Your restaurant uniforms represent a visible part of your establishment’s concept and culture, and the outfits you choose can either reinforce your brand or work against it. Just as importantly, comfortable uniforms that fit well can contribute to a happy working environment. If you can, you should involve your cooks and servers in the decision-making process. After all, they’ll be the ones wearing the uniforms, so their feedback is useful. Just as importantly, including them in the decision shows that you value them and their opinions. Here are some more helpful tips to guide you when choosing the right uniform for your staff.
Cool and Breathable
The first rule of restaurant uniforms is that they should be cool and breathable. The kitchen is proverbially a hot place, and clothing that helps your cooks stay cool can help them stay productive. Servers and front-of-house staff don’t have to cope with the heat of the kitchen, but their comfort is equally important. Visibly hot and uncomfortable servers won’t make a good impression, and won’t be in the right frame of mind to welcome your diners properly.
Chef jackets are traditionally made from heavy cotton or a cotton/polyester blend, which aren’t flame-retardant fabrics but do provide a barrier between the heat source and your skin. Pure cotton is highly breathable and helps wick sweat away from your body, but it also wrinkles, stains, and burns. Polyester/cotton blends won’t wrinkle or stain as badly, and they don’t ignite as readily, but their breathability and comfort are wildly variable. If you opt for a blend, which is definitely the budget-friendlier option, try out a few before committing to your purchase. Uniforms for your servers are also usually blends, and fall within the same range of lightweight fabrics that are used for regular street clothing. If your kitchen staff (or specialized servers, such as baristas) is at risk for splashes of hot liquid, consider using impermeable bib-type aprons at those stations for extra protection.
Cut and Fit
Traditional chef coats are loose and boxy by design, so hot air escapes and cooler air enters with every motion. If you opt for a more modern, fitted style, you’ll need to choose a design that compensates for that loss of airflow. Typically, that means incorporating either mesh panels or sewn-in vents to improve ventilation. In the front of the house, opt for shirts and slacks (or skirts) that are fitted enough to look sleek and professional, but can still accommodate servers with various body types.