IN THE HOTEL industry, in which appearance is key to providing a comfortable environment for guests, employee uniforms can help in meeting that standard. That is why implementing a uniform policy and dress code was a top priority for Houston-based Palace Inns when it switched to a franchise model around two years ago.
“We understood the value and return on investment in providing uniforms for all our franchisees at cost,” said Raj Das, the company’s vice president for development. “Providing uniforms can create a significant value add for any business by increasing professionalism and overall guest experience.”
But there are several apparel options to consider depending on the job of each employee. The cardigan vest of a front desk worker would hardly be useful to a laundry worker. Like other suppliers, Columbus, Ohio-based Leaderpromos provides an array of branded uniforms for its hotel clients, said the company’s Director of Business Development Clay Bridges.
The right clothes for the job
There are four basic categories of uniforms, Bridges said: front desk, maintenance, housekeeping and laundry.
“The polo shirt is versatile across all the categories,” he said.
Apart from that most hotels prefer different types of clothing for each category of employee. Front desk is usually long and short sleeve button downs, cardigan sweaters and the ubiquitous polo shirt.
“It depends on the hotel brand whether it’s an Oxford or an easy-care twill shirt,” Bridges said.
Uniforms for maintenance personnel usually include crewneck sweatshirts and jackets. Some also like pocketed work shirts, with long- or short-sleeved.
Housekeeping uniforms can include V-neck or “scrubs” style tunics and cobbler aprons.
“We have some locations that have the old-school, upscale, traditional maid uniforms,” Bridges said.
Laundry employee uniforms are nearly the same as housekeeping but include simple T-shirts as well.
“Some of these laundries can get pretty hot with the dryers going, so many of them opt for the T-shirt over the polo,” he said.
For Palace Inn, Das said, it isn’t only the employees in uniform.
“We encourage our owners to wear uniforms as well so that the guest can identify them as someone they can approach if they ever need anything,” he said.
The right stuff
Across categories there is a quality all hotel uniforms must share, Bridges said.
“The biggest thing about all of these uniforms is they have to be functional.”
Most hotels want their uniforms to be wrinkle-free material so their employees keep a crisp look all day, he said. Das said Palace Inn does seek high quality uniforms.
“They last longer and give a better impression to the guest,” he said. “Our employees can also take pride in coming to work looking sharp and representing the brand they work so hard for.”
Leaderpromos can design uniforms for its clients or go with designs the customer brings to them.
“The design of the uniform starts with the brand,” Bridges said. “A lot of it starts with an idea. We know we want a button-down shirt, but we don’t know which button-down shirt.”
Uniforms have to be cost effective and durable, he said. Just as importantly, they have to be an item that is not about to be discontinued by the supplier.
“We also have to do our due diligence and make sure that what they pick will always be available,” Bridges said.
Keeping in stock
The number of orders the company receives from its clients varies, Bridges said.
“We see and average of one order a month from our locations,” he said.
Das said Palace Inn orders uniforms as needed, making it hard to say how often they place orders.
“We usually order uniforms as a brand once a year and distribute them to the franchisees at costs when they request more,” he said.
Each hotel employee has an average of four apparel pieces for their jobs, Bridges said. Das said Palace Inn does not charge its employees for their uniforms, even though the company spends around $300 a year on uniforms for each of its 43 properties.
“We provide our uniforms at cost to the franchisee who then provides the uniform to their employees for free on a need basis,” he said. “It is vital that uniforms don’t become a burden on the employees to maintain their willingness to adhere to the standards.”
Leaderpromos serves around 20 hotel companies, Bridges said, including Red Roof, La Quinta, Nomad and Crown Plaza. Uniforms are considered an operational expense even if required by a brand, said Neel Shah, president of Atlanta-based Hotel Evolution.
“There are no benefits that justify the costs, outside of those inherent to why we would want uniforms in the first place; for clean, consistent, professional aesthetic appeal,” Shah said.
Shah’s company orders on average three shirts and two pairs of pants per employee, and the timing of the orders varies.
“It’s based on property, correlated to turnover, which in this labor environment is all too often,” he said. “The properties with more stable labor force require less expenditure.”
New uniforms were part of Wyndham Hotel Group’s Clean & Bright campaign for its Days Inn brand launched last year.
Your name here
Everybody likes a good freebie, and providing them to hotel guests, and sometimes employees, can be an investment in driving repeat business. If those freebies also bear the hotel’s name and logo, that item contributes to the property’s branding.
Along with hotel employee uniforms, Leaderpromos distributes promotional clothing and items as part of its “branding solutions.”
“I did a property recently that was close to a ballpark and they wanted rally towels with their logo,” Bridges said.
Another hotel was near a football stadium and wanted some promotional items to give to guests.
“We got them some water bottles and also clear backpacks because with regulations at this time, in stadiums you can’t take bags in unless they’re see-through,” Bridges said.
Promotional items do bring in a return, he said.
“It builds brand awareness and it gets that one-time customer always coming back because of that special touch,” Bridges said.
The promotional material can also be used to show appreciation to employees, Bridges said.
“It’s nice to give them a branded piece that’s across all properties,” he said.
Leaderpromos President Joe Rezabek said, first and foremost, it is a branding company. They want the products they make to “come alive uniquely, as opposed to stamping out the same old same old.”