Dress for success. For any business working in the hospitality industry and the food and beverage sector, both presentation and practicality are key. When your employees look clean, professional, and coordinated, the association among your customers will be that your menu items, services and business premises are too.
Uniforms do not have to be expensive, nor do they have to be boring. For any size business, dressing up a simple T-shirt with logos, slogans or contrasting accessories, such as caps and hats, bandanas, and aprons, are great ways to create the look you want, and at an affordable price.
We have selected seven T-shirt-based uniform designs used by both small and large businesses from the U.S. and the U.K. to whet your appetite and provide a little inspiration. All these uniform designs demonstrate different ways standard T-shirt combinations and color coordination can create a comfortable set of clothing and a unique way to highlight your business's brand and connect your team.
1. Functional gray – McDonald's, USA
The mighty McDonalds released a new uniform style in April 2017 for all 14,000 restaurants (or about 850,000 employees in the USA). Influenced by feedback from both employees and customers, crew and management uniforms both got a makeover.
One of the fashion designers engaged in revamping the style, an early career McDonald's employee, indicated the new design intends to give employees a feeling of confidence. The central tone is a very practical dark shade of gray, with contrasting lighter gray collars and sleeves in the T-shirt, polo neck and sweatshirt options. The darker gray background makes the yellow McDonald’s logo pop.
2. A white T-shirt, a splash of orange and a pinafore – Cafe Clementine, New York City
Employees of Cafe Clementine, a cozy cafe in Lower Manhattan, dress up plain white T-shirts with linen pinafores and brilliant orange bandanas or headscarves to give their image a bit of zing. The look is comfy and relaxed, but it also shows a bit of class, an important point of differentiation for a small business located in a friendly and trendy neighborhood.
3. A bunch of bubbly colors – Biju Bubble Tea, London
This London brand serves a range of fruit and herbal teas in a clean, simple store layout. Biju Bubble Tea's designers have cleverly devised a range of color-coordinated employee T-shirts that match the product labels on bottled products behind the counter and featured aspects within the decor – bright yellow, green, orange, pink and blue.
All screen printing is in white and contrasts the bright colors of the T-shirts. The fronts of the brightly colored tees have simple line drawings of fruit, while the backs have slogans that reinforce the brand concept and company name.
4. Purple and red – Delta Airlines, USA
Delta Airlines is set to roll out their new uniforms for staff in 2018, after a period of testing and feedback with a sample of employees in 2017. For employees working "above wing," such as flight attendants and service staff, the striking new outfits are predominantly in purple, red or gray. Employees "below wing" will be outfitted in grey and red, with some high-visibility items added for safety.
5. Bold red, gray and blue – Southwest Airlines, USA
Southwest Airlines' new look was designed by the employees to go with the tagline of "Our employees are anything but uniform." Southwest has released a diverse range of clothing for employees across the board, including flight crew, terminal staff and baggage handlers.
Southwest's corporate logo colors of red and blue carry throughout the new uniforms, along with some clothing pieces in gray, or with lighter gray detail and trim. The lettering and logos printed in the company's corporate colors contrast with the fabric color, for example, white on blue, or blue on white.
6. Black and white T-shirts and accessories – Peckish Fish and Chips, England
Peckish Fish and Chips, a small fish and chip store on the southern coast of England, has a uniform ensemble that combines the crispness of white with the practicality of black. This color combination, possibly inspired by the product in this situation, looks smart. Takeaway fish and chips served traditionally in the United Kingdom have an outer layer of newspaper wrapping to keep them warm.
Their black or white polo neck tees have the company name and logo printed on the sleeves, in, you guessed it, contrasting black or white. Printing your business name and logo on the sleeve, rather than the front of a shirt, is a wise idea for any employees likely to wear an apron.
7. Iconic white jacket – Coca-Cola
The design for Coca Cola's classic white worker's jacket, which features an embroidered red logo, was conceived almost 100 years ago but still stands out today. Their advertising brochure highlights that back in the day, bottling employees wore it but also "Coca-Cola men" working at baseball games, parks, fairs and outdoor amusement areas wore it as well. Today, employees at Atlanta's World of Coca-Cola continue to wear uniforms that proudly display the company's iconic red and white branding.
The visual impact of what your employees wear, particularly in frontline positions, can have an influence on success – for your business, your staff and your customers. People consume with their eyes. Our first decision on what, where and how we eat, sleep, drink, relax and are entertained is often based on what something looks like.
Involve your staff in the decision-making process of what to wear. It will help create a sense of belonging, and employees will offer valuable tips in terms of what clothing they find comfortable and practical. And when they step into their work clothes, they will step into work mode.
Your overall business image should be recognizable and appealing to your target customers, and the same goes for what your team wears.
Keep it consistent. Front-of-house and service staff may need to wear different types of clothing from those working behind the scenes, but they should carry through an aspect of your color scheme or the branding.
Use your uniforms as walking billboards by screen printing or embroidering your company name, logo or other branding on the garments. Think about the placement. For example, printing a message on the back T-shirts of counter staff who turn away from customers to prepare food or beverages is an excellent placement strategy.
Call out your colors. In the hospitality and food and beverage industries, black and white are the long-associated traditional colors for wait staff.
This is for a good reason, as white absorbs less heat, so it can be cooler for workers to wear, and it looks clean. Black hides spills.
The use of colors can bring out your branding, so choose colors to match or contrast with your company colors to show your organization to best effect.