Business and Operations
The pizza chef: Uniforms: Worth it or not?
By Diana Coutu
By Diana Coutu
Your employees are ambassadors of your business, and, as such, they should be well dressed.
Your employees are ambassadors of your business, and, as such, they should be well dressed. This may seem obvious, yet I have met many independent pizzeria owners who don’t think the benefits of uniforms outweigh the expense.
I couldn’t disagree more. At Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria, we have two shirt options, a choice of a ball cap or toque for head wear and we don’t allow our staff to wear sweatpants or gym shorts. All kitchen staff wear aprons on the make line and replace them when dirty. Jeans are allowed, providing they are in good condition and don’t have any rips, tears, holes or patches. Shoes must be non-slip and in good condition and appearance.
Your employees represent you and your business, and appearances say a lot. Be mindful of tolerating sloppy dressers. The same way dirty washrooms resonate with customers, sloppy dress standards beg the question: what else are you overlooking? Uniforms command respect from your customers and your staff. This makes it easier for you to run your business. If you want your customers and your staff to take your business seriously, you must have uniforms.
Imagine you’re entering your pizzeria as a first time customer. What do you see? Uniforms are important on many levels. They present a professional image for your business. Having a simple, common hat and shirt for all your staff tells your customers – both existing and potential – that your business has standards. While there are other ways that you could communicate that information, uniforms do it without using words.
They can also help to set the mood and ambience of your dine-in pizzeria. Uniforms can communicate different messages to your customers. Brightly coloured t-shirts say it’s a fun, family place. Dark, formal shirts say it’s more of an adult-oriented place. In 2008, I attended an Italian pizza school and the master pizzaiolo talked about how choosing white uniforms was extremely important, because it gives the customers confidence that you have a clean kitchen and clean staff. These days, that cannot be stressed enough.
Even if you don’t have a dine-in establishment, uniforms will extend that same level of confidence beyond your doors and into your customers’ homes. Think of your single, female customers who live alone. You want them to feel safe opening the door for your driver. By looking through the peephole, uniforms let them know what business they work for. Several lady friends have told me the appearance of the delivery driver influences their decision to order from a restaurant again. Not all customers realize that you may have different staff to make the pizza, and even though the driver isn’t necessarily handling the raw ingredients of their pizza, you don’t want your customer to be second-guessing their dinner decision based on the appearance of the driver. It’s important to remember that your delivery customer only ever sees the driver at their door. They are sometimes the only point of direct contact between you and your customers. Make it count – you know what they say about first impressions.
Uniforms also let your employees know when it’s work time. Once they are on the floor with their uniform on, there is no doubt that work has begun. This will make your staff easier to manage. In my experience, if you have a staff member who consistently shows up without their uniform, or with a dirty uniform, it usually means that they don’t take pride in their appearance, their job or your business. When you consider what an employee’s regard for their uniform means to you, think about what it may mean to your customers! •
Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man. and a member of the CRFA board of directors. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more information contact her at Diana@dianasgourmetpizzeria.ca.