Your Staff Uniforms Are an Important Part of Your Brand
Branding is made up of the most minor details. The brand manuals we prepare for clients include tiny details: which font employees should use in emails and what colour flowers should be displayed in reception. A brand is made up of hundreds of tiny impressions that present a cohesive whole to clients and potential customers.
What your employees wear is a large part of your overall corporate identity. Many types of companies have a dress code; at most hotels and resorts, there is a uniform to be adhered to as well.
Larger chain hotels have well-established practices, but even if you are the owner or manager of a single hotel or a small group, you can still use professional advice to make sure that your staff truly are "dressing for success."
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this page are from the design portfolio of Tropical Sun Design, which retains full copyright.
Determine Your Style
You're aware of the style of your business. There's a world of difference between a hotel by the ocean that specialises in fun vacations for young families and one in Chicago that operates specifically for business people, corporate events and conferences.
Your staff uniform style will naturally correspond. For a beach hotel in the Bahamas a relaxed uniform using bright colours will be appropriate. The opposite is true of a corporate hotel in an industrial city where sombre, smart and business-like clothing will be required.
When a guest enters your premises for the first time, you, via your staff, will give them the overall—and lasting—impression of your establishment.
As you can see from the image above, for this client we designed a logo and uniforms that were formal and tidy without being stuffy, overly formal or unapproachable.
Create Your Colour Palette
Your colour palette may be right in front of you—in your logo.
Here you see a logo we created for one of our hospitality industry clients, a chain of gourmet pizza restaurants. As you can see, the black and white are perfectly set off by the dusty brick colour and the fabulous olive shade.
Your designer will be able to provide you with the RGB colour codes (you can see that I've added them in the image above). By basing your uniform colours on your logo, you are remaining faithful to your brand and giving your customers and guests a sense of cohesion and continuity.
See how the colours have been translated into the sommelier's uniform. The brick red has been used for a major colour and the spicy green for the tie. Such a scheme can also be used for other more formal staff such as the concierge, receptionists and management.
In formal hotels, this look can also be used for bartenders, valet-parkers, porters and other staff. This look translates well for both sexes.
For less formal hotels, t-shirts could provide a less expensive option.
The Casual Look
For some staff, custom-designed t-shirts can address many uniform problems. They are suitable for guys and for women, they are easy to care for and launder, and if you choose black, as we have here, they have a slightly more sophisticated look than the more usual white.
T-shirts are great for bartenders, the staff in your lobby store, your housekeeping staff, maintenance and other types of employees such as the lifeguards at your pool.
They look great worn with a suit or blazer too. The wonderful thing about t-shirts is that they can be dressed up or down.
Three Plays That Will Win Every Time
Whatever your staff's clothing, there are three essential strategies staff must use when greeting any guest arriving at your hotel, or indeed any guest entering a department of the hotel, such as the restaurant or the store in the lobby. They are:
Your staff member might be tired. They might have aching feet (and good shoes are so important for hotel staff). They might be worried about personal matters. Nevertheless, when a guest enters the hotel (or any department within it), staff need to greet them with a wonderful, genuine smile.
This includes the willingness to ensure that every guest feels special. Every client should feel as though they are getting preferential treatment; this requires staff to convey enthusiasm about the establishment's facilities to the guest.
Your staff represent your entire hotel and need to be made very aware of this. Every member of staff should look at their best at all times.
Managing Your Staff's Work Clothes
Although staff often wear one or two of their own articles of clothing, your company will most likely also supply them with one or more uniform items. It can be a false economy to make employees care for their own clothes; ideally, the hotel should take responsibility for caring for clothes, to make sure that your guests receive the best possible impression of your establishment.
That nineteen-year-old may be the best server you've ever had, and he may sell add-ons to every diner, but is he great at ironing shirts?
- Whether the running of the wardrobe room is outsourced or not (a small business may not want to go to the expense), someone on staff has to be given the responsibility for this function.
- You won't necessarily have to recruit new staff to take care of your uniforms. You already have a system for washing sheets and towels; you may have a laundry department, or you may use an outside service. These options are ideal for uniforms too. If you have a seamstress on your staff, that is excellent (buttons drop off with amazing regularity). If not, you can develop a relationship with a local business.
- I have come across businesses that use complex barcode and scanning systems to track uniforms, but really all that's needed are old-fashioned name tapes and a ledger.
