When it comes to Uniforms, companies that like to give their employees some choice in what they wear to work face a double-edged sword. Employees usually love the freedom of getting to choose the shirt, pants or skirt that fits them best. But management then finds themselves policing the dress code—which is a pain point for both the leadership and the employees who struggle to interpret the rules.
Recently, I got an email from a CEO of a large restaurant chain asking me to meet with his team. The problem? They had dress guidelines rather than uniforms, and people were showing up looking less than professional. This CEO was reaping the advantage of not having to invest in uniforms, but struggling with the aftermath of individual interpretation of those pesky guidelines.
Freedom of choice without the risk
For this client, we delivered an online system where each team member can order what they want to wear to work. So employees still have a choice. Lots of choices, in fact.
Our solution included a range of garments for each specific role within the restaurant. Then, we provided multiple decoration techniques. Now, each employee can choose the garment that suits their personal style and body type, then custom design it to fit their own personal expression. This is a high value for Millennials. They want to look uniform without uniformity. Between garments and decoration of their brand images, the employees have dozens of options available to them, and they are using them.
The upside for the restaurant chain?
- There’s no cost for the company
- Leadership is relieved of the hassle of monitoring wardrobe choices
- There is no apparel inventory obligation
A company of thousands of employees gets what they want when they want it, and all without the added cost of carrying a stock of uniform inventory.
A fun solution to a common problem
Some people know how to dress; others don’t. It’s always a mixed bag. With this online system, the employees are having fun designing a shirt that expresses what they love about the restaurant’s brand. The corporate team has jumped in too, with their own collection of office-appropriate apparel that can be ordered one-off, with the brands and designs that suit their tastes. One person wants basic apparel, and another person wants higher-end name brands. When it is produced on demand, one at a time, they can all get what they want. And look great, too.
Recently, I was talking with a restaurant owner who was in the process of reinventing their brand. Their new brand identity reflected the lively and playful atmosphere of their restaurant. But there was one thing that was holding them back from reinventing their brand: thousands of dated uniforms. With enough polo shirts in inventory to last more than a year, their employees would be rocking the old brand uniforms for the foreseeable future.
I’ve seen it before. At one time, it was not unusual to design a new uniform look and then let it run for years. And that meant purchasing in large quantities and storing those uniforms for months on end. Same polo, same apron, same cap. But not anymore. Brands today want fresh, or as the French say “au courant.”
Don’t let your uniform inventory hold you back
Another restaurant owner—and Righteous client—took a different approach. They, too, were ready for a brand refresh and found themselves with a ton of shirts from a previous supplier. But rather than wait to rebrand until they went through the inventory (or the old uniforms came back in style again!), they decided to cut their losses and start fresh. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. During the transition process, we helped them identify what was repurposable from the old uniforms, and turned that into money savings. The items that couldn’t be salvaged were donated to an overseas ministry for people who just needed nice new shirts to wear. Win-win.
Moving forward, this client will maintain a shorter-term uniform inventory (no more than 6 months or so). That’s because we can fulfill orders, when needed, at costs that are competitive. Which means lower storage costs, less stale inventory, and the freedom to create uniforms that remain fresh and on-brand as the restaurant evolves.
Out with the old
How you make a transition from a restaurant that carries a lot of uniform inventory to a more nimble brand, with new uniforms takes some planning. We recommend starting the process several months in advance of fully launching your new uniform. During that time, you draw down the old pieces while bringing in the new. When you follow the strategy of allowing a crossover period when both the old and the new uniforms can be worn, the pressures of a major change are lessened. But you’ll need to provide a hard stop date after which the old is no longer allowed on premises.
Don’t get me wrong: Franchisees and GMs will complain. They always do. It’s OK. Change is hard. But it’s for the good of the brand, the company, the employees and ultimately, your customers. You see, your brand is not about you; it’s about the people you serve and the people who serve the people you serve. Your employees are the embodiment of your brand, and you need to treat them as well as you treat your customers. Getting a routine refresh on your uniforms shows you care.
Break free and rebrand
So, what’s holding you back from the changes you need to make to stay fresh and relevant? If you are a restaurant concept, the answer may very well be your uniform inventory. But as we’ve shown our clients, excess inventory doesn’t have to slow you down. And once you’ve made the change and have your new uniforms on the floor, you can enjoy the flexibility and affordability of placing smaller uniform orders, when needed.
