Apparel can enhance style, image and staff demeanor
Uniforms at Delta Hotels & Resorts
By Marni Andrews
For the 12th straight year, customers of Cintas Corporation won the Image of the Year awards for the fashion, function and quality of their uniform programs. This year, it was Renaissance Hotels and Nashville-based Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center who took home the honours.
Cintas bellman’s jacket with Carnaby shirt collar and jacket
It was just one year ago, in May 2010, when a massive flood in Nashville resulted in millions of dollars in damage and the complete shutdown of Gaylord Opryland Resort. Upon making the decision to renovate and reopen just 195 days later, the company hired Cintas to redesign their apparel program. With 105 days, Cintas designers created a new uniform program for more than 15 job functions at the resort.
“Amid nearly impossible time constraints, Cintas blended together fashion, function and quality to deliver apparel that beautifully complements our newly restored property,” said Pete Weien, senior vice-president and general manager of Gaylord Opryland.
Renaissance Hotels earned an IOY award for its new Urban and Resort Ambassador collections. Cintas utilized Renaissance’s classic but modern brand principles and introduced accessories in vivid colour. This created an unexpected element of surprise that enhanced the hotel’s signature style and reinforced the Renaissance brand.
“Our new apparel collection has not only enhanced our style and professional image, but our ambassadors’ demeanor as well,” said Toni Stoeckl, senior director of lifestyle brands for Renaissance Hotels.
Cintas is also in the news for its expanded eco-apparel collection that includes options for bellmen, doormen and other front door professionals.
The new sustainable garments (Tailored Signature Jacket, Cobra Jacket and the Carnaby Shirt-Collar Jacket) are made out of recycledmaterial created from plastic water bottles diverted from landfills. Each piece can be home laundered, eliminating the need for professional dry cleaning and exposure to the harmful toxins and chemicals used in the process.
Michelle Dortch, senior product designer for Cintas, is seeing narrower lapels and collars for two-button single-breasted men’s blazers. She says customers are asking for a more relaxed corporate look such as suit jackets worn with casual pants or sweater dressing with a tailored pant. This makes a corporate look more approachable.
Fairmont Algonquin lets kids dress up and shadow bellmen
Kids enjoy dressing up to look like the kilted bell staff at the Fairmont
A different sort of guest benefit targets kids at the historic Fairmont Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews by-the-sea, NB. Food and beverage director Ryan Dunne says a program called “Junior Bellman” lets kids dress up like a hotel bellman and shadow him. Dunne says kids “go nuts” for the uniform.
The Algonquin features different types of uniforms throughout the resort, all of which are “functional, comfortable and in tune with the surroundings.”
Some operational departments such as the golf course change their uniforms yearly to keep up with current styles or to help promote products sold in the pro shop. All uniforms are cleaned and replaced by the hotel.
Dunne has noticed that as more women have entered the culinary industry that there’s a much wider range of chef jackets and pants available. Also, with the economic downturn, hotels purchasing uniforms are electing to focus more on quality, colour and details such as fabrics, buttons, trims and logos.
Fashion and comfort have become a major part of culinary uniforms, says Cliff Klein, director of sales, Chef Works Canada Inc., which was one of the first companies to design an Egyptian cotton chef jacket. He is seeing more stretch in uniforms and more women-focused designs. Chef Works’ line of women’s jackets and pants has been very well received.
With more open kitchens in restaurants and banquet stations in view of the public, chef wear has also gotten edgier, says Klein, who offers red, green, tan, denim and black chef jackets paired with cargo pants or designer-patterned trousers for these settings. The denim chef jackets are also popular in resorts and golf courses.
That being said, Chef Works’ most popular culinary look remains the decades-old standard of a white chef jacket with either a solid black pant or a small check pant.
Town and Country has added five fresh colours to its Gusto chef wear collection
Donna Roxburgh, marketing director, Town & Country Uniforms, says that while black is still very much in demand for uniforms, there’s growing demand for their Gusto chef wear collection that comes in five fresh colours.
She adds that aprons with stripes as well as solid dress shirts are timeless looks that people want no matter what time of year.
As for fabric, “although cotton is very comfortable, it is a natural fibre and therefore wears with time. Polyester holds colour and shape much better,” says Roxburgh.
“Over the past 20 years, the uniforms industry has continued to blur the lines between traditional uniforms and retail, both in appearance and fabrics,” says Scott Way, major account manager for Imagewear, a division of Mark’s Work Wearhouse.
Uniforms, morale and guest experience all related
“Uniforms are a key element for every property,” says Klein of Chef Works Canada. He tells the story of an interior designer who stayed at a hotel that he supplies. She took the time to compliment the food and beverage manager because she was so impressed by the non-standard banquet staff uniforms of patterned vest, patterned bow tie, tuxedo shirt and black pants/skirts.
“Eco-friendly garment options boost employee morale, which benefits the guest experience,” says Dortch of Cintas.
Michele Mahussier, assistant manager of the 126-room Inn at the Quay in New Westminster, BC, describes her hotel’s current uniforms as a modern design skirt, blazer and pants for women with pants and jacket for men.
Shirts/blouses are non-traditional in style and men do not wear ties. Inn at the Quay also uses dramatic colour (purple, hot pink, black) while fabric is a blend of wool and polyester micropoly that wears better “than earlier generations.”
“The impression we hope to leave with guests is professional, modern but not stuffy. We want guests to see the friendliness and personality of the GVA,” she explains.
Fairmont Algonquin dining room server
“First impressions count,” says Way of Imagewear. He suggests that successful uniforms provide both functionality for the employee and brand recognition for the hotel. “It takes integrated corporate logo apparel programs that cover people from head to toe, with everything from work uniforms to custom T-shirts to pants to branded headwear.”
“We cannot underestimate the importance of a uniform,” says Paul Gardian, executive director of brand operations for the 46-property Delta Hotels and Resorts, where uniforms are chosen by each hotel to reflect their location and the style of the hotel. “We’re a people industry and if we want our guests to be treated like number one, then we need to look at how we dress our employees to look and feel good.”
Gardian says it’s a mistake to forget to budget funds for uniforms when undertaking a renovation. “If they’re not replaced, it can be a huge detractor from a great renovation.”
“Our team members place a high value on their uniform”
A Fairmont Algonquin bellman from the 1950s
“Our team members place a high value on their uniform. If they look and feel good, that translates into a great guest experience. We all tend to smile more and demonstrate higher levels of confidence when we like what we’re wearing and it fits well,” he says. “Gone are the days of beige polyester, and we’re now seeing smart styles that make it easy for employees to clean rooms and have them look good as well. In many cases, having team members as part of the decision process can generate excitement.”
Frequent traveller Robert Stewart, 48, is from Winnipeg. He says that a hotel with well-coordinated uniforms that fit the style and tone of the property make him feel the whole operation is more professional and well thought out.
He has returned to properties on the basis of how they handled the complete guest experience, an important component of which is uniforms.
Kilts are in vogue for the bell staff at Fairmont Algonquin Hotel in New Brunswick
Uniforms impact so many areas of our operation—they motivate employees to perform their best, and they send a message to guests that they have chosen the right hotel because the team looks just as stylish and professional [as the property], says Gardian of Delta Hotels and Resorts.
“As you can tell, I’m a big fan of great uniforms!”