credited with providing theatre and enhancing the dining out experience for consumers, it also means kitchen staff are in view like never before.
It is, therefore, crucial that they look their best at all times – and that includes staff uniforms.
Workwear firms contacted by SLTN say the uniforms worn by front and back of house staff can have a major influence on consumers’ perceptions of an outlet.
“Customers will use the appearance of staff, both front and back of house, as an indication of the standard of food and service they are likely to receive,” said Rick Shonfeld, director of Tibard.
“If they are clean and tidy and uniforms are sharp this suggests a positive dining experience.
“Open kitchens are now all the rage so you wouldn’t expect to see jeans and trainers in the kitchen as it sends the wrong signals for sure.
“The remit for most front of house staff is that the employer supplies their apron and each staff member supplies his or her own trousers, shirts and shoes.
“However, as we know, appearance is crucial and many of our customers are now ensuring continuity of appearance front of house by making sure that these items are also professionally cleaned and pressed rather than being washed at home.”
It’s not just an outlet’s image that can be affected if uniforms are not up to scratch in the cleanliness stakes.
Stephen McNally, Glasgow general manager at Johnsons Stalbridge Linen Services, said workwear that is not properly cleaned can pose major health and safety risks.
“Businesses understand that professional-looking workwear is very important,” he said.
“They know that if their chefs’ wear is not processed and cleaned properly, it will give a negative impression and, critically, with kitchen wear you have the added risk of cross-contamination so it has to be cleaned to the right specification.
“With a commercial laundry, uniforms will be washed at specific critical temperatures.
“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.”
Choosing the right workwear in the first place is key, according to McNally.
And there are a number of factors to consider, from the style of the uniform to the type of fabric used to make it.
“Chefs want to look good but their workwear has to be practical in terms of comfort and stain resistance, and it has to be of good and lasting quality,” added McNally.
“There are a number of fabrics in use for chefs’ wear and they tend to be cotton, polycotton or polyester.
“The trend has been away from cotton, which can shrink leaving staff wearing the wrong sizes which, in turn, is uncomfortable and lacks appearance. Polycotton is an ideal choice as it holds its shape and colour, it is easy to iron and finish and it can breathe – an important factor in the kitchen.”
It’s a similar story when it comes to choosing front of house staff uniforms.
Shonfeld at Tibard said it’s important to strike a balance between function and style when it comes to workwear for bar and waiting staff.
“Staff want uniforms that are comfortable to wear and often this means providing a tailored garment that suits the wearer,” he said.
“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.
“To that end, we would always recommend that an employer carried out trials of garments with their staff. Involving staff in the decision-making process adds worth to the chosen garment because they feel as though they have had 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 Tibard has also witnessed growing demand for bespoke staff uniforms.
“It’s mainly because operators opening up small chains or single sites don’t want their customers to see staff in uniforms or workwear that they might see elsewhere,” he added.
“They want something that makes them stand out from their competitors and the easiest way to do this is either to go for a garment that is off the peg and embellished with embroidery or screen printing, or one that is made bespoke.”
Cost is another major consideration for operators.
But McNally said using a commercial laundry like Johnsons Stalbridge cuts out the initial outlay on staff uniforms.
“The workwear is hired from us, chefs are assigned their own set of chefs’ wear and the hire cost is included in the weekly wash charge,” he explained.
“Stalbridge has thorough quality control procedures so if a jacket is coming to the end of its life then it is simply replaced.”