At the end of the day, people matter. What your people wear matters; how they feel about themselves while wearing it matters. So, at the beginning of the day, they need great clothing that they want to put on. That’s what you get to provide—an investment in helping people show up more confidently and more prepared to energetically serve your guests and customers.
You’ve got a great brand and a fabulous logo. Your job is to use it consistently. Your logo’s job is to get attention and create emotional connections wherever it is placed. But sometimes, when a logo is placed on a garment, it can feel like it just sits there. Your logo needs to tell a brand story, but how do you do that?
We’ve got 10 ways to give your garment logos the voice they need:
1. Silicone Rubber Patches.
For brands with an athletic air, these soft-textured little numbers are perfect for big bold graphics and text-driven brands. We sew them on and they don’t come off.
This form of embroidery brings a richness and feeling of permanency, elevating your logo to the next level with layers of fabric and laser-cut accuracy.
Want a smooth, velvety texture to your logo to match your plush, comfort brand? Invite tactile engagement with this high impact deco.
4. Hem Labels.
Add a retail flare to your apparel program with a subtle or not-so-subtle hem addition and show your brand personality.
5. Puff Printing.
This 80’s go-to is back and better. And it probably doesn’t look like you remember. This faux embroidery gives you the eye-popping look of hand-stitched without the cost.
6. LASER Edge Patches.
Sometimes embroidery can’t capture all the fine details of your logo. That’s where LASER Edge Patches come in. They’re woven, extremely detailed, and are sewn on securely, for a high-quality, high-detailed logo experience.
7. Foil Mirror Film.
If your brand is rocking the glam or retro feel, these high sheen applications can amp up the reflectivity of your logo and really make it shine.
8. Discharge Printing.
If elegance and lightness are your brand attributes, soft-hand prints start with a base that discharges the color of the shirt. This leaves a white surface for lighter printing.
9. Direct to Garment (DTG).
When you need multi-color prints and small quantities on a budget, this decoration packs a punch. With the ink printing directly on the garment, you can choose multiple colors and good quality for a great value.
10. LASER Imprinting.
If longevity is your game, you can get a lasting imprint that never washes out or degrades, and a subtle color distinction that works best on mid-tone casual garments.
Each of these decoration techniques can keep your branded apparel looking snazzy and set the right foundation to tell your brand story. We think they’re all amazing. Which one speaks to you?
Apparel decoration techniques can set the foundation to tell your brand story. With over 50 apparel decoration techniques to choose from you can be sure to find the perfect fit for your program. If you’d like to learn more, contact us at 503-655-1227.
We look forward to discussing the design technique that will best bring your logo to life. To take uniform evolution to the next level, check out our blog on uniforms that go beyond the logo.
Our new Look Book has arrived! It’s your guide to branded apparel and swag trends currently making waves in 2019.
Topics covered include:
- Blue Collar Style
- Headwear Makeovers
- and More!
Read The Guide Now!
For more information on current branded apparel trends, check out our other blogs, here!
Righteous: Your strategic partner in branded merchandise programs
Our team develops effective branded merchandise programs for our partners, but our primary focus is forming lasting relationships. Your success is what makes us happy and we hope that you think of us as a vital strategic partner to your success.
Righteous lives by our values every day. We provide the highest level of service to our partners and stand by our work. If you’re not happy, we will work with you until we solve the problem. That’s the Righteous way.
When you know what makes your brand click with customers, you can use promotional products to build brand awareness and loyalty. Who are your customers? What do they need? What drives them? Choosing the right swag will show off your brand personality and make you more memorable.
We work with you to create unique, memorable branded gear to foster stronger connections with your customers and create lasting impressions.
We realize the value of investing in brand promotions and with 1000’s of quality promotional products to choose from, we can help you pick the perfect products to help you stand out. When we design promotional swag and gear programs, we focus on the tangible aspects of what people touch, see, smell, taste and hear. All of the inter-connected ways people experience a brand help to create stronger connections to your company.
We’ve been in business for a long time, and one thing we know for sure: your uniform is more than just a uniform. As we’ve seen with several of our clients, new uniforms are a way to save money and make money, when you have a strong strategy and plan.
A study in saving money
One of our clients – a west coast chain of around 100 units – was dealing with the fallout of a uniform that pleased its younger workforce but was a sore spot for its older, longer-term employees. The risk of losing these longer-term employees, and the often unseen cost of employee turnover, motivated the chain to rethink its uniform strategy.
