Earlier this month I ran across an article in Freakonomics referencing a study that showed "wearing a white lab coat — a piece of clothing associated with care and attentiveness — improved performance on tests requiring close and sustained attention." The study's conclusion is that a person's perception of their clothing can affect their behavior.
If a person wearing a lab coat believes doing so will make them smarter, they will try harder or believe more in their own intelligence ... at least according to the study. So, if you give someone a badge and police uniform, will they feel more duty-bound to help others? If someone wears a suit, are they likely to act with more decorum than in jeans? And most importantly, if your staff sees their 'uniform' as being representative of a service-oriented brand, will they perform at a higher level?
Disney is a prime example of using your unique corporate culture to inspire your team to go beyond what is required. Disney prides itself on excellence in customer service and hiring the right fit. 'Cast members' aren't just hired for a job; they play a role in the customer experience. It's not just the actual characters, but every employee from Mickey to parking attendants.
Having a strong brand that represents your company's mission and values, then encouraging your staff to act on those values makes a difference. Not only to your diners but to your staff. At Disney, whether it is a tour leader for the Animal Kingdom or a waitress at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the employee has a unique 'uniform' and a nametag that identifies him or her as part of the Disney culture and experience.
Imagine if your front-of-house staff put on their 'blue polo with an embroidered logo' and smiled a little more brightly. Or if that yellow graphic tee meant they were just a little more patient and friendly.
To reach that type of uniform empowerment, first you need to take a look at your culture and brand. Uniforms should be designed around your culture, which should fit your clientele. If you run a sports bar, maybe it's referee-style shirts. Fine dining establishments tend toward black pants and white shirts. However, the more unique and branded the uniform, the more impact if should have on your staff.
Making 'brand believers' out of your staff should be an important part of your culture. If your employees aren't sold on the restaurant, why should diners be? The more engaged your employees are, the more improvement you see in retention, training ROI and most importantly the increased likelihood your diners have an exceptional experience.
Defining your culture around your brand empowers your team, and they are one of the most valuable resources you have. All it takes to make sure your team is 'dressed to impress,' is making sure that they believe in your restaurant, your brand and your culture. Inspire your team to be greater than just a job title.