Off-the-peg workwear

16 November 2006
Off-the-peg workwear

Not every operator has the budget to clothe staff in bespoke designs, so how can they create that all-important corporate image from off-the-peg garments?

Attention to detail is an essential part of attracting and retaining custom, but it's not just stylish decor and great food that customers are looking for - staff attire is part of that all-important image, too.

While many hospitality businesses choose bespoke uniforms for their employees, some turn to ready-to-wear ranges to create a modern, stylish image, at a cost-effective price.

"Hotels that don't want to go down the bespoke route can still clothe their staff in smart, distinctive uniforms using a catalogue-based supplier," says Paul Usher, marketing director of DCC Corporate Clothing, which provides ranges suitable for hotels, including outfits for front of house, food service and housekeeping. These feature many established styles complemented by new ideas that provide a modern look while retaining a smart, professional image.

"Waistcoats are a very traditional garment and we sell lots of them in colours like claret and green, but these days some more contemporary hotels are moving away from this look," says Nick Sellars, creative manager at DCC. "Modern hotels often ignore the old-style hierarchy of uniforms and I have been to some where all the staff wear black, with differences in the style of jackets, but otherwise with very little to differentiate a manager from a receptionist."

One of DCC's customers is the Best Western Alexandra hotel in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. "After our restaurant extension and refurbishment we decided it was also time to update our staff uniforms and we needed to dress a range of staff from front of house to the food and beverage team," says hotel manager Kirsty MacDougall. "As we were unsure of exactly what designs we wanted, we relied heavily on samples of jackets, shirts, blouses, ties and tabards so staff could test them out and see what looked right and which materials were most suitable.

"In the end, we chose the pinstripe Barra range in navy with pink blouses to give us an individual look. DCC offered us a range of ties and scarves from their catalogue to fit in with the corporate identity of our hotel. We chose pink fuchsia ties for the front-of-house staff to create a fresh new look which is indicative of the image we wanted to create."

Original identity

Creating an original identity for hotel staff needn't be an expensive exercise, according to Grahame Gardner. The company aims to offer high levels of flexibility with a wide variety of fabrics, colours and design variations to assist in creating stylish yet affordable uniforms.

"On stock ranges, customers can choose from a wide variety of colour options, including coloured panels, piping or collars," says sales director Simon Ward. "Therefore they can reflect the business's colour theme in their uniforms by simply tailoring stock garments to create a striking design variation."

Japanese-inspired restaurant chain Sumosan has venues across Europe, and waiters and waitresses are memorable for their simple but elegant Kimono-style outfits. So when Sumosan opened in London's Mayfair, owner Janina Wolkow set about creating a unique look that was in keeping with the chain's reputation for innovation and style, and reflected its Japanese influence.

However, given the number of outfits required, Wolkow needed to create this look using off-the-peg garments "Designing something from scratch is great, but expensive," she explains. "It might be cost-effective if you're looking to clothe hundreds of staff, but when, like us, you're only looking to dress 40 or so, it really doesn't make good commercial sense. So that was the challenge, finding or creating a unique look that was eye-catching using stock items."

Personal touch

Because Tibard manufactures clothing itself and has no minimum order, the company was able to create a cost-effective solution for the quantity Sumosan was looking for. "We took one of our stock white kimono jackets with purple accent details and combined it with a wraparound waist apron to create a look that was simple but very striking," says Tibard commercial director Rick Shonfeld. "Just to finish things off we added a little embroidery for that final personal touch."

Wolkow is very pleased with the results. "We've achieved what we set out to do, which was to create a look that fits in perfectly with the Sumosan image without spending a fortune," she says. "But perhaps what's even more important is that we've created a look that our staff are really comfortable with and which customers remember as part of their Sumosan experience."

Dawn Ashworth, customer development manager for Simon Jersey, says research is key when kitting out staff in uniforms. "If you're investing in workwear, be aware of how much you should expect to pay for good quality. Full suits are available from around £65 while waiters' uniforms, including a shirt, trousers and apron, can cost less than £28 and housekeeping dresses from £20," she says. "However, don't forget you'll need more than one item for each employee. We recommend abiding by the one being worn, one spare and one in the wash rule, and believe one jacket, two skirts/trousers and three shirts/blouses is ideal."

And remember, uniforms don't last forever, so Ashworth recommends making provision for this fact, bearing in mind that most uniforms are replaced every two to three years.


Beacon Purchasing 01904 695588 www.beacon purchasing

DCC clothing 0870 555 5333

Grahame Gardner 0116 255 6326

Simon Jersey 0870 111 8800

Tibard 0870 428 8170

Before you buy…

• There's a lot of value in bringing in a standardised uniform. Many establishments request that staff provide their own workwear. But you often end up with varying styles, and even differing shades of black and white, which can look scruffy.

• Bear in mind the values and style of your premises. If you're running a traditional English countryside-style pub, then try to keep workwear in a similar vein, perhaps incorporating a cravat instead of a tie. However, in a modern boutique hotel, keep uniforms simple and in keeping with the environment, perhaps with a mandarin collar for a contemporary twist on jackets and shirts.

• You may want to provide summer and winter variations to make staff feel as comfortable as possible. This may be in the form of lightweight, short-sleeve shirts, or a waistcoat.

• Be practical when choosing colours. White looks clean and smart when new, but may soil easily, whereas too much black can look severe and sombre.

• Consult your staff and take their ideas and suggestions about uniforms and workwear on board. They will be able to offer practical advice as they will be the ones wearing them and know what qualities will work for their roles.

• Be aware of the laundering requirements of your workwear. Machine-washable garments are cheaper to launder than dry clean-only items. This is especially important if staff are expected to launder their own clothes.

Source: Beacon Purchasing

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