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Company statements: Restaurant dress codes

We approached Earls, Jack Astor's, Joey Restaurants, Moxie's and Restaurants Canada about our story on dress codes. Here's what the companies told us:

EARLS

Our dress code suggestions and requirements are very clear, yet allow for individual tastes. We keep records/image files/look-books of the yearly dress code changes and whoever you spoke to at our King Street location was pretty close, though some parts of our dress code are requirements and others are suggestions.

For women we ask that their skirts be no shorter than one inch above the knee and that the skirt is straight or pencil style and black with no slit or a very short slit. Pants are also to be black and skinny for both men and women. We are currently testing black jean options as well, though the uneven fading is proving a problem for that casual professional look we are after.

We have sourced a blouse at discounted prices that works well, is easy to maintain and very reasonably priced - They may choose the sleeveless version or the 3/4 length sleeve version of a blouse we particularly like or a selection of blouses that are similar in style. We are looking for a blouse that cannot be seen through, a wide enough shoulder that even when worn sleeveless no straps can show; buttons up high enough that they can bend over comfortably and one that does not easily wrinkle. We state a 1 inch heal - or a walking shoe heal, dress shoe for both men and women to make sure they don't wear really light weight shoes or ballet flats - the sole can also be 1 inch so the shoes feels completely flat as well, or the shoe can be a 1 inch wedge or a short bootie – all closed toe and closed heel. This is to make sure that if they step on broken glass (a standard safety hazard) or spill something hot, that the shoe is solid enough. Lots of the girl choose to wear high heels, how they work hours in them I don’t know, but if they want to they are allowed to, as long as the shoes are closed heel, toe and not strappy.

The necklace it to try and give the impression of individual mixed styles and tastes, while keeping uniformity in the black clothes. We ask that it makes a statement about their personality. They can be any colour or shape they want.

We work with the staff on our dress code to make sure it's something they like to wear and generally have them do all the modelling for our look book. Most of them seem to really like their dress code. I am happy to send the images from the past few years to you for your information, but I would need to contact the staff for permission if the images were to be published or made public in any format.

There is not and has never been, a requirement of female staff to wear short skirts, revealing tops or high heels - and it upsets me to hear this, especially if she was told this from a supervisor. I don't know how long ago she worked at Earls, but if she had been given any direction that way we would want to know that as it's very much against our policy.

Having said that, years ago we did not have a very strict dress code, just asked the staff to wear all black, and some locations were not as good as others in staying on top of the standards of dress the staff were wearing - That’s one of the reasons our dress code was made so clear a few years ago to stop any wider interpretation of the look, such as short skirts and strappy blouses.

In regards to an interview with Mo, I don’t think we will want to comment on what other restaurants are doing/wearing but feel free to let me know if you have any more questions about Earls dress code or if I can be of any further assistance.  

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Second statement from Earls

Hi Melissa, not sure if you are misquoting the staff or mishearing them but we often use, instead of saying 1 inch, which staff somehow manage to not be able to measure, to no SHORTER than a fingertip length ABOVE the knee - saying it the other way round is ridiculous and is not correct. And yes, in regards to hair, we expect staff to be well groomed and stylish and will ask both men and women to adjust their hair style if they are wearing it in a way that is unsuitable to working in the restaurant. Staying on top of our dress code with this many young people can be a daunting task and not all managers are as good at it as they should be, but rather than send someone home because their skirt is too short, for example, it's more likely we will ask them to wear a longer skirt on their next shift – but sending them off the floor for a few minutes to tidy up their hair is something I am sure does happen.   

As mentioned, our dress code is one that the staff works together with us on, and for the most part they really like their dress code. We have reviewed thousands of comments by staff, both where we get direct feedback and where their feedback is anonymous, and do not currently see any major feedback on dress code. The staff really love working at Earls, we see that in the restaurants every day and in surveys that call us out as one of the best employers in Canada. Having said that, we have close to 7000 employees and there will always be a few that have issues with some part of their work experience, and that may include the dress code. 

The dress code is one that reflects the style of the restaurant and our guests. Has a consistent look, which reflects a uniform, appeals to our staff and is easy for them to achieve while allowing for personal style – that is what they want. We also want to make sure it’s comfortable and meets health and safety requirements.

