Mary Galer of The Miller of Mansfield explains how denim aprons – and good credit terms – won their business
According to owners Mary and Nick Galer, The Miller of Mansfield in Goring near Reading is best described as a modern inn. A world apart from the ubiquitous gastro pub, this pub-restaurant with 13 bedrooms won the Good Food Guide’s Readers’ Restaurant of the Year in 2016, and chef Nick has worked with industry greats such as Heston Blumenthal.
They started the business in April 2014 and have around 25 staff. The kitchen staff all wear chef whites while the front of house team wear black trousers and black shoes with grey polo shirts for the women and blue polo shirts for the men. The polo shirts are from Fruit of the Loom, says Mary: “I wanted a quality one that wasn’t going to look worn or tired within a couple of weeks. I also wanted something everybody would feel comfortable in so it had to be not too fitted, but I didn’t want it too baggy either. I picked the brains of the company we went with, Oliver Harvey, and they were very helpful in saying what they thought was the right one to go for.”
An essential and much-loved part of the front of house uniform are the aprons: long length denim for the men, and shorter, two-tone denim ones for the women. Denim is one of the key trends in hospitalitywear this year, although Mary wasn’t aware of this: “When I saw the uniform with the denim apron I just fell in love with it. It wasn’t boring, it wasn’t like a tabard or a run-of-the-mill apron – I thought it would look nice, but would also be quite trendy.”
It is also practical, being very hardwearing and comfortable, although she does say it is hard to iron. It also has the added advantage, as does the entire uniform, of being in shades that suit everyone. “We’re not asking them to wear a colour that’s really difficult to pull off – there was quite a lot of thought that went into it.”
The need for a hardwearing apron is obvious in a busy catering environment, although Mary highlights another advantage in an industry notorious for high turnover: when staff leave, the aprons can be given to a new member of staff. The aprons are also, unlike the polo shirts, embroidered. “For wear and tear, embroidery lasts a lot longer and looks smarter,” says Mary. “We went for embroidery on the apron because everyone is going to be wearing them. The polo shirts for hygiene reasons can’t be passed on to someone else, so it was a case of let’s pay the money for the apron, as when someone leaves the apron can be passed on.” The company also has grey, embroidered fleeces for its fulltime front of house staff when doing breakfast shifts or bringing in logs.
Mary orders all their clothes from Oliver Harvey, a Manchester-based company that offers British-made chef clothing. They are a bit different to some of the mainstream suppliers, she explains, plus Nick had previously had some chefwear from them and knew they were helpful and offered a full range, right down to the shoes.
Another, interesting plus offered by the garment supplier was that when Nick and Mary were setting up the business, Oliver Harvey offered them longer credit terms than anyone else. For a new business, this can be a deal breaker.
For anyone who’s looking to supply a business such as The Miller of Mansfield, Mary has the following advice: “Just have a personal approach to it. I wanted the uniform to be hardwearing, I wanted quality, but I also wanted a personal service, to be able to talk to someone who knew what I wanted and knew our business so they’d get it right.”