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Responding to an inked-up workforce

Restaurateurs looking to hire employees can’t escape the barrage of ink gracing applicants’ arms and beyond today. Tattoos have gone from bad ass to mainstream, with at least 20 percent of Americans sporting at least one tattoo, up from 13 percent in 2007, according to a poll conducted by Fox. Among adults under 30 years old, the current percentage is 34 percent.

With that much ink in the labor pool, can a restaurant maintain the industry tradition of a no-tattoo policy for consumer-facing staffers? Starbucks is among those that have recently changed their answer to “no.”

The coffee chain revised its policy this October to allow employees to show tattoos (with a few exceptions). The driving force behind the shift: employee input.

“To put it simply, we changed it because [our employees] asked us to,” says Laurel Harper, spokeswoman for Starbucks. Since the spring, employees had been requesting that the corporate office revisit its no-visible-ink policy, Harper says. So the coffee giant reached out via its Starbucks Partners Facebook page to gauge what employees really wanted, asking them how they would change the policy. The resulting shift in rules was met with immediate and positive responses; employees rolled up their sleeves and posted pictures and thanks via social media.

Baristas aren’t the only ones in the business flashing their ink. Check out these famous chefs and the body art they sport. In the restaurant industry, the tattoo has become a common form of self-expression that can even relate back to pride in the kitchen.

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