For women we ask that their black skirts be no shorter than one inch above the knee. Pants are also to be black and the “skinny” style for both men and women.

We have sourced a blouse at discounted prices that works well, is easy to maintain and very reasonably priced - They may choose the sleeveless version or the 3/4 length sleeve version of a blouse we particularly like or a selection of blouses that are similar in style. We are looking for a blouse that cannot be seen through, a wide enough shoulder that even when worn sleeveless no straps can show; buttons up high enough that they can bend over comfortably and one that does not easily wrinkle.

We state a 1 inch heel - or a walking shoe heel, dress shoe for both men and women. The sole can also be 1 inch so the shoes feels completely flat as well, or the shoe can be a 1 inch wedge or a short bootie – all closed toe and closed heel.  They are asked not to wear a light weight shoe or ballet flat to make sure that if they step on broken glass (a standard safety hazard) or spill something hot, that the shoe is solid enough. Lots of the girl choose to wear high heels, how they work hours in them I don’t know, but if they want to they are allowed to, as long as the shoes are closed heel, toe and not strappy.  High heels are their choice, allowed but not mandated.

We change our dress code up quite often and test that in  few locations first to ensure the staff find it comfortable and it's easily achievable. We have a number of test uniforms in place that include jeans, running shoes, various aprons and matching shirts but our consistent dress code for most of the restaurants is the current one, as stated above. 

As mentioned, I am happy to send the images of our dress code book from the past few years to you for your information, you will see there is not and has never been, a requirement of female staff to wear short skirts, revealing tops or high heels and if a staff member has been told that we would want to know where and when as it's very much against our policy.

JACK ASTOR'S

Our company seeks always to treat every man and woman in our employ with the highest degree of respect and dignity. They are an integral part of creating the fun, family environment we strive for in our restaurants.

Despite what you may have been told, our proprietary, confidential written standards for female servers/hostesses specify:
•         No nightclub apparel
•         No sheer clothing without a solid, opaque covering
•         No strapless tops/dresses without a cardigan or blazer
•         No plunging necklines.

Female servers have the option of wearing our uniform skort (skirt with shorts underneath) with socks or nylons or a full yoga pant.

Pre shift meetings are held for all male and female staff before they commence their shift on the floor where a manager will go through the pre-shift checklist to ensure they are prepared. This includes a check to ensure their uniform is complete, neat and well-kept and that they have all the necessary tools of service (server pouch, bottle opener, 6 pens, server pad, employee swipe card, lighter for b-day celebrations, etc).

Some claims provided by you by “one former employee” are directly contrary to our policies. Please have that person contact us, on a confidential basis, so that we may investigate further.

Please feel free to use this statement in your report; we respectfully decline your invitation for an interview.

We are looking forward to the broadcast to learn what else we can do to remain a responsible, fair and respectful employer, providing a safe and comfortable environment for every staff member.

Thank you Melissa,
Kathryn

Marketplace note: After our interview with former Jack Astor’s employee, Jen Hatchard, the company contacted her through Facebook about her experience and wanted to find out more about what happened and how to improve.
 

JOEY RESTAURANTS

Britt Innes, VP of Marketing for JOEY Restaurant Group, provided this response:

Dear Melissa,

Sasha Perrin sent me your email and I thought it would be appropriate for me to respond. I have been with JOEY Restaurants since 2003 and, as the VP of Marketing am responsible for our dress code.

The aim of our dress code is to establish a neat, polished and consistent appearance. To achieve that, we have an all-black dress code for our servers. Our male employee partners wear a black shirt and black pants. For our female employee partners, I designed a classic, A-line black dress with a length that is no more than 2” above the knee. We work with a seamstress in each city to ensure that our employee partners feel comfortable with the fit of their uniform.

When developing the current dress code I tested a number of different looks including pants, jeans, skirts and dresses. Part of our uniform selection process was to collect feedback from our employee partners. The dress option was by far the look preferred by our female employee partners.

With that said, we are constantly researching new looks and have been testing a new uniform for the last six months in our Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle test locations. This test uniform consists of a t-shirt and jeans, for both male and female employee partners. We have received a good deal of feedback from our employee partners both in favour of the new uniform and in favour of the old. When considering changes to any aspect of the business we like to hear all feedback.

