Uniforms to enhance.
By Sarah Muxlow ~ exclusive at 4Hoteliers.com
Wednesday, 25th October 2006
There's increasing awareness about the need for a trendy and yet comfortable uniform for staff in hotels and restaurants these days. In fact, a good amount of money is being spent on getting the right kind of uniforms designed for properties. A very primary reason for this is that within hospitality, uniforms stand out and catch the public eye and create good team awareness.

Given the emphasis we put on brand consistency, uniforms are usually chosen because they keep with the environment and culture of the property surroundings. When it comes to designing uniforms, staff of all positions need to project the same image. In other words, uniforms enhance the brand identity of a property.

In the past, uniforms were chosen very differently to today; one size and style fits all. Similarly to furnishings and fixtures, now many uniforms are being custom-designed.

In many cases the latest styles have shifted away from high levels of formality. For many establishments, short jackets, satinish collars, Stitch lines, short skirts and the minimalist look is in. Accessories (scarves) and shoes are also important; comfort and long term impact in the feet are considered as well as freedom to move. Colours such as cream, midnight blue, orange and coffee are easing the industry away from a hard edged military-style.

Cultural correctness is another aspect that is being looked into seriously. Whilst theme restaurants such as a Rodeo would find staff wearing cowboy attire, many regions and countries as a whole are thinking authenticity. For example, why does the region of Rajasthan in India get so many foreign tourists? It's because of the Indianness that visitors see. It is worth noting that if the uniform is being made to reflect any particular theme or specialty of a given outlet, the comfort level of the employees has to be kept in mind.

However, when in the design stage uniforms, as many managers are quick to point, have to serve a practical function. Hotel managers and restaurant owners alike feel that the uniform designer needs to understand the practical use, the staff and the setting with its immediate visual community of the operation. The Embassy suits, for example, when designing their new uniforms are looking at the specific needs and practical criteria of their brand and each of it's individual establishments. They are investing more than $3 million in the new uniform program and they teamed up with Lafayette 148 New York to design a different set of uniforms "fitting" for each hotel property. What has also been noticed is that good consistent uniforms create a positive sense of team and pride.

Similarly, many known hotels and restaurants consider not only look, colour, pattern, fitting and comfort but also quality of material, cost effectiveness and durability. From the pragmatists perspective, each department differs in need and uniform allocation.

For example, in the kitchen uniforms need to be both smart, good to launder, made of a protective fabric and comfortable as well as fitting in with the other uniforms within the establishment. In many establishments, uniforms are mostly changed every year. In most hotels, departments such as the kitchen, housekeeping, and laundry get three sets of uniform because of the nature of work. While departments like the front office is given two sets of uniform.

Some hotels have very much developed a culture of multi-skilling from the very beginning. In this instance uniforms have to be cross-departmental and frequently leave little recognition of rank.

SpotLight is the weekly column exclusively written for 4Hoteliers.com by Sarah Muxlow, it is highlighting the challenges and issues which the global hospitality is facing today.

Sarah is writing for hotel and restaurant owners, hotel chain managers, producers/growers/sellers of food & beverage, restaurant associations, governing bodies and hotel schools. She is looking at the problems they face...competition, trends of branding, staff shortages, unskilled staff, turning out students who are looking for good in-house management training schemes with hotel chains, what makes a good quality training course at a hotel school and more...


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