FEATURE: Kit out your staff right to ensure they offer service with style

Simon Jersey

Ensure your staff are dressed to impress with a uniform that fits your brand image, service offering and high standards, whilst also allowing them maximum comfort to work to their full potential. We discuss the latest style trends with some of the industry’s most fashion conscious.

Staff uniforms have gone through quite the evolution in recent years, mirroring the change in the marketplace as service gets more relaxed. Casual is in, and stuffy is out, as the definition of luxury progresses and hoteliers embrace the demand for a more personalised and engaging experience for guests.

Your uniform needs to match this shift, as well as complementing your brand values and the customer experience you are promising. Guests would have already formed a perception of your property before they step through the door, picking your hotel because of its style, price and location and it’s vital that this image doesn’t get dispelled when they arrive.

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Helen Harker, design manager for Simon Jersey, said: “Your staff personify your brand and the way they look and interact with customers speaks volumes about your values.

“It’s said that we judge a person within just a few seconds of meeting them so the importance of a good uniform cannot be underestimated.”

Your staff will be the window to your brand and how they look will have an impact how they feel about their role within your company and at a time when employee retention is key, making sure they are content in their clobber cannot be underestimated.

“Great uniform design builds staff confidence, influences their feelings about work and can even make or break corporate culture and morale,” adds Paula Cannon, design & development director at Tailored Image.

Getting the balance right when it comes to a more casual style of uniform can be tricky. Too relaxed and it can look scruffy or guests may not be able to identify staff, and too formal and you’ll have bypassed the trend altogether. While garments can be more casual, it’s important they still convey quality and the high standard of your property, in texture, colour and combination.

As a result, the suppliers have had to diversify their offerings to keep up with what the market is dictating.

“The demand for more casual styles allows us to be more creative and incorporate elements of a client’s hotel or restaurant within the design,” explains Lisa Morelli from 4Couture, “it’s not however, without its challenges. Previously we’d supply a shirt, suit and tie and be confident that a team would look relatively smart and consistent overall however, now we’re using denim, chinos and leather in our uniform choices it becomes more important than ever to support the delivery of a uniform with clear styling guidelines.”

Formal uniform however still has its place. The environment of a Michelin-star restaurant, or three Rosette dining room still commands staff to sport well-tailored outfits to round off the luxury experience in that setting.

“You should first of all consider the experience you want to create,” says Harker, “A high quality, luxurious experience demands smart tailoring and chic style so that customers are assured they’re getting an exclusive experience.”

Style guides

In 2016, PWC hit the headlines after one of their employees was told to go home from work without pay after she arrived to work as a temporary receptionist role in flat shoes, refusing to comply with the company demands that she wear 2-4 inch heels.

Following this, she launched a petition to tighten legislation on compulsory gendered uniforms, which gathered 152,400 signatures.

While the government rejected pleas to ban ‘sexist’ dress codes, it has made employers more aware of what uniform guidelines they set for staff, and exactly what can and can’t be requested.

At 4 Couture, the company has seen a rise in employers seeking an audit service to ensure they are complying with the correct requirements, being sensitive to both gender and religion.

“We’re asked on an increasing basis to deliver guidance on appropriate styling and grooming and what can / can’t be asked of an employee in terms of make-up, tattoos, piercing etc,” says Morelli. “We’re often called in to audit a uniform collection to ensure it’s fair and equivalent for not only the individual roles involved but also, equal for both men & women, sensitive to any religious requirements and covers all sizes.”

Choosing the right look

Job role and material must be the top priorities when it comes to deciding on your uniform refresh. Enabling staff to perform at their best includes considering what clothes they wear and which materials can be most durable without compromising on quality.

You should also think about how each employee’s uniform will fuse together to create consistency across each department, with visual clues such as colour, fabric or logo embroidery used to marry the brand together.

“A uniform will enhance your brand if everyone looks like they’re part of the same team,” says Harker. “In most cases, choosing colours from your logo will help you carry the brand throughout the hotel and help reinforce it. With that said, there’s no need to dress staff head to toe in brand colours. You can use accessories including scarves, belts, cardigans or even socks and pocket squares to bring the colours into the uniform.”

Things to remember

There are various routes to explore when launching or refreshing a uniform – off the peg, made to order, fully bespoke or somewhere in between and often operators will opt for a mixture of all three to achieve their desired look.

Once a design has been selected, 4 Couture adds that it’s then the ongoing ordering and reordering processes that often get overlooked: “How long does it take if a hotel has a new starter, can they order and expect their new uniform for their first day?” adds Morelli.

Another major thing to consider is staff turnover and what the policy says when it comes to uniform being returned when somebody leaves a role.

Morelli comments: “In 2016 we launched our online portal system which allows hotels to access their approved collection, place orders and also shows imagery of how each look is expected to be worn. We also provide warehousing and ongoing running of inventories as well as laundering and recycling of garments so properties shouldn’t end up with a cupboard full of unworn garments.”

Best of British

Interesting, since Brexit, Morelli says that there has been a surge in demand for more UK-grown products and an increase in operators requesting items that are manufactured in this country. This helps with faster lead times for suppliers and allows clients to be more hands on in terms of design.

She also adds that with the support of organisations such as Make It British, the UK manufacturing scene is undergoing a revival.

“Whether it’s due to uncertainty with the Brexit negotiations and the impact on import pricing or a reflection of the general affection for the UK but we’ve also seen an increase in the demand for UK manufacturing.

“This is often a faster process in terms of lead times but there’s a real sense of pride when delivering a made in the UK garment.

It allows us and our clients, to be more hands on in terms of design, fabrics and ongoing development of a uniform collection and whilst we’ve got our own in –house sewing bees we’re proud to be partnering with some great talent in the UK for specialist knitwear and bespoke dresses.”

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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