Server Uniforms: Great Style Needs a Standard

Interior main dining room_GregPowersThe word ‘uniform’ is defined as: not varying or changing; staying the same at all times, in all places, or for all parts or members.

That statement is simple enough, but when creating restaurant business plans and hospitality concepts, there is importance in uniformity and consistency, especially when it comes to the uniforms that your staff will wear. Consider the look and appearance of your staff as a part of your brand mainstays, which also include the food, service, and atmosphere.

As restaurant consultants, when discussing uniforms with our clients, our goal is to bring best practices front and center, and acknowledge the fact that carefully thought out uniforms translate a concept, and they create a sense of belonging amongst the staff. And, importantly, standard uniforms make it easier for guests to identify staff members that are working at the front desk or in the dining room, and are a reflection of the experience that the guest is about to have, so, staff had better be dressed for success!

With that, we asked the General Manager of VSAG client Farmers Fishers Bakers, Kendra Graves, for some proven uniform guidelines to create uniformity across a brand concept.

Brand Extension. As you carefully consider team member uniforms, the most important factor to recognize is that staff attire is an extension of your brand, says Kendra. From colors to textures to styles to accessories, creating a look that best represents your brand is key. For example, if you are a fish house, a nautical theme (blues & whites) works; but if your establishment is an upscale, urban eatery than chic, sophisticated all black ensembles might be your best bet.

Manage Attire From Day One. Setting the tone for a standard of attire excellence prior to staff officially joining the team is important. Therefore, Kendra recommends providing each new hire with a concise, thorough, and illustrated Attire Guidelines document (outlining/providing visuals of all acceptable staff uniform guidelines from clothing/aprons to shoes to hair/facial hair styles to jewelry) before their first official workday. Introduce new hires to a staff member that models perfect attire, so new hires know exactly how to present themselves. *NOTE: if varied attire is worn (i.e. servers vs. managers vs. front desk), each should be detailed within the guidelines.

Attire Inspections. Kendra suggests having managers inspect staff attire at every pre-shift meeting (look for correct attire, pressed clothing/aprons, cleanliness, staff on the ready with approved accessories like pens, order books, etc).  If necessary, unapproved attire should be discussed one on one with the team member immediately following the pre-shift meeting, and if an item needs to be replaced or corrected (depending on urgency) Kendra usually allows staff three to five business days to do so. It’s also helpful to keep an iron readily available for anyone that hasn’t quite been able to get a shirt pressed.

Personal Style. Although Kendra believes it is important for staff to display their own sense of style, and allows for guidelines to be interpreted at times, these instances are always in the best interest of staff uniformity … and to enhancing the overall brand.