Industry News | February 1, 2010

Wear Your Brand, But Do It Cleanly

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Quick-serve customers find cleanliness to be the most important characteristic of restaurant crew uniforms, according to a study released today.

Clipper Corporation, a designer, manufacturer, and distributor of uniforms for the retail industry, commissioned the report that found that 33 percent of male customers and 26 percent of female customers believe cleanliness is front and center when considering good uniform characteristics.

“The consumer wants it to look like it’s clean and healthy and sanitary and all that,” says Lawrence Snapp, president and chief operating officer of Clipper, which has produced uniforms for quick-serve chains including Burger King, KFC, and Domino’s Pizza.

“They also notice it, unfortunately, if it’s out of spec. If it blends in with the rest of the brand, it’s actually a good thing.”

Rounding out the top five most important characteristics of crew uniforms in customers’ eyes were a good fit, age appropriateness, color, and style.

The same study found that quick-service employees consider ease of care and a clean look to be the most important characteristics of their own uniforms.

Snapp says that three opinions weigh in on quick-serve uniforms: those of the consumer, the employee, and the corporation. In order to find the right uniform for a brand, he says, all three opinions must be balanced.

“There’s an art and a science to uniforms. The art side, and what corporate often cares about, is essentially thinking about a uniform as an outdoor billboard,” Snapp says. “To integrate a brand into apparel is a lot harder than people think. There’s a tremendous amount of art involved there.”

To address the opinion of crew members, however, Snapp says science is needed to provide the best way to be clean and comfortable.

“The days of the Fast Times at Ridgemont High uniform are gone,” he says. “It’s important to be clean and professional, but these people want comfortable, too.”

About 45 percent of female quick-service employees and 42 percent of male employees found “easy care/looks clean” to be the most important characteristics of uniforms. Fit and comfort, styling and color, and age appropriateness rounded out the list.

Snapp says there are a number of things manufacturers can do today to make sure crew uniforms stay cleaner longer and through multiple wash cycles.

“We really go deep in investigating what stains specifically might impact a uniform’s cleanliness and durability,” he says. “What conditions? What stains? What grease? We actually dig deep into making sure that we understand what this uniform will be subjected to over a six-month horizon.”

“As food changes in the [quick-service] world, as it does all the time, you’ve got to stay current on that,” Snapp says. “Some things will stain and some things won’t. Some colors will hold it better, some won’t.”

Ultimately, Snapp says that the ideal quick-serve uniform—the one that satisfies customer, employee, and corporate team—is one that highlights the common ground they all share.

“The most important thing is that the uniform is highly customized for the specific quick-service brand,” Snapp says. “Every quick serve is different. Do not think that there is a standard for [quick-service] uniforms.”

By Sam Oches

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