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Restaurant uniforms matter. Here’s why.

Chefs, servers and bussers have worn uniforms since any of us can remember, but is it really necessary? It’s the 21st century. We’re all about breaking conventions and defying restrictions. Can’t free-thinking restaurants have a free-for-all when it comes to clothing?

They can, but they might not like the results. Turns out, restaurants and uniforms go together for a reason. Here’s why you shouldn’t ditch the matching apparel anytime soon.

Everyone knows who’s who

Let’s say a customer wants to order a side of BBQ sauce to go with those prime ribs. Whom do they ask? If they can’t tell the servers apart from the diners, they might end up flagging down another customer, and that always makes for an awkward situation.

An anything-goes apparel policy may sound bold and fun, but it’s terribly inconvenient for everyone involved. Easily recognizable uniforms let your employees stand out from the crowd, which helps everyone keep track of who’s who and what’s what.

First impressions matter

People judge us by how we look, whether we like it or not, and nothing is more important than the first impression. From the moment people meet, they are forming opinions based on whether someone is smiling or frowning, standing tall or hunched over, making eye contact or turning away.

Not only that, but studies reveal that, for the most part, we respond better when people match our expectations. For some reason, we feel comfortable when chefs wear chef’s uniforms, and when servers can easily be spotted as servers.

As soon as customers walk in the door of your restaurant, they’re asking themselves questions. Is this a good place to eat? Can I trust these people with my food? Do I want to stick around? Even one slovenly employee can drive away customers and earn you a bad review.

If you can’t even get your workers to dress for the job, what does that say about your ability to deliver quality food? Stick with clean, crisp uniforms, and you’ll instill confidence rather than fear in your guests.

Merit trumps appearance

Want people to judge you based on your merit, rather than your physical appearance? Wear a uniform. The same is true for restaurants that want to emphasize quality over idiosyncrasies.

After all, one server may be a snazzy dresser. Another may feel more at home in jeans and a sweatshirt. Even if you establish a general dress code, some employees will manage their ensemble better than others.

Standard apparel levels the playing field. If everyone on your team wears the same outfit, customers are less likely to judge them based on what they wear, and more likely to focus on how friendly, helpful and competent they are.

Clothes affect performance

According to a study conducted by Northwestern University, researchers who wear lab coats while they work tend to be more focused than those who don’t.

Another study showed that formal attire improves abstract thinking on tests, while informal dress boosts concrete thinking abilities. And a 2013 paper in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology revealed that red jerseys raised athletes’ heart rates and even improved their pre-competition performance.

Formal or informal, blue or red, matching or not—what you wear influences how you think and how you act. A uniform sends a clear signal to the brain: This is not downtime, it’s work time. That puts your team in the right mindset, which helps them focus on the task at hand.

The takeaway? You shouldn’t treat your employees’ apparel as an afterthought. It should be an essential part of your business strategy. Know what type of effect you want to create and then choose uniforms based on that goal.

This post is sponsored by Prudential Overall Supply

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