Get Suited Up
Operators realize uniforms play a part in their overall brand story
It’s no longer enough to have a beautiful restaurant with delicious food. As an operator, you need to tell the whole story—including when servers first approach the table. That’s where having the right look comes into play now more than ever.
Sure, servers can wear the obligatory white shirt with black pants, but why not step it up a notch? Over the last few years, boutique uniform manufacturers like Stock Mfg. in Chicago, New York’s Tilit and Destiny Aprons, and Los Angeles-based Hedley & Bennett have emerged with a focus on fashion, form and functionality.
“Other than the food and drinks, your server is who a guest is going to have the biggest focus on,” says Matt Bolus, executive chef of Nashville’s 404 Kitchen. “From the greeting to the end of the meal, how the serving staff looks affects the guests at all times. At every moment of that experience, I want our brand to look polished, focused and on point.”
Bolus supplies each team member with their first set of workwear from Hedley & Bennett, which creates high-quality, fashion-forward aprons, chef shirts, and other kitchen products and workwear, but says if they mess it up, the expense is theirs to replace the same pieces. To keep continuity among staff, though, it’s important everyone is on the same page.
“There's something about putting on a well-fitting suit that makes you not only dress, but feel, the part,” says Jerrod Melman, executive partner of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, which works with Stock Mfg. to outfit its teams at its luxury RPM restaurants. “It creates a cohesive and cool-looking team.”
Michael Kitchen, a partner in the Aparium Hotel Group, with nearly a dozen properties (including New Orleans’ Ponchartrain Hotel, the Detroit Foundation Hotel and Omaha’s Hotel Deco), also works with Stock to outfit its restaurant and bar teams. The relationship came about at a time when Kitchen felt like the uniform industry needed a shakeup.
“I remember seeing staff model uniforms from the industry giants,” Kitchen says. “It was like seeing my high school prom outfit in the mirror—like how haven’t we grow up from this?”
At the end of the day, you want your team to feel good in what they wear, which helps them ultimately excel at their job.
“When you feel more confident, you perform better, and that definitely translates to the dining experience,” says Tilit co-founder Jenny Goodman.
And that hopefully translates to higher guest averages.