After hearing the feedback and complaints, Righteous worked with the restaurant to design a new collection of gear that fit the core needs of every age demographic. The response was enthusiastic and immediate. Employees reported being more comfortable in the fast-paced, demanding restaurant environment.
Take the cost of training a new person and multiply it by your turnover. Overall, the numbers speak for themselves: Reducing turnover is a revenue-saver. If you’re struggling with employee morale around your uniforms, you can save the cost of turnover by making a much smaller investment in new apparel that fits, performs well, and brings a smile to the face of your employees.
Putting uniforms to work
Another client of ours embraced the strategy of using their uniforms to make money. A restaurant of about fifty units, this chain was looking for ways to drive incremental sales. With a cool, gearhead feel, one of their revenue streams was the sales of retail merchandise in a dedicated area. But sales were stagnant and they needed a new approach. It started with a complete redesign of the apparel and space. Next, the employees became an integral part of the sales process by wearing the new gear as their uniform. Sales doubled almost immediately.
Take it as a powerful reminder of how important your employees are as advocates for your brand. Their enthusiasm for it can be tapped as a revenue driver. You can incentivize your team with bonuses and free gear to further build momentum. Then keep it fresh with a promotional calendar and regular rhythm of new gear. We recommend including seasons that are relevant to your brand, like sports and holidays. You can also leverage local outdoor events and 3K charity runs that feed your calendar.
Do these examples resonate with you? Are you looking for ways to get more out of your uniforms? We can help you look at things in a new way and make your uniforms work for you!
The restaurant industry is as competitive as ever, and this no time to rely on old ways of doing things. It’s time to think differently about uniform program management and optimize all facets of your customer facing brand initiatives. You’ve got great food to share with the world, so don’t be limited in your growth plans with uniforms that don’t attract and help retain the talent you need to conquer taste buds. When you get this piece right you improve the experience for your employees and your customers, a true win-win.
I’ve compiled a quick top 10 list of common pitfalls to consider when reviewing your uniform program.
#1 – Thinking left chest only
Of course, that is the expected place to put some branding, but it is by no means the only place. The entire garment is valuable branding real estate. This doesn’t mean you have to look like a NASCAR champion; just be ready to pull a page from the retail world and find some alternate placements for your messaging.
#2 – Staying the course
Do you remember the old studies trying to determine which wall colors led to greater productivity for office workers? The researchers found that it wasn’t the color as much as the newness that inspired renewed energy and focus. We love the new. So, retire early. Then, refresh your uniforms on a regular rhythm.
#3 – Focusing on cost
The maxim “You get what you pay for” is not a truth you can escape, without consequence. Cost will always be a component of any uniform program, but don’t sacrifice quality to get the lowest price. Instead choose the uniform program that has the best overall value.
#4 – Buying something you won’t wear
We’ve all been guilty of this one! It’s easy to approve of something you’re not going to wear yourself. Instead, involve your staff and give them the opportunity to provide feedback. You’ll be happy you did and so will they!
#5 – Singular focus on your logo
When a customer walks into your establishment, they already know where they are. You don’t need to put your (awesome) logo on the cap, shirt, and apron. That is too much of a good thing. Go beyond the logo and tell them something new.
#6 – One-Size-Fits-All approach
Your employees deserve a uniform that fits them well and they feel good wearing. No singular uniform is universally flattering on all body shapes and sizes. That is impossible to accomplish! Instead, focus on the fit of the fabric and the cut of the garment.
#7 – Ignoring front-line staff
Your employees are the embodiment of your brand, walking ambassadors for all the investment of time, money and resources you have made over the years. Give them a rock star welcome with a new hire swag bag.
#8 – Sticking with embroidery
Have you noticed that a significant portion of retail merchandise is no longer using embroidery? If you haven’t, head to the mall. Modern brands are using newer decoration techniques that provide greater detail, longevity, and flexibility. Try a new approach to your branding.
#9 – Limited selection
Uniforms don’t have to mean uniformity. Personal expression is a key value for the modern young worker. Treat your uniform selection like a concert merch table – everyone went to the same concert but they all got a different shirt.
#10 – Holding inventory
Take advantage of limited time offers (LTO), non-stock items and produce-on-demand uniform fulfillment programs to reduce your inventory. There are a lot of creative ways to keep your program fresh and interesting while saving you the hassle of having too much product.
Did we miss any? Let us know in our comments section below. If we’ve sparked your curiosity, give us a call at 503-655-1227 to discuss the status of your uniform program and how you can avoid these common pitfalls.