Melissa, as I mentioned I am accountable for the dress code and implementation of it and I am genuinely upset to hear our employee partner’s comments regarding the tightness of the dress and the direction given around undergarments. I can assure you that a manager saying this to a partner is simply unacceptable and not something we condone.

Our locations have our uniforms standards posted and they are also included in our training materials. If you could share which location this partner works/worked at it would be much appreciated as I will follow up with the management team at this restaurant to ensure a similar situation does not occur again. Further, if this partner feels comfortable with speaking with me, I would personally like to follow up with her. She can reach me at the number below.

With respect to footwear, we want our employee partners to wear a shoe that provides arch support. We have worked with a podiatrist to determine the height of shoe our employee partners can comfortably wear. As a result, our dress guideline is for shoes of ½” to a maximum of 3” in height. Our employee partners choose what is comfortable for them and if they are unable to wear a ½” heel, they wear flat dress shoes. The manager you spoke with was misinformed about heel height and we will be following up with our team to ensure our guidelines are followed. If we see a heel higher than 3”, we will ask our employee partner to change.

In fact, we recently took the unusual step of partnering with a podiatrist to design and develop a shoe that provides the ideal arch support for our employee partners. We then tested that shoe in our test stores and asked employee partners for feedback. The feedback was that they disliked the look of the shoe and wanted to continue wearing their own footwear. While we ultimately decided to allow our employee partners to pick a shoe that they are comfortable in (as long as it is no higher than 3"), the project was a valuable exercise in understanding the preferences of our employee partners.

As with other customer facing or hospitality industries, we expect our employee partners, both male and female, to maintain a level of polish, cleanliness and care in their professional presentation. This polished presentation includes not only personal appearance but also the ability to engage with, and provide quality service for, our guests.

What is clear from your email is that there is an opportunity for us to follow up with the entire management team across all locations to ensure that they are clear on our dress code guidelines and expectations. I will be personally ensuring that this is done.

Melissa, our employee partners are so important to us and understanding their satisfaction and needs is something we take very seriously. We do this through hearing feedback directly, as well as participating in anonymous and independent studies. In our sixth year of being named a Great Place to Work we had 900 anonymous employee partners from all our locations complete the independent study conducted by the Great Places to Work Institute. I am happy to share that in 2016:
-          90% of our employee partners said management is approachable and easy to talk to.
-          94% of our employee partners said management is honest and ethical in its business practices.
-          95% of our employee partners said they are proud to tell others they work at JOEY.
-          97% of our employee partners said people here are treated fairly regardless of their sex.

I appreciate you bringing this to our attention and giving us the opportunity to explain and share our dress code guidelines. I hope that you are able to share the information I have provided.
 

MOXIE'S

Laurids Skaarup, President, Moxie’s Grill & Bar provided this response:

At Moxie’s we continuously assess and update our wardrobe guidelines based on team member and guest feedback. Our wardrobe guidelines were updated in the summer of 2015.

Moxie’s offers two distinct premium-casual dining experiences: a family dining room and a lounge, each with its own wardrobe guidelines.

Current wardrobe guidelines are as follows:

·      In our family-oriented dining room, female and male servers wear dark jeans, a buttoned-down black shirt and an apron. A half-inch flat-soled shoe is the most common footwear chosen by male and female team members.
·      In the lounge, male servers wear dark blue jeans and their choice of solid colour dress shirt, paired with a vest and tie; female servers wear a choice of pencil skirt that hits just above the knee or a tube skirt that can be no higher than six inches above the knee and a dress shirt of their choice. Female and male team members wear a dress shoe with a half-inch heel.

Team members have the option to choose to work in the lounge. All lounge servers have requested to work in that section.  Each section provides comparable opportunity for pay and hours.

 

RESTAURANTS CANADA

Restaurants Canada provides guidance and best practices to our members on various aspects of running a successful foodservice business – from food safety to marketing to dress codes and uniform policies. Our guidance on dress codes and uniform policies is available on our website. As a voluntary trade association, we can’t tell individual members how to run their operations, but we do encourage them to follow best practices and know the law as it applies to their business and their employees.