The Dress Code: What Should Your Restaurant Employees Wear?

Gone are the days where every member of a restaurant’s staff was required to wear perfectly matching uniforms day-in and day-out. While some eateries certainly still uphold this tradition, many modern dining establishments are using their uniforms as yet another way to showcase the restaurant’s personality. Often, this comes down to the type of restaurant and the desired clientele. While it’s not an attire checklist, here are a few ideas of how your employees should dress based on the kind of restaurant you’re running.

The vibrant hotspot

Do you want your restaurant to be the next hot dining spot? Want to attract a younger, more hip crowd? Then maybe, outside of FDA food code regulations, you can consider allowing a more relaxed dress code that falls to employee interpretation. Naturally, you want to make sure that everyone is wearing non-slip shoes (except, perhaps, the host or hostess) and that kitchen staff is equipped with proper protective attire. Outside of that, however, encourage your employees to show off their personalities through their outfits.

Unless you want your restaurant to be the next in exploitative dining spots (think Hooters) however, you need to make sure your employees are still exhibiting a certain level of professionalism. Overly revealing outfits, visible inappropriate tattoos, and extreme piercings are all things you may want to take into consideration when assessing your dress code. Keep in mind, though, that a discriminatory policy is a great way to turn away prospective employees and earn a bad reputation around town.

The upscale eatery

Have you ever daydreamed about a sterling writeup in the New York Times’ food section? Want to earn a Michelin star or two? Fantasizing about having a menu that diners can’t stop talking about? Upscale, fine-dining experiences need to have a much stronger, more specific dress code in place to present an air of utmost professionalism. How you interpret this ultimately comes down to your taste level and your unique restaurant, but chances are, it’s going to mean one key thing: uniforms.

Uniforms are a great way to present a professional appearance in both the front and back of house environments. For the front of house, it helps diners distinguish the waitstaff and shows a unified front. In the back of house, especially if your restaurant is following the open concept kitchen trend, uniforms help make a frequently hectic space in your establishment look a bit more calm and controlled. If your head chef has a habit of greeting and checking-in on diners, their chef’s coat needs to be pristine and stylish.

If you’re not sure where to find uniforms for your restaurant, it’s best to find industry experts. Hospitality providers like Jobeline are excellent resources for uniforms and chef apparel. Since they work exclusively with businesses in the hospitality industry, they know exactly which articles of clothing work best for which types of restaurant environments.

The casual spot

Casual restaurants are easier to work with because, outside of non-slip shoes, there probably won’t be too many dress code requirements. Oftentimes, it’s good to provide staff members with a logo t-shirt or pullover, but beyond that, it can largely be left to the employee. As long as food handlers are properly following FDA codes, jeans, non-athletic shorts, and skirts of an appropriate length can be fair game. It’s a great way to boost employee morale while still prominently featuring your brand.

While “casual” may be the exact vibe you want to give off, make sure that casual doesn’t drift too far into the realm of unprofessionalism. A quick way to maintain a professional appearance is by using quality products such as beard oil by Jericho, which can help prevent situations like showing up with grease stains all over your sweatpants and tank top.

Ultimately, though, your choice of dress code for your employees is going to fall to your vision as a restaurateur. Whether you’re developing a downtown brunch hotspot or a fine-dining experience staffed by uniformed waiters, as long as the dress code fits your vision, you’re on the right track.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.