Brand-consistent uniforms send the right message to patrons, and can help perfect your brand image.

Why Employee Image is Key to Success in Food Service

Customer Experience Brand & Image

Employee image ties in closely with your brand image. Here’s what to consider in your choice of uniforms for servers and kitchen staff.

Does employee image play an important role in the food service industry? Like a restaurant’s decor, menu design and entrees, how staff look can significantly influence a customer’s dining experience. It’s important for restaurant owners to pay close attention to the uniforms worn by their service and kitchen staff. Uniforms that are rumpled, poorly designed or inconsistent with the establishment’s brand image sends a message to customers that perhaps the food being prepared and served there might not be held to the highest standards.

Once customers get a bad impression, it’s extremely difficult to entice them back again.

Form and Function

So what are the best ways to ensure your service staff conveys that all-important favorable impression? Culinary apparel that incorporates wrinkle-resistant factors are well-suited to the messy business of waiting on customers. As for cooks in an open kitchen, white, double-breasted chef coats are always a good, classic option. For the best results, you should be very clear on the image you want your staff to project; key factors for this decision include the type of cuisine you serve, the restaurant’s color scheme and implicit dress code for customers.

Other tips to keep in mind for the best front-of-house employee image include:

  • Color schemes that are consistent with the business’s brand image
  • Uniform style that matches the business’s formal (or informal) approach to dining
  • A modern approach to the fit of the uniform

In an open-kitchen environment, chefs must look clean and professional. A traditional approach is outfitting them in a traditional white ensemble, though sometimes a little flair (in terms of chef hats and pants) offers a welcome change of pace that can become a signature of your brand. Whatever look you choose must be consistent with the establishment’s overall ambiance.

Above all, you want your employees to look good. “Making sure all employees are wearing a uniform that is flattering and well-tailored will make any fabric look luxe,” says Angela Tafoya of Refinery29. “This is a great thing to keep in mind, especially if you are on a budget.”

Honoring Employee Input

Another good idea when selecting culinary apparel is seeking the input of your employees. After all, they’re on the front line with customers, so they might have some great insights into aspects of their uniforms you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

Having a say in what they wear can get service and kitchen staff more enthusiastic about their jobs, particularly if their uniforms are well-made and have a distinctive look. Not only does a well-tailored uniform create a team feeling among your staff, keeping uniforms up-to-date with the latest trends in culinary fashion gives your customers the impression that your company is keeping pace with the latest trends on all fronts, lending greater credibility to your business.

Cost Considerations

Business owners concerned about costs may opt for the least expensive uniforms, but, considering the wear-and-tear of the food service industry, that might not be the best solution. Choosing a higher-quality product means there’s less need for constant uniform replacements. Plus, many uniform programs can modify apparel with embroidery, collars, buttons and trims that can protect and enhance your brand image.

Customers will size-up your business from a variety of perspectives. They may or may not like the font used in your menus; they may enjoy the restaurant’s intimate lighting scheme or think it’s too dark for their dining experience. But you can better control one aspect of the customer experience by selecting uniforms that evoke cleanliness, professionalism and pride. In many cases, that may be the determining factor in whether or not a first-time customer chooses to return.

Lee Polevoi
Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer who specializes in the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses in the U.S.A former senior writer at Vistage International (a global membership organization of CEOs), Lee regularly contributes articles, white papers and blog posts to a variety of small business websites, including Paychex, Intuit Small Business, ADP, Hewlett Packard's™ The Pulse of IT, Catapult Groups, Avalara TrustFile and many others.