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End of month uniform check

Yep, it’s that time again.

Time to inspect your uniform from top to bottom. Look at each item with a critical eye. If you have any unserviceable item, time to wastecan it. If you have any “marginal” items, put them in your emergency pile.

You’re going to be busy for the next 30 days, but the next 3 or 4 days are usually the calm before the storm. Now’s the time to buy new shoes, stock up on socks, ties, aprons, or anything uniform associated.

Your uniform affects your mojo. Don’t let it suck the mojo out from under you.

“Hi, I’m Rusty and I’ll be your waiter. Can I bring you a nice Chardonnay”?

(Actually, Emmitt Kelly Jr. at the New York World Fair – 1964)

Uniform check

Well kids, it’s been a month or two since I reminded you to check your uniforms.

For newcomers, I suggest that you do a complete uniform check once a month.

You can either do it at the end of the month or at the beginning, since it’s pretty much the same thing. Whichever way is easier to remember is the way that you should do it.

Obviously, during the month, you should be spot-checking your uniforms as you wear them, but the monthly uniform check is more complete. You want to look closely at all of your pants, shirts, shoes, ties, jackets, hats and aprons. You’re looking for frayed edges, spots that refuse to come out, faded colors, etc. If you have some items that are still serviceable but on their last legs, you should consign them to your “emergency” stash. These are items that don’t get used during your normal work week. You’ll use these items in a pinch; for instance, if you’ve neglected your washing and find out that you need a piece of uniform that day or maybe you’re about to do all of your laundry but you get called in. This way, you have something clean that hasn’t been used.

This is the time that you make sure that you have all of your tools as well as backups for those tools. Check your lighters, corkscrew, crumbers, pens, check presenters, captain’s pads, etc. There’s nothing more annoying than to find out that you bent your last crumber. Crumbers aren’t something that you can pick up at the drugstore on your way to work. You should always have at least two of them, one of them kept in reserve in a safe place.

Why do I suggest doing this? Is this just bowing to The Man?

Not exactly.

It’s more for you.

Eventually all uniforms get worn out or trashed. We tend to keep using them until the day that The Man notices that the uniform item isn’t serviceable and then they say something to you and require you to replace it. Due to Murphy’s Law, this always happens when you’ve had a light week and you don’t even have enough money to pay your rent.

It’s much better to buy new shoes when you can afford them yourself. If you are checking those shoes every month, you’ll get a heads-up that you need to buy shoes shortly. This gives you a week or two to do it at your own leisure. Also, you might actually have to order restaurant specific items through the restaurant and this can take time if they don’t keep them in stock in your size. So, instead of only having two logo shirts instead of three for the next week, you’ll have some extra time if you catch the shirt before it gets noticeably trashed.

What are you looking for?

Aprons that don’t hold starch anymore or have a stain that just won’t come out.

Shoes that are looking threadbare, don’t hold a shine, have a cracked sole, etc.

Pants that have frayed cuffs in the back where they contact the floor, are faded, don’t hold a crease, have tiny starch spots from being around kitchen cleaning, etc.

Shirts that have a perpetual ring around the color that has creeped over the top and is visible, collars that are pilled from contact with whiskers, collar points that roll and don’t stay flat, white shirts that have yellowed or dark polo shirts that are faded, etc.

Ties that are pilled at the knot or have permanent creases near the knot.

Hats that are all greased up or have bills that have lost their shape.

If you do the monthly uniform check, you won’t be caught with your pants down, so to speak.

You might want to live in a Norman Rockwell painting – just don’t be this guy.

End of month uniform check

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve reminded all of you waiters to do a monthly uniform check.

For newbies to the blog, I recommend taking a quick look at your uniforms every week or so as you wear them, but to take the end of the month to really examine all of your uniforms at one time and do it with a critical eye to every bit of wear and tear. This means looking at the cuffs of your pants to look for signs of fraying, especially at the rear if they tend to be a little long. I’ve found that the backs of the bottom seam of the legs of my pants can get frayed just from occasional contact with the floor. while you’re checking out the bottom of the legs of your pants, and you wear black pants, look for small bleach spots. They look slightly reddish. You get them because you work in a kitchen where people are spraying cleaning fluids on the floor. You don’t realize that the spray is hitting you with pin drops from 10 feet away, but you’d be surprised how often you’ll find these little spots if you look closely. If they are small, a Sharpie will make them less noticable. The stronger the solution, the better the chance that eventually you’ll end up with a hole there after you’ve washed your pants a few times. So file that away in the back of your mind. The last thing you need is to pull out your only pair of clean pants after washing right before a shift only to find that you now have a hole in them.

