Business Strategies: The Importance of Uniforms at Leisure Entertainment Facilities

October 17, 2011 No Comments

Like most employers, owners and operators of many leisure entertainment facilities support the unique characteristics of everyone who works for them. However, when it comes to attire, they favor a bit less individuality and, accordingly, mandate that staff members wear uniforms. While some employees may balk at the prospect of donning the same clothing as their co-workers, uniforms are an important component of amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, museums and similar operations because of the benefits they offer on a number of levels.
From a practical standpoint, uniforms can eliminate the risk that employees will wear to work clothing that they themselves consider appropriate or in compliance with a set dress code, but does not really fit the bill, pointed out Jerry Combs of Chestnut Identity Apparel. This is particularly helpful when it comes to younger (teenage) personnel, whose ideas about what constitutes, for example, “revealing” attire may differ from those of adults and, most significantly, guests.
Additionally, said Robin Hale, chief operating officer of the Toronto Zoo in Toronto, Ontario, uniforms can help to support a leisure entertainment facility’s overall identity and distinctive brand. Two years ago, the zoo replaced its previous employee attire with beige pants and olive-colored polo and long-sleeved shirts, plus three-in-one jackets in the darker color. Combined with work boots, these pieces lend the clothing “a ‘safari’ feel that supports the zoo’s safari-oriented brand identity, Hale noted.
Taking this one step farther, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., uses uniforms as an important tool for reinforcing the distinctly different identity of each area of the park, says Spokesperson Jennifer Blazey. For instance, employees staffing the “Camp Snoopy” area, which has a camp theme, morph into “camp directors” via their uniform of khaki pants and short-sleeved, button-down khaki “camp shirts.” Those assigned to the “Ghost Town,” a replica of a deserted town of the Old West, wear a uniform comprising pioneer-style garb. “We think of the park like a play, and the uniforms have a part in setting the scene,” Blazey stated.

“When employees feel comfortable and look crisp, they are more ‘sparkling’ in their attitude and approach to visitors.”
- Kathie Nirschl, vice president of human resources, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Calif.

Uniforms worn by staff members at leisure entertainment facilities also play a role in enhancing the overall guest experience. Kathie Nirschl, vice president of human resources at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., believes being dressed in uniform instills in employees a spark of enthusiasm about the aquarium, its facilities and its mission. Employees wear facility-issued, customized navy blue polo shirts; versions specific to men and women are available. Staff members pair the polo shirts with their own stone-colored bottoms; the latter range from skirts, slacks and trousers to shorts and Capri pants. Short skirts and shorts are not permitted, but employees who work in the “life support” area are allowed to replace stone-colored bottoms with darker ones because stone tends to readily show, rather than conceal, grease stains.
“When employees feel comfortable and look crisp, they are more ‘sparkling’ in their attitude and approach to visitors,” Nirschl asserted. She added that the scope of Aquarium of the Pacific employees who wear uniforms is very extensive. It includes all individuals who come into contact with guests, including those who work in the education, husbandry, detail, security, housekeeping and audiovisual departments; and those whom guests may notice, among them persons from the life support and facilities departments. Some administrative personnel also opt to wear the uniform.
In addition to enhancing the demeanor of employees whom they encounter, uniforms improve the guest experience by making staff easier to identify and approach. “We don’t want to force visitors to be inconvenienced because they can’t tell the difference between other visitors and our staff members,” Blazey said. “With the uniforms, we do not have that concern.”
Nirschl agreed, noting that uniforms convey to guests the message that we are here for them, we want to give them the best service and we are serious about this place. For us, the uniforms really are less about constraining employees and more about reminding guests that our priority is to serve them. That’s especially true for our first-time visitors, whom I think are immediately more comfortable when they see uniformed employees and know that someone is there who can handle their questions and concerns.”
Nirschl shared a caveat for leisure entertainment facility operators who are in the midst of selecting employee uniforms: consider comfort and color. “Employees aren’t going to be happy if they’re constrained by a uniform or it isn’t flattering,” she concluded. “Let’s face it, there are some colors, chartreuse, for example, that only a limited number of people can wear. We chose the navy because it’s a great color for almost everyone. A little thought here goes a long way.”

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