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Uniforms combine two definitions of “cool”

Spotlight on Uniform Trends is a sponsored blog series brought to you by Happy Chef, a proud sponsor and exhibitor of National Restaurant Association Show 2012. See the new face of culinary apparel at Booth 3448, where you can sample the best of our product line. Or request our exciting catalog to browse our full apparel selection.

Those of us old enough to remember the 1960s might have felt a wave of nostalgia when a recent episode of “Mad Men” showed Don Draper ordering from a waitress wearing the teal uniform that screamed Howard Johnson back in that era. OK, so, neck-to-knee teal probably wasn’t cool even in 1966. Thankfully, the following decades brought a move toward trendier dressing and the cool factor in restaurant uniforms has advanced by leaps and bounds in the front and back of the house. Today, styles, colors and additional fabrics mean professionals dressing for work in the kitchen and dining room can strike a balance between looking cool and keeping cool.

Color

A growing number of chefs are moving away from traditional whites and toward colors in their quest to add a dash of style to their work wear, trade publication iSante reported. Even in eateries where traditional conservative style still reigns, chefs are adding at least a pop of color, such as the long, royal blue aprons that cover chefs’ whites in the kitchen at The Hermitage Hotel’s Capitol Grille in Nashville, Tenn.

Other chefs are moving away from white coats altogether, donning black and brown work jackets that give them a more updated look, which has become increasingly important as more eateries open up their kitchens to public view and avid diners count on getting a chance to meet the chefs.

Comfort

Whether they’re covering the kitchen staff or front-of-the-house workers, the best uniforms meld a stylish look in keeping with the ambiance of the restaurant. Textile companies have developed better moisture-control fabrics that can still look good, Uniform & Textile Service Association Marketing Director Jim Zahrt told iSante. The newer polyesters are also vastly improved from earlier versions when it comes to style and fit.

Other companies are taking the cool factor even further, including Happy Chef, which uses a microfiber called CookCool to create pants, shirts and jackets that wick moisture from the body the same way many athletic-apparel brands keep consumers cooler when they’re working out.

Style

Tailoring has become much more important on both sides of the house, but especially in front, where servers are interacting with the public. Female staffers are no longer typically outfitted in smaller, baggy versions of men’s shirts; they’ve got tops tailored to fit their figures.

Style also plays a role as chains, including Ruby Tuesday, Boston Market and others, work to improve sales by upgrading service levels, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. Updated uniforms are part of the overall effort at Bennigan’s to remake its restaurants as it pushes ahead with a revitalized franchising program, the company said in a news release.

Restaurants and chains work hard to dress their servers in keeping with the overall look or feel that they want to project, a practice that’s especially apparent at eateries with a theme. The Daily Meal explored the question of taking the theme trend close to the edge in a post that looks at the most outrageous restaurant-server uniforms. The list includes women dressed as naughty nurses serving high-calorie burgers at Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, waiters dressed as ninjas serving Japanese-American-French fusion cuisine at Ninja New York and waiters in drag at Lucky Cheng’s in New York and Las Vegas.

How do your restaurant’s uniforms balance practicality and style? Tell us in the comments.

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