Check the cuffs of your sleeves if applicable. You’re looking for stains that won’t come out and early signs of fraying.

Check your tie if you have to wear one. For guys, we have to worry about the whiskers on our neck causing pilling around the knot. We can even wear through the outer lining to expose the white batting on the inside, especially if you keep your tie knotted in the same place so that you don’t have to re-tie it every time you get dressed. And speaking of pilling, check your collars. Not only do they get pilled, especially if you’re wearing an Oxford shirt, they get the dreaded “ring around the collar”. If you don’t treat them regularly, they can become permanent.

Do your aprons still hold starch? After a lot of cleaning, sometimes they look like limp dishrags that are paper-thin. They won’t even hold a middle crease. And you have to check them for black marks that won’t come out. These sometimes occur when you brush past a garbage can or rub against the foot of a chair leg that’s upside down because it’s stacked upside down on another chair in a hallway that’s too narrow to negotiate.

How are your shoes? Do they still hold a shine? If they are tennis shoes, are they showing signs of fading? How about the sloes? Close to cracking?

Do you have spares of all of your tools? An extra winetool? An extra crumber if you use one? Plenty of pens? A couple of lighters? You’d think that since many of us now work in non-smoking places, we wouldn’t need to carry them (hell, I used to have to carry a cigar cutter). However, if you have to put a candle in a dessert, you’re going to still need a lighter.

If you find uniforms that are still “serviceable” but are approaching the end of their functional life, you should “retire” them to the “emergency uniform” category. Separate them from your daily uniforms but keep them in reserve for the day that you got behind on your cleaning or have to pick up a shift at the last moment and you don’t have any clean uniforms. If you’ve got a clean “emergency uniform”, you’re golden.

Why is it important to do this monthly check? First of all, we tend not to look all that closely at our uniforms when we’re working back-to-back doubles and long stretches of work. Second of all, if a manager notices and calls you out on a funky piece of uniform, it’s always at the time when you don’t have the money to replace it. Or you’re stuck with a sub-optimal apron when the district manager comes for a visit.

So, the best thing to do is use the end of the month/beginning of the next month as a window to really get critical with your uniform. Do this regularly and you’ll be golden.

Uniform check

It occurs to me that I’ve missed my monthly reminder for checking your uniform for the past couple of months. Apparently, life happens and it got swept by the wayside.

Well, isn’t that the way it happens?

You get busy or otherwise occupied and one day, a manager points out that your shirt collar is yellow and pilled (those little furry balls that guys with heavy beards get on the outside of their collars due to rubbing against neck whiskers) or your shoes are worn, your pants threadbare. And, according to Murphy, whose law seems to impose itself in your life at the most inopportune times,  you need every penny of the next week’s tip to make your rent and really can’t afford to buy a new shirt, or your car recently needed a new alternator and you spent all of your reserves on that.

So, I remind you that the best way to avoid this situation is to spot check your uniform weekly and do a monthly intensive uniform check, paying attention to the areas that turn out to be problem areas (the backs of pants cuffs, the color of black denim, shirt collars and cuffs, ties, aprons, etc.). If you stay ahead of the curve, you’ll never be caught with your pants down (so to speak).

One thing you can do is to consign clothing items that are on the verge of being tossed to an “emergency stash”. If you catch them before they’re unserviceable but as they are approaching that status, you can save them for the time when you don’t have the cash to replace an unserviceable item. Reserve them for those times. Don’t wait until they’re so threadbare that you have to toss them out.

This has been a public service announcement from your surrogate mother.

Picture taken from site that advises on how to clean ring around the collar:

Good source for waiter supplies

I have no commercial interest, but it would be nice if you told them that you heard about it here.

waiter supplies

Last week of the month

This should be your week to look closely at your uniform.

