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Finding the Right Fit

Questions to Ask Prospective Uniform Providers

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Todd McKeown
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In the hospitality industry, achieving a distinctive image goes a long way in attracting guests and differentiating your property from the competition. Although there are multiple factors involved in the image equation, staff uniforms play a significant role in shaping guest perceptions. Whether sophisticated, simple, unique and/or environmentally-friendly, uniforms represent a property’s overall appearance and brand. For this reason, it’s important to dedicate adequate time researching uniform providers and selecting the one that’s the right “fit” for your hotel. To help simplify the process, below are a few questions to ask prospective partners:

1. Are your vendors required to follow certain guidelines?
Remember that the uniform provider you choose ultimately reflects your business. Determine whether the provider has a code of conduct in place for their suppliers to help ensure that suppliers follow labor laws and protect employee rights. For additional peace of mind, ask the provider if they have pre-screening processes in place to examine potential suppliers and uncover possible issues or improvements that can be made prior to working together.

2. Does your company utilize diverse suppliers?
Some companies pride themselves on using a diverse supply base in order to promote minority- and women-owned business enterprises. However, this isn’t true of all companies. If your company values diversity, it’s important to partner with a uniform provider who feels the same way.

3. Does your business have a quality assurance program?
In order to help ensure that the uniform provider you partner with offers high quality apparel solutions, it’s important to ask if they have a quality assurance program in place. Reputable providers have a technical services department responsible for testing raw materials and the finished product. If the provider confirms the presence of a quality assurance program, ask them to elaborate on their testing procedures. These should be designed to compare easily with standard practices in the fabric and apparel manufacturing industries and even available for customization according to the needs of a customer’s testing request. Employees who operate quality assurance programs can test for a variety of apparel characteristics, including shrinkage, pilling, color wash down, fabric smoothness and more.

4. Can I expect environmentally-friendly apparel options as a client?
Eco-friendly apparel is a great way for properties to improve the sustainability of their business and attract prospective guests. New innovations in uniform technology can turn post-consumer material, such as plastic bottles, into recycled polyester fabrics. In the U.S., it is estimated that Americans throw away more than 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Uniforms made out of recycled plastic bottles and other post-consumer material help divert landfill waste and reduce energy outputs. To ensure that your uniform provider is environmentally conscious, ask them to explain and demonstrate the benefits of their green apparel solutions. Not only will you reduce the environmental impact of your apparel, your employees will look and feel great in apparel they want to wear to work.

5. Are a wide range of color, style and design options available for apparel programs?
Having the ability to truly customize your hotel with unique uniform options should be a top priority when selecting a provider. Matching uniform colors to existing décor helps represent your brand and bring a cohesive look to your property. In addition, outfitting employees in specific colors helps designate job functions and eliminates confusion among guests.

Style and design are also crucial points to think about, as different employees have diverse needs. For example, housekeeping staff may want large pockets to accommodate supplies while valets may require uniforms that withstand various weather elements. Programs that offer men’s, women’s and unisex options will provide additional flexibility among styles.

6. How often are product lines updated and improved?
Providers that take note of changes in the retail fashion and uniform industries are more likely to continually update their products to offer modern styles. Take special note of those that have in-house design teams. Outfitting employees in stylish, comfortable uniforms that fit well leads to positive employee attitudes and greater customer service (as a result).

7. What customer service aspects set your business apart?
With your brand at stake, the company that manages your corporate identity program must offer outstanding customer service. Focus on details such as the flexibility of alterations, return policies and on-time delivery. Also inquire about customer satisfaction measurements, such as feedback surveys, to distinguish between companies that are deeply involved with their customers and those that are not.

Drawing Conclusions
Asking the right questions is key to ensuring that your hotel partners with a quality and reliable uniform provider, however it’s also important to pay close attention to each provider’s answers. Are they easy to talk to and forthcoming about their policies and procedures? If a provider is hesitant to answer a question or communicates poorly, it could foreshadow communication problems down the road. Look for a provider who answers all questions clearly and thoughtfully. This—in combination with the uniform provider’s references and the work they showcase—signals that a provider can live up to your hotel’s expectations.

Todd McKeown is Vice President of Global Hospitality and Gaming for Cintas Corporation, a leading provider of stylish and eco-friendly apparel solutions for hotels. For more information, please visit www.cintas.com/Hospitality.

Todd McKeown    Todd McKeown
VP of Global Hospitality and Gaming
Cintas Corporation

Bio: Todd McKeown is Vice President of Global Hospitality and Gaming for Cintas Corporation, a leading provider of stylish and eco-friendly apparel solutions for hotels. For more information, please visit www.cintas.com/Hospitality
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