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Choosing the Right Uniforms for Your Restaurant Staff

Rich Sharptek
Rich Sharptek

Staff uniforms speak volumes to customers. Here's how to choose the right attire.

Make a statement from the moment you open your restaurant's doors by keeping your brand and purpose in mind when choosing staff uniforms.

Did you know there are more than 600,000 restaurants in the U.S.? To be successful in this market, your restaurant needs to stand out. Make a statement from the moment you enter the market by keeping your brand and purpose in mind when choosing your staff uniforms.

Style that reflects your message

As with any business, uniform style is everything when it comes to impressing customers. The style you choose will largely depend on the message you're conveying. For example, if you want to attract high-end customers, having your staff wear a T-shirt isn't going to work.

Crisp and clean

If you want your staff to look crisply professional, choose waistcoats and pants. When sourcing uniforms, it's always a good idea to provide two per employee, just in case they need to change between each shift. Don't forget accessories, like aprons for the front-of-house employees.

Casual but neat

On the other hand, perhaps you're running a casual café where all are welcome. You could choose a restaurant uniform style that's more laid back, but you still want the staff to look professional and neat.

Even a casual look needs to be durable, washable and stain resistant. A poly blend will keep its shape, wear after wear and wash after wash.

This is where T-shirts are acceptable, but try not to compromise on quality when it comes to materials. High-quality fabric means fewer replacements for you and more wear for them.

Collared shirts

If you find yourself needing to bridge the gap between a professional and casual look, consider polo shirts. Polo shirts are ideal for urban venues, where having a contemporary appearance is everything.

Usually, staff can pair them with pants of their choice. Add your logo to the polos; they act as great advertising and make your restaurant stand out in customers' minds.

Branding that supports your message

Now that you've tackled your uniform's style, it's time to think about color. Much like the cut and design of the fabric, colors convey different messages. For example, many people associate blue and green with caring and calm environments, which is why you commonly see these colors in hospitals and assisted living homes. In contrast, red lends itself well to fun or invigorating settings.

Darker colors wear better

For a professional establishment, consider the colors you would see at a wedding or formal function. This usually means the primary colors will be black, navy, or midnight blue, paired with secondary colors of white or beige.

Using these colors isn't just good for looking professional, but they're also easy to accessorize and keep clean. That way, your staff won't have any problems choosing shoes and other accessories that complement your restaurant's uniform.

Vibrant colors pop

If your restaurant is a casual but fast-paced restaurant, choose colors that are vibrant enough to reflect it. Think about the restaurants you visit when you're going out for fast food. The staff is often wearing yellow, red or both.

Flattering colors

Returning to the whole edgy uniform idea, you'll still want your staff to look amazing. Purple and green are usually safe options.

Will it wear well?

You know your staff is working in a restaurant, so the materials should reflect the role they play in keeping your business running smoothly. All staff members will appreciate clothes that allow their skin to breathe easily in a hot, busy restaurant environment.

Hospitality workers will always value materials that are easy to wash after a long day of drips and spills. Depending on their role, some might even benefit from flame-retardant materials.

Keep it cool

If your staff spends a lot of time running around serving customers, they're going to get hot. In this case, you need to choose either cotton or viscose. Both materials encourage the skin to breathe and absorb sweat easily. As such, your staff won't look hot and bothered, which is an unprofessional look in customers' eyes.

Just say no to nylon

Avoid clingy materials that are uncomfortable for the staff and unsightly to customers. Workwear should be comfortable, always look clean, fit different bodies well and be easy to wash and wear.

Front-of-house vs. back-of-house considerations

A better way to look at the type of materials you choose is to consider your front-of-house staff versus those who work in the back of the house. Fof-house staff encompasses employees who work at the bar, clear tables, welcome guests at the door and serve meals.

Back-of-house staff includes the employees performing general maintenance, making the food and washing the dishes. With today's open kitchen concepts, you can't allow the back-of-house team to look rumpled while cooking in view of the customers. There are also safety considerations for each specific role.

Your front-of-house staff needs to be comfortable and look clean and crisp at all times. Choose uniforms that are easy to move around in and reflect your restaurant's image.  

Keep it comfortable

It's worth bearing in mind that constrictive clothing may make your front-of-house staff less productive. If they can't move around quickly, meals arrive at customers' tables late. This then makes your customers unhappy, which leads to bad restaurant reviews.

As for those back-of-house staff, they need to remain comfortable, too. The same rules regarding constrictive clothing apply. Also, this is where breathable materials such as cotton shirts become even more important. If employees are working in a hot environment and they sweat too much, they may encounter dehydration. Finally, if they work around a lot of open flames, consider flame-retardant items.

Do you need any specialty items?

Now you're close to perfecting your restaurant staff's uniforms. So, let's think about your specialists and what they should wear:

  • Cooks/Chefs: Do they need to wear hats for sanitary reasons or that clearly convey the company logo?

  • Wait staff: Should they have an apron where they can hold their pens and pads for taking orders?

  • Servers: Is it necessary that they wear gloves so they can serve food safely?

With the smaller touches, you'll create a uniform that's perfect for customers and staff alike.

As you create a uniform for your restaurant staff, don't forget that planning is the key to success. Finally, ask your staff for feedback. If something is amiss, they're the best people to hear it from.

Image Credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
Rich Sharptek
Rich Sharptek Member
I am a family man, foodie, and former restaurant owner. I left the restaurant industry for the food service industry and a more traditional schedule when I started my family a decade ago. Since then I've helped grown into the successful B2B/B2C e-commerce distribution business that it is today.