- Ideally, each staff member will have three uniforms. He or she will hand in a uniform to the wardrobe room at the end of the shift. In the presence of the staff member, the uniform manager should check any pockets for personal belongings. (The loss of a car key, for example, can cause immense problems).
- The employee now has one soiled uniform that has been handed in, one clean one awaiting him or her for the next shift, and one that is somewhere in the laundry process.
- The wardrobe manager should now check the garment for any tears, loose buttons or stains. These should be dealt with accordingly before being sent to be processed through the laundry system.
- When the staff member returns for their next shift, their next clean uniform should be handed to them. In most smaller establishments this can be organised as simply as having the uniforms hanging on a rail in the alphabetical order by employee name.
- Be sure that there are several full-length mirrors available in staff rooms. A good place to hang one is right by the door. When employees leave the staff area to go to the front of the house, it will become automatic for them to check their appearance.
- Reward staff who have made an extra-special effort with their appearance. This reward need not be monetary, and can be given to an individual or a department. Reward a team or department with donuts for breakfast or a pizza party. Reward individuals with accolades such as "employee of the month."
- Ensure that the details of your uniform and dress code are spelled out in your staff manual for new hires.
- It's likely that each department's team leader will be responsible for ensuring that their team are perfectly dressed. You might find it a good idea to discuss this on a regular basis to discover any problems or issues.
- Decide in advance how you will deal with any issues that might arise on the personal hygiene and cosmetic fronts. For example, who will handle the situation if someone has detectible body odor? What if a female member of staff simply wears too much eye makeup? Think about these problems in advance so you'll be prepared.
- Be sure that you have a clearly laid out policy in place about miscellaneous items such as hair and jewelry. Should servers in your restaurant always have their hair tied back? (Yes, in my opinion.) Reserve the right to object to any jewelry staff are wearing if you feel it's inappropriate; in a family vacation resort, for example, skull jewelry may not be suitable.
- I have seen too many people, particularly male wait staff, wearing white shirts with rolled-up sleeves. I can understand why they do so, but it looks so untidy. It's far better to have your staff wear short-sleeved shirts, especially in the summer months or if your premises tend to be on the warm side.
- The same thing applies to collars worn with ties. When a person gets warm, one of the first things they are likely to do is undo the top button of their shirt, resulting in a horribly untidy look. Scroll down for the solution.
In the hospitality industry, cutting costs without sacrificing quality is particularly important. Here are some further ideas to help you plan you staff work wear.
Scrubs. Medical scrubs are often worn by housekeeping staff. They are inexpensive, easy to clean and come in a huge range of colours. They are also roomy and comfortable for staff who have to lift and bend.
Dr. Scholl's shoes. Even though staff generally provide their own shoes, management needs to make clear that one doesn't last long in the hospitality industry without comfortable shoes. Staff may need to consider switching to a brand of comfortable shoes that are good for their feet, like Dr. Scholl's. Shoes are available in many colours to suit your brand.
Tropical shirts. Hotels and resorts in the sun, unlike city hotels catering to business travelers, can afford a certain informality in their uniforms. Hawaiian style shirts add a carnival touch. Choose a base colour from your brand manual.
Spa uniforms. Many hotels have spas these days, and spa uniforms are available on the internet in a great variety of colors. They are comfortable, easy to move around in, easy to clean and professional, like scrubs.
Mandarin collars and short sleeves. Don't fight the climate: adapt to it. There is nothing more unbusinesslike than an overheated man wearing a crumpled and untidy suit.
Two hot-weather habits can really spoil an otherwise immaculate uniform: rolled-up sleeves and open collars.
Solve both these problems by choosing mandarin-collared shirts with short sleeves. They are available for men and women in a variety of colours.
Although the shirt below is described as a bartender's shirt, your reception staff, concierge and managers will also look more stylish and smart wearing something like this than trying to beat the heat encumbered by "business clothes."
More Branded Apparel Ideas
© 2014 Jackie Jackson
Comments? Any more tips?
Deborah Carr from Orange County, California on June 09, 2014:
Very professional looking outfits!
Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on May 25, 2014:
@Brite-Ideas: We were lucky in that our first hospitality client (back in the 1990s!) was a gorgeous historic hotel with the most brilliant manager. He paid the utmost attention to detail and taught us such a lot. We've worked with some great clients.
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on May 24, 2014:
having never worked in the hospitality industry I can only offer tips as a customer, looking very clean and dressed professionally as you've outlined here makes a wonderful impression - nice tailored