Dressed to Impress

At PÊche in New Orleans, jeans and button-up shirts prevail as a dress code, with some employees opting for a branded shirt.
At PÊche in New Orleans, jeans and button-up shirts prevail as a dress code, with some employees opting for a branded shirt. PÊche Oyster Bar/Chris Granger

Asharp look or dress code offers an essential first impression that can make customers feel at ease with the dining establishment. When considering whether to have a uniform policy, restaurateurs should think about how it might enhance the guest experience, how it will differ from the restaurant’s current attire policy, and the style and fabric most suitable for employees’ daily habits.

Uniform approaches can vary. The New York City–headquartered Altamarea Group has 11 concepts around the world, from Hong Kong to Turkey, and uses employee uniforms to varying degrees. At Nicoletta and Osteria Marini, for example, a casual uniform of a branded T-shirt or polo shirts and jeans prevails, while counterparts at Ai Fiori dress in formal suits.

Rocky Cirino, a managing director for the Altamarea Group, says the distinction between guests and staff should be as clear as possible.

“Initially when we opened certain locations, the hosts were allowed to wear their own attire,” Cirino says. “It becomes increasingly problematic from a managerial point of view, because you can have staff with a style that you may not agree with, and by creating or at least providing a uniform, it prevents you from having those uncomfortable conversations with people about their sense of style.”

Furthermore, Cirino adds, a uniform prevents servers from getting their personal clothes dirty. He says that providing uniforms is an added expense for the restaurant, “but it’s one that we feel is well worth it.”

Link Restaurant Group in New Orleans owns five concepts and also varies its attire accordingly, from the branded T-shirts with shorts, skirts, or pants at Butcher to the royal blue button-up shirts, black pants, and white bistro aprons at flagship restaurant Herbsaint. The more casual Pêche has a jeans and button-up shirts dress code, and interestingly enough, staff have collectively chosen plaid tops.

Heather Lolley, director of restaurant operations for Link Restaurant Group, suggests restaurants look at what works with the space they are in. “If it’s formal and it’s a bistro, you want to have a little more formal look to it,” she says. “Pêche and Butcher are definitely more casual. The interior of Pêche needs a nice collared shirt.”

When she dines out elsewhere, Lolley mentally notes how staff members dress. “I think when you walk into a space and it fits in or is cohesive, then you’re just naturally put at ease.” She says she notices when servers’ uniforms look unkept, dirty, or faded.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s franchise owner Kersten Maxson thought about a consistent, clean look when coming up with a new branded uniform, a classic black shirt that the brand is nationally adopting this year. It is a fresh makeover well-timed for the company’s 30th anniversary in 2015 and represents the first time Beef ‘O’ Brady’s has ever made uniforms a company-wide policy.


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