Whether you run a restaurant with a full team of award-winning chefs or you own a local pizza shop staffed by a few inexperienced teenagers, creating an appropriate dress code for your employees is vital. In addition to ensuring that your entire team is easily recognizable even when your restaurant is packed, the right uniforms keep everyone safe and comfortable while they’re on the clock.
Chefs, cooks, and prep staff often work in different environments. They may spend most of their time in the kitchen where the temperature tends to soar, but they also likely find themselves working in coolers and walk-in freezers. Outfitting them properly ensures that they will be safe and comfortable in both environments. If you are trying to figure out how to find the right clothing and gear for your restaurant employees, here are a few tips to help keep your staff safe and looking great.
Familiarize Yourself with FDA Food Code
Before you set out to create a dress code for employees, make sure you are familiar with the requirements set forth by the FDA food code. You also need to be aware of any applicable local regulations. There are specific rules regarding personal hygiene, hair restraints, fingernails and jewelry, etc. There are also regulations that apply to outer clothing. According to the code, restaurant employees should wear clean clothing and change from street clothing into a suitable work uniform after arriving at work. Once you understand all of the legal requirements, you can make informed decisions when purchasing uniforms and other garments for your employees.
Consider the Environments in Which They Work
Keeping employees comfortable when working in different conditions can be difficult. The temperature inside commercial kitchens can soar, especially during peak business hours. However, the temperature inside coolers and walk-in freezers can be well below 0 degrees. The temperature on the floor can vary too, which is important to note for wait staff and hosts. Your employees may also find themselves working in different environments if you have indoor and outdoor seating areas.
Consider which environments each employee works in on a regular basis. You may have some staff members who stay in the kitchen for their entire shift and others who are always on the floor. Your chefs and cooks, on the other hand, likely need to transition between the hot kitchen and the colder food storage areas.
Dress Your Restaurant Employees in Layers
The best way to ensure safety and comfort in all environments is having the members of your team dress in layers. Moisture-wicking t-shirts work well as base layers. They pull perspiration away from the skin to help workers stay dry and comfortable in hot environments. And when worn underneath a chef coat or another layer, they add a bit of extra warmth.
For employees who have access to walk-in coolers or freezers, invest in something like insulated softshell jackets. These jackets are lightweight, so they don’t add much extra bulk. Despite their weight, though, they provide a great deal of warmth in cold environments. Look for one that is water resistant to help ensure that your staff stays dry in every situation.
Make Sure They Have Appropriate Safety Gear
When you have employees who need to spend any considerable amount of time working inside a walk-in cooler or freezer, make sure they have access to appropriate safety gear. While you don’t necessarily need to issue gloves to every single employee, you should have a few pairs of freezer gloves on hand. This is vital when it comes to protecting your workers’ hands and preventing frostbite.
Also, make sure they have appropriate headwear. It doesn’t take long for the cold to set in when someone is working inside of a cold storage unit, so make sure your staff members wear the appropriate gear even when they are only going in for a few minutes.
Require the Right Footwear
In many restaurants, employees are responsible for buying their own footwear, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have some say in what shoes your team members wear while they are at work. Some restaurants have fairly relaxed policies and only mandate that shoes be a certain color or style. However, if you want to ensure that your staff is safe in all working environments, you should insist that they wear shoes that are appropriate for all situations.
For starters, you should always insist that the members of your team wear non-slip footwear. Spills occur frequently in restaurants, and without the right shoes, nasty falls are all too common. Requiring ones that are oil slip resistant ensures that even grease spills won’t send your employees falling to the floor.
You should also require sturdy shoes that can withstand a bit of impact. Steel-toed shoes aren’t usually necessary, but employees need shoes with some structure that will provide protection if something—like a heavy box of meat—is dropped on their feet. Study shoes can also prevent cuts from falling knives and burns from hot food or liquid spills.
Running a restaurant is a lot of hard work. In addition to ensuring that your dishes please your customers, you need to take steps to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of your employees. Implementing an employee dress code and investing in the right apparel is an important step in accomplishing this.
Whether you are running a five-star restaurant or a local pizza joint, your employees will likely find themselves working in several different environments. The tips listed above will help you outfit them in a manner that is appropriate for all situations. In addition to keeping your employees safe, having these policies notated in an official dress code can protect your business in the event of an accident or injury.
Natalie Bucsko serves as the Marketing Communications Specialist for RefrigiWear. From the Dahlonega, Georgia, headquarters, Natalie oversees all content, including the website, knowledge center, blog, catalog, email, and social media. Before joining RefrigiWear, Natalie worked as a Marketing Coordinator for several years at companies ranging from startups to insurance. She enjoys cooking and baking, sports, reading and spending time outdoors—especially when it is cold.