HR Corner: Establishing First-Rate Personal Appearance & Hygiene Procedures Among Employees

The appearance of your employees reflects directly on your restaurant’s standards. Having your staff looking professional and sanitary is essential in any business, but especially one where you are serving food. You don’t want to turn off customers because your staff has a ring in their nose, stud in their lip, midriff exposed, scruffy hair and no sign of a uniform. These all scream “we don’t care how we look and we don’t care what we are serving you.”

A cleanly appearance is very important to the ambiance of your establishment. You want to convey to your customers that you are an establishment that takes pride in what you are doing and care about the environment they are consuming your goods in. Any employee, whether they handle food or not, must be told to take their personal hygiene and cleanliness very seriously – as it can affect your business profits.

Studies have shown the average customer views a safe, clean food establishment as one that has employees working with visible hairnets, gloves and no fancy jewelry that could end up in their food. They are not looking for beauty or celebrity-type appearances, they are focused on receiving a good meal and trust you to deliver.

When hiring restaurant staff it is essential to have clear appearance guidelines in place. If you have standards that you want enforced in your business, even something as simple as footwear or long hair being kept tied back, it is much easier to get this message across in document form from the beginning than to have to address it later. 1

Explain the requirements are a part of the job they are applying for and as a foodservice worker, they must pay close attention to personal hygiene. Policies on personal hygiene should be reviewed with employees and posted as reminders. Brochures with photos are useful as these can provide actual pictures of DOs and DON’Ts.

Be creative and take actual photos of employees working for your company and in environments to which the staff members can relate. 2

Key Points to convey to your employees3:

  • Wear a clean, appropriate uniform every day
  • Wear a clean apron when preparing food and take it off when leaving the food preparation area
  • An apron should be removed to go on break, eat lunch, smoke or use the restroom
  • Change an apron if it becomes soiled
  • Avoid wearing jewelry other than a plain ring, such as a wedding band, when preparing or serving food
  • Wear a hair restraint to keep hair and particles in the hair from falling into food
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled, closed-toe shoes with soles that prevent slipping

Advise all employees that they will be sent home to change or not allowed to keep their shift if they show up to work and you feel they are in violation of your set dress code and appearance policy. But also be reasonable and allow employees to return permanently stained or damaged uniforms for a newer or cleaner version. Provide your employees with options for proper hairnets, beard nets and gloves so they are easy to access.

Know that repeated offenses by an employee may require that you to take action so be sure to have clearly outlined consequences for dress code and appearance infractions.

Issuing high-quality personal hygiene procedures within your business will help to ensure a strong food safety program that is visible not only to your guests but also your bottom line. All it takes is open communication!

1Hiring Restaurant Staff
2Food Safety Magazine
Personal Hygiene in Food Preparation Areas: Key to Delivering a Safe Product
3A Clean and Sanitary Foodservice USDA – Serving Safe