Jack Garrett of Oatlands Park Hotel explains the need for durable uniforms that allow staff to move easily

Oatlands Park Hotel was built at the turn of the 18th century on the Oatlands Estate in Surrey, whose grounds also once included a royal Tudor palace. Originally a private home for the likes of Lord Egerton, the Grade II Listed country house first became a hotel in 1856 and has been host to famous guests such as the artist Edward Lear and the writer Anthony Trollope. Today, the 144-bedroom, 4-star hotel is set in 10 acres of grounds and is a popular wedding venue. The staff at the hotel wear different uniforms depending on their job and responsibilities, which allows guests to easily identify who they are, explains Jack Garrett, the hotel’s front office manager. “For example, our restaurant staff you’ll see with waistcoats and trousers, and then for the managers, they have dark grey jackets.”

Probation period

The hotel provides uniforms for all the staff, and holds a general stock of uniform that staff wear for their initial three-month probation period. Once the probation period is completed, the hotel then provides the staff with a fitted uniform from Ashworth & Bird in Woking. The hospitality sector has a notoriously high turnover of staff and so Oatlands prefers to wait for the three-month probation period to be completed before committing itself to purchasing fitted uniforms for individual staff members.

The fabric of the clothes needs to be a breathable material, especially for the restaurant staff as they are constantly moving, says Jack. Durability is also important: “The porters in my team do a lot of lifting and they can get scuffed with dirt from suitcases, for example, so easily washable would be ideal. Also flexibility [of the material] in the uniform, it would also be a benefit to have that.” The hotel doesn’t provide shoes, although black footwear is required with only a short heel allowed for women, not high heels. The staff are provided with name badges and pin badges rather than the uniforms being printed or embroidered, reports Jack. “In general, a lot of hotels use just a main badge and pin.”

Annual review

The uniform is reviewed each year, with the management, from HR to directors, being in charge of uniform purchasing. “The staff have an input into what uniform is chosen as well. The senior management will discuss this with the heads of departments and then we, of course, offer feedback from our general department staff,” explains Jack. While the uniform is reviewed each year, that doesn’t mean it changes each year. However, the hotel is currently undergoing a big refurbishment and once that is completed the team is likely to look into changing the uniform in the new year.

When choosing a uniform provider, Jack says the attributes the hotel looks for are “the price and quality given to the professional business attire”. They order uniforms as and when they need them; someone from Ashworth & Bird comes to take the sizes and the tailored uniforms are then delivered within a couple of weeks. It’s vital staff have a smart uniform, says Jack. “It’s the first impression for the guest, and the guest experience always starts with that first impression, so looking presentable at all times is highly important.” For those looking to supply a hotel similar to Oatlands Park Hotel, Jack recommends providing a quality uniform that offers breathability and ease of movement for staff that are always on the move.