Every month, you should pick a certain time to really give your uniform a good going-over. It’s easy to let things slide over time as we work day in and day out, but we really put our uniforms through the wringer. Lots of washing, bleaching, spot removals and working in sweaty conditions.

If you wear a polo shirt, does the collar roll up so badly that it won’t stay down anymore? Is it starting to fade a bit? Any holes you haven’t noticed? Sometimes this happens when a tiny spot of bleach gets splashed on them when you’re using it as a cleaner in the kitchen (bleaching creamers or sugar caddies, for instance) and it will cause a small hole when you wash it a few times. Any oil discoloration that just won’t come out?

For those of us wearing dress white shirts, we want to look for wear on the collars, especially if we’re guys with fairly heavy whiskers. They tend to get pilled around the top and edges where they rub against the neck and chin. We also want to make sure that all of the bleaching hasn’t caused them to yellow. If you wear a long-sleeved shirt, check the cuffs. Are they starting to fray? Are they stained? Does the shirt hold starch anymore? After many washings, oxford shirts start to wear thin and they just won’t get starched up anymore. Here’s a hint. Buy a piece of white chalk. It can temporarily cover a stain on the cuff, at least for a shift. Make sure that you have a bleach pen handy somewhere. If you are lucky enough to have a locker, always keep one in there. If not, you should carry one with you.

How’s your tie? Is it creased across the knot from moisture and constant re-tyings? Is it worn through on the edge where you knot it?

Do you wear a vest? Are the seams starting to fray a little? Any oil spots?

Do you work in a steakhouse and wear one of those white lab coats? How many stains do you have that just won’t come out.  Those coats are especially prone to stains, especially if you wash them yourself. You can usually get by with a few minor ones for a while, but unless you are the most careful server in the world, you’ll usually have to replace them every 6 months or so. After a while, if you wash them at home, they get thin and won’t hold starch anymore. Their collars are especially prone to pilling in the same way that a dress shirt will. Also, you’ve got be be wary of yellowing if you hve to bleach them heavily. Another thing you have to worry about is black streaks on the back from when you brush against walls, counter-tops or any surface that can get dirty. Sleeves, especially the tips, are prone to red sauce, mustard, or oil stains from salad dressings.

Do you wear black jeans? Do they need to be re-dyed because they’re starting to get a little grey? Are they not taking the dye very well anymore? Are you having to dye them every two or three washings? Time to retire them to private duty. Same if the cuff seams are starting to fray, especially in the back. The bottom of pants take a beating in a restaurant, what with all of the wet floors and floor hosings that go on in a kitchen.

Do you wear black dress pants? Do they need to get a hit of dye? Are the bottom of the cuffs starting to fray? If this is the case, it’s about time to throw them out. Look for tiny orange spots on the bottom of the legs as well. They could be bleach splatters from someone using it as a cleaner on the floor in the kitchen. If this is the case, a touch-up with a sharpie can get you by for a while.

Do you wear khaki pants? Are they washed so much that you can almost see your legs? Do they simply refuse to hold a crease anymore? Do they also suffer from fraying at the seams? Oil stains?

How about those shoes? For leather shoes, are they starting to crack on the top? Crack on the sole? Worn down so much that they’re not very non-slip anymore – wait, you don’t have non-slip shoes? Are you nuts? If you wear tennis shoes, how do they look? Would they look better at a Ramones concert? If so, that’s what you should use them for. Oh wait, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee are all dead – that’s not going to happen now. Tough luck for you. I can tell you from personal experience that they were awesome in concert.

Now’s a good time to make sure you have backups of crumbers and wine-tools as well. Check your pen supply.

If you don’t take a good look at your stuff once in a while, it’s easy to let a uniform decay into decrepitude while you’re not looking. Best to pick a certain time every month to do it. The last week of the month is as good a time as any. Make sure you evaluate everything at once. Compare them by like item. By looking at all of your shirts at once, you’re able to see any fading or yellowing a lot easier.

If you do this once a month, you’ll never have to worry about a manager calling you out for a defective uniform.

Don’t forget, the closest thing that your guest sees is the arm passing right in front of them when the plate hits the table. Or your midsection. Both are up-close and personal. You don’t want them to see shabbiness, right? It could affect your tip. Look at your uniform as a major part of marketing yourself.

Server’s uniform before (left) and after refurbishment (right)