The dictionary defines hospitality as “welcoming guests with warmth and generosity”. What could be more warm and welcoming than embroidered linens and apparel?
Those in the restaurant and hotel industry understand the importance of creating a pleasant ambiance while simultaneously firmly establishing their identity in the guest’s mind. Their entire business future depends on their guests’ lingering memories of good times enjoyed in their own signature style. Embroidery can remind guests of their host’s warmth and good taste, and enhance the variety of your product offering. But before we can begin to make sales presentations, we must do our homework to learn more about the products used in the world of welcomes.
Research the Products
There are traditional and non-traditional uniform choices in the marketplace, and with a little research you can begin to see your embroidery work in some of your favorite local businesses. Start your research by obtaining catalogs from companies that specialize in products to service industries, such as linen supplies and uniform companies. This will help you become familiar with the price points of products available for customizing. Next, observe items used in your favorite restaurants and hotels, making mental notes about their selections.
There are many considerations when selecting restaurant uniforms, and some may not be apparent to those who are not in the business. Let’s start with colors. Certain colors show fewer stains, and may be preferred based for practical reasons. For example, a restaurant that uses red and white in its logo may select a khaki shirt embroidered in red and white rather than a white or red shirt that may show more stains. The point is you may not be limited to showing only products available in the client’s theme colors.
Another point - notice that waiters wear long sleeved shirts in upscale restaurants. Our sources in the restaurant business tell us that long sleeved shirts not only look dressier – this uniform choice also assures that guests will not be offended by bare arms. Also, you may need to dress the entire person – not just the shirt. Be prepared with options from pants to skirts and shorts, depending on the atmosphere of the business.
So before making a presentation to a restaurant, carefully study the uniforms currently being worn by its staff as well as other restaurants in the same genre. Is the styling casual or elegant? What color schemes are used? Are they embroidered? Finally, how do you think you could improve them?
Uniform rental services have traditionally enjoyed a significant market share in the hospitality segment, partly because of the convenience of a fresh supply of clean uniforms delivered weekly. Also, the industrial laundry process is very efficient in removing the stains inherent in restaurant attire. But in recent years, many uniform rental companies have added sales divisions that sell uniforms rather than renting them. This shift has been brought about by the trend of some service businesses toward purchasing uniforms. Fortunately, this development gives the independent embroiderer an equal opportunity to sell into this market.
When sourcing garments, you should locate regional distributors for major brands, just as you do for your sportswear items such as golf shirts. Just as most embroiderers don’t buy sportswear directly from mills or manufacturers, the same thing applies to hospitality wear. There are some companies that sell in small quantities, and we have listed some resources to help get you started. We have listed some resources below to help get you started.
One of the largest and most approachable areas of the hospitality market is the restaurant segment. Most restaurant owners and managers already benefit of the recognition factor that embroidery can provide, and you can provide uniforms as well as many other items. You could stand a better chance of becoming their embroiderer of choice by offering a wide range of products to enhance their image throughout the restaurant. Here are some ideas, from the basics to the extras that can help win the account.
Some restaurant managers favor tuxedo style aprons for their stylish, dressy appearance. However the v-neck styling limits the decorating area. While you can offer embroidery on this style of apron, a more versatile option is a high-quality bib style apron. Check your sources for styles with wide straps with a closure, rather than thin tie straps. The difference in cost is small, but the presentation is much stronger. If you can’t find the color or style of apron that you are looking for, you may be able to have them custom made. Aprons are simple in construction and offering special color combinations or styling could be the key to a large account.
The type of shirts that are available in uniform catalogs will be different from the ones that you may be purchasing from sportswear catalogs. Even shirts with similar styling may have differences that make them wear better while maintaining an economical price point. Oxford shirts made for uniform use are likely to have more polyester content and a coarser weave than their sportswear counterparts. Shirts made with this type of fabric have a slightly firmer “hand” or feel, and are more resistant to wear from laundering and frequent use. They may also have fewer fashion features, such as fewer buttons on the button placket above the cuff, and less expensive pearl-white buttons rather than wood-tone buttons. Nevertheless, they embroider well and are a better option for your hospitality clients because they provide a better value for their specific need.
