Get smart: clothing and branding

Dennys polycotton bib apronsInvesting in clothing and interiors can help to reinforce a bar’s branding

At Rocket restaurants and bars in London and Nottingham, the company has developed a consistent brand image which can be found subtly running across the menus and interiors at all the sites. However, operations manager Amit Joshi says new uniforms aim to reflect the varied locations of each venue. “In our uniforms, we have tried to deliver a sense of individuality and personality for our customers,” he says.

The uniforms were designed and made by fashion label Harnett & Pope. “We wanted to bring in fashion design specialists to ensure that the uniforms would appeal to our target audience,” Amit says. “Each restaurant has its own take on the uniform: every dress has the same cut and design, but different restaurants use different fabrics providing an alternative look and feel at each site.” For example, at the Bishopsgate bar on the edge of Shoreditch, the uniforms are more psychedelic with colourful flowers on the front of each dress to reflect the building’s bright, modern and funky look.

At the same time, the uniforms needed to be practical, and Harnett & Pope visited every Rocket site and consulted staff. The uniforms use a stretchable fabric that also allows it to breathe, keeping staff at a comfortable temperature. There are also a number of pockets so tools such as pads, pens or bottle openers can easily be stored. “Attractive, modern uniforms not only help to complete the Rocket brand, but also help our staff work to the best of their ability,” Amit adds.

A uniform reinforces the brand of a bar and communicates a much more professional image to customers, says Teresa Stedman, managing director of Stedman Corporate Clothing. “From an embroidered shirt that carries a logo, through to more detailed uniforms that include aprons, tailored trousers and skirts, and accessories such as ties, it ensures that any visiting customer can immediately identify with the staff.”

She says there is also a psychological element for employees. “By dressing for work in a uniform, their mind-set can be altered by changing into a uniform from their own day-to-day clothes. It mentally prepares them for work. A lack of uniform often means staff members wear their own clothing which carry their own individual personality. This may not reflect the ‘feel’ of the establishment, and also it may make it difficult for customers to recognise who is staff or a member of the management compared to visiting customers.”

Some sort of uniform is good for business, says Rick Shonfeld, commercial director at hospitality workwear specialist Tibard. “Firstly, it suggests a level of professionalism that you are unlikely to get from staff that turn up in ‘civvies’. Secondly, uniforms are a very good way of defining roles within a business, making it easier for the public to identify specific figures of authority should the need arise. And of course, stepping into a venue to be greeted by personnel in smart, crease-free uniforms suggests cleanliness and attention to detail which provides a positive start to the experience.”

Rick stresses that uniforms must be comfortable and ideally be tailored to the wearer. “Staff who feel comfortable in their uniform and look the part will project a much more welcoming image to customers, something that has never been more important in the current economic climate.” He recommends carrying out trials of the garments with staff rather than leaving the decision to a purchasing manager. “Involving them in the decision-making process adds worth to the chosen garment because staff feel as though they have had a direct involvement and have hopefully ended up with a uniform that they are happy with rather than something that has been forced upon them.”

Uniforms can also help with the internal working culture at a venue, points out Helen Harker, design manager at workwear specialist Simon Jersey, part of the Kwintet group. “If bar staff all wear the same smart-looking uniform, they will feel part of a team and much more loyal to the brand, which is essential to create a great atmosphere. Current catwalk, high street and urban trends, mixed with the brand personality and interior look and feel of the venue, should be considered to influence the image of the bar’s uniform. People are the biggest assets of any bar and investing in staff looking and feeling good helps to promote a happy and driven team, which encourages customers to return.”

She recommends that uniforms should not be left till the last minute when opening a new bar but developed with management and the interior designer so it complements the setting. “Many smaller individual bars will not require the quantities that warrant a bespoke design service, but this shouldn’t limit the possibilities. In most cases the solution can be found by just cleverly putting together a uniform from a catalogue range and personalising the item with additional features of print or embroidery to create a bespoke look. If budgets are really tight, simply selecting uniforms in matching colours can still create a sense of unity for the team. At the moment the trend for bar wear has a retro feel, with slim-fitting shirts or blouses being teamed with slim-fitting trousers or even skinny jeans.”

Injecting a splash of colour into a uniform’s design is a simple and affordable way to make a bold and eye-catching design statement, says Nick Jubert, managing director of leading supplier Denny’s Uniforms. “A brightly coloured apron – perhaps the ultimate low-cost uniform – worn with a spiffy, matching flat cap or a bold waistcoat worn with an equally colourful shirt will create a highly visible and versatile uniform for your team.”

Denny’s new catalogue includes aprons (pictured above) and a shirt range which, in response to customers, have no breast pockets, in a high-quality, durable and easy-care fabric, as well as a technicolour range of shirts with 24 colours to choose from. Its unisex waistcoats are also available in a broad variety of colours, with detachable self-covered buttons that can be replaced with contrast silver or gilt buttons.

Practicality combines with style in the ChefWorks brand of workwear for kitchen and front-of-house staff from catering specialist Nisbets. Its new “cool vent” system helps keep staff cool by regulating body temperature through side panels designed to provide improved breathability over the areas which need it most. “Fitted clothing is safer and more hygienic,” adds Heather Beattie, product/brand manager at Nisbets. “Ill-fitting, baggy uniforms will have a tendency to drag in foods – thus risking contamination – and are more likely to catch or become trapped in equipment. Fitted uniforms not only look nicer, but eliminate these risks.” She adds that clothing not only needs to withstand the wear and tear of being worn regularly but also cope with constant washing.

Clean and smart workwear are a top priority for bars and kitchens to support a high-quality brand positioning, points out David Hill, sales and marketing director at Stalbridge Linen Services, which has led to operators increasingly opting to outsource their workwear and laundry suppliers. “With a commercial laundry, uniforms will be washed at specific critical temperatures. The minute you ask staff to launder their own clothing in a domestic environment, you are exposing your business to the risks of washing items at too low a temperature, and risking the potentially serious hazard of cross-contamination. You may spend a long time choosing the right look for your establishment, but if the chefs’ wear is not processed and cleaned properly, it will still look dirty and give a negative impression.”

PizzaExpress Banstead Oasis GraphicFocus on customised graphics

The new look for Cloud 23 on the 23rd floor of the Hilton Manchester Deansgate plays with the idea of “touching the clouds”, from the interior design by HBA London to its cocktails. The branding is reinforced by the use of bespoke graphics in the bathrooms, created by Oasis Graphic Co. A number of printed, clear and obscured vinyls were used to create varying cloud effects throughout the venue plus anti-graffiti protection to surfaces. The highlight is the illusion of divers about to exit the gents and the ladies by the window into the city below, created using frosted profile-cut vinyl mounted onto clear window vinyls.

A combination of digitally printed wallpapers, huge canvases, bespoke window graphics and lettering reinforced the locally themed PizzaExpress restaurant in Banstead, Surrey. The concept is inspired by HG Wells’ The Time Machine, which features Banstead, with a 3D clock motif created using raised mirror dibond and optically clear vinyls.

“Bespoke interior graphics that create a sensory relationship with the customer are a great way to achieve the desired brand image for bars, clubs and hospitality environments,” says Oasis managing director Simon Osborne. Removable vinyls can also be used for temporary but high-impact branded spaces for one-off events.

Cloud 23 uniformsCase study: Cloud 23, Manchester

Cloud 23, the 23rd-floor bar at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, has revealed new staff uniforms created by leading fashion designer Nadine Merabi. The classic styles incorporate on-trend bespoke print panels by textile designer Rosie Spencer. It follows a complete refurbishment of the bar last year.

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