Lest you think your customer might appreciate you furnishing a “fashion” shirt for uniform use, you may be surprised to find that the fashion shirt has a wilted appearance when you see it on their staff. A uniform shirt performs better than a fashion shirt under the wide variety of laundering techniques used by individual employees. It is likely that the garments won’t be ironed, so you can help assure repeat business by selling uniform-quality shirts to deliver a consistently crisp appearance. There is however, a trend in the uniform business in general, and hospitality in particular, toward the same business casual look that is commonly seen in the corporate setting in recent years. So, in addition to traditional styles, be sure to include some shirts that reflect current trends, such as camp shirts and Hawaiian, in your presentation. These shirts embroider well, and are available in unusual color choices.
Chef coats are almost always embroidered, and are popular items in many restaurant settings – not just high end. For example, the moderately priced French-themed chain, La Madeleine, places their logo on chef’s coats to create the ambience of authentic French cuisine. This type of garment has an unusual closure, and it is important to place a mark on the garment prior to embroidering to assure straightness. Have someone try on the first garment and determine the placement while it is being worn to assure that you will embroider it correctly. Chef pants, although not embroidered, are popular items used by many kinds of restaurants, and they add punch to your presentation. The loose-fitting elastic-waist pants are available in all kinds of colors and prints, and they are readily available from linen and uniform supply wholesalers. If you keep some samples, chances are good that you will sell some to people who are not in the hospitality business.
This frequently overlooked wearable can be one of the most highly profitable items in your offering, provided that you know how to embroider it effectively. If you purchase quality blazers from a wholesale source, you can easily double your money on this hard-to-find hospitality uniform. To embroider, just open the lining at the inside seam that leads to the sleeve. Stop the opening about one inch from the sleeve seam. Insert a small hoop inside the opening and embroider just above or just below the pocket welt (see illustration). If your embroidery will be below the welt, be sure to pull the lining fabric out of the pocket before embroidering so you don’t render the pocket useless.
There are fewer prospects that will select this option, but be sure to include a couple of samples in your presentations so they know this is available to them. Show a simple motif on a solid color napkin and placemat. The key is to let your client know that you can furnish this kind of product, and that it can be used to reinforce their identity to their guests. If you have a showroom, these products can be effectively displayed at a mock table setting along with your other hospitality items. It might sound unbelievable, but some embroiderers we know have helped transform a restaurant or casino’s image by embroidering on the upholstery or soft chair backs. If you see an opportunity to offer this service, be sure to use polyester thread so the embroidery will be resistant to the constant abrasion that it must endure.
Many restaurants offer caps, shirts and jackets with their logo for sale to their customers. Often displayed at the checkout register, these items are usually sold at a modest profit to provide low-cost promotion for the restaurant. This is an area where you can sell some of your more traditional sportswear merchandise to your restaurant clients.
Hotels have similar needs to restaurants for identity apparel for their staff, as well as the higher price point niceties such as embroidered bathrobes. While this may be a tougher sale, the return is worth your trouble. Be sure to research your offering well, presenting only high-quality merchandise. If the hotel isn’t currently using embroidered items, suggest that they start with embroidered bathrobes on their concierge floor, with for-sale versions in the hotel gift shop. If the hotel is receptive to the bathrobes, follow up with a nice warm-up suit with the hotel logo, displayed in the gift shop as well as the workout area of the hotel. If the hotel is located in a resort destination, be sure to suggest adding the name of the city below the logo.
Once you start servicing this kind of client, you will be on the lookout for any kind of business that offers hospitality services. Here are a few to help you get started:
Horse Race Tracks
Edwards Garment - Full range of hospitality garments, including blazers, oxford shirts, aprons and much more.
Red Kap - One of the largest manufacturers of all kinds of uniforms. Click on Distributor to locate a distributor in your area.
Fame Fabrics - manufacturers of vests, aprons, chef’s wear
Newchef Fashion Inc. - chef coats, camp shirts, and more.