Appearance really is something when it comes to a spa. Most of today’s savvy spa-goers expect a clean and well-maintained space from the moment they enter the reception area and throughout the rest of the spa, including in the relaxation lounge, the bathroom and locker areas, and the treatment rooms. Your spa must also ensure that its employees properly reflect this pristine and professional appearance, which can be achieved with a well-thought-out spa uniform policy. “The best way for spas to create a uniform policy is to share with the staff the main reason why it is a critical element to the overall guest experience and make sure the staff fully understands how this will benefit not only the spa but also each team member,” says Lawrence Grum, managing director at Yeah Baby. “Most often, the primary reason for the establishment of a uniform policy is to enhance and ensure that the total guest impression is consistent with the overall brand impression of the property. The uniform must complement this dynamic. When a uniform policy is implemented, there is an instant win-win—the spa benefits from elevated levels of staff empowerment and professionalism, while guests benefit from the positive perception that they are in the hands of an industry expert.”
Making the Rules
According to Debbie Leon, president of Fashionizer Spa Uniforms, the best way to create a uniform policy is to give clear written guidelines to each employee as soon as they join the team. Spa management must repeat the same messages mentioned in the guidelines in all training sessions and reinforce these guidelines by not letting staff members who fall below the agreed standards to work their shifts. “It does not take long for employees to understand that they have to improve their appearance if they wish to be successful ambassadors for your spa,” says Leon.
Also, it’s important to provide employees with enough uniforms to ensure that they are able to present themselves at their best during each shift. Generally, the minimum number of spa uniforms is determined by employment status. This usually means three for full-time staff, two for part-timers who work more than two days per week, and one uniform set for those staff members who work only one day a week or less, according to Leon. At Remède Spa at The St. Regis Aspen Resort (CO), full-time employees receive two uniforms, while part-time employees receive one, and all employees receive complimentary shoes. Meanwhile, at Spa Ojai at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (CA), on-call associates receive two sets of uniforms, part-timers have two or three depending on their availability, and full-time associates have three.
In addition, some spas replace uniforms after the employee meets a milestone. “We do have many spas that have an agreed uniform cycle and reissue new uniforms to all employees based usually on when they received their original uniform,” says Leon. “These cycles vary from organization to organization starting from an annual 12-month anniversary issue of a full set of uniforms up to a 24-month cycle when there is pressure on budgets.”
At The Spa at Saddlebrook at Saddlebrook Resort (Wesley Chapel, FL) each year, spa employees receive a new uniform, which consists of black yoga pants and a black yoga top from Tri-Mountain. Similarly, at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dove Mountain (Marana, AZ), each employee receives two uniforms when he or she begins working, and then once a year the spa purchases additional uniforms to meet their needs. “Many of our employees are involved in results-driven wellness activities, such as working out or hiking, and we assist them with new sizing when their bodies change,” says spa director Marysell Diaz-Garcia. Some spas, like The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dove Mountain, also allow employees to purchase additional uniforms as needed or desired, which Grum believes is a good option for spas to offer employees. “If an employee needs additional uniforms, and the budget at the spa does not accommodate this need, then the individual should have the option to buy more uniforms so they can perform their job,” says Grum. “Tenure should not have any influence on uniform allotments to staff, as this may only derail and complicate the path to the greater goal of guest satisfaction.”
Noel Asmar, founder and CEO of the Noel Asmar Group, believes that purchasing durable and long-lasting uniforms is an important part of a spa’s investment. “Selecting a uniform that is long-lasting, stain-resistant, and doesn’t fade is key in avoiding regular replacements,” says Asmar.
Sheila Bracewell, director of spa and fitness at Eforea Spa at Hilton Orlando (FL), decided to change the spa’s uniforms when she started, because they were hot, not practical, and easily showed oil stains. As a result, the therapists were not fans. Bracewell collected samples from various uniform companies and gave them to the spa’s therapists to test out. “We took our most popular choices to ownership to make sure they would sign off on the design and picked a uniform,” she says. The spa ultimately opted for Yeah Baby Sienna Spa-Dri tunic shirts and brown pants.
Comfort and Joy
When choosing a uniform, look for quality, fit, and comfort. A well-fitting uniform should be the best combination of style and comfort, says Leon. “Garments should fit snugly and evenly on all parts of the body, so that they are as flattering as possible but should not be so tight as to restrict movement,” she says. She believes the greatest challenge is often finding a perfect combination of style and fit to suit the body shapes of all staff members.
Instead of choosing a spa uniform that features generic sizing that includes several sizes in one category (for example, “small” could include three sizes: 4, 6, 8), Rachel McTarsney, co-owner of RenWalla, believes it is preferable to opt for uniforms that are sized by number to ensure proper fit for each employee. She also believes that fabric plays a key role in the fit of the uniform. “Some fabrics have significant stretch, allowing for spa employees to move comfortably without lifting the uniform to reveal anything underneath,” she says. “Two-way stretch in fabric has a lot of benefits. It is more comfortable for employees, allows them to keep everything in place, and also affects the fit. Bodies vary in shape, so stretch in the fabric allows for these differences universally.”
Grum believes that the proper fit for a uniform should be determined by how the garment feels during movement, not simply by how it looks on the employee. Because the staff is performing all day in the uniform, the “movement test” must be done prior to purchase to ensure the comfort of the staff member is achieved. “For this reason, the fabric of the uniform plays an integral part in the overall uniform decision and should always be ‘stress tested’ by staff before any purchase is made to ensure the fabric enables a broad range of movement and is not stiff or board-like, and holds up well to repeated washings,” he says.
Handle With Care
In addition to fit, fabric also determines the type of care that should be taken when washing the uniform. “Uniform fabric is paramount to uniform care,” says McTarsney. “The characteristic of the fabric will determine if it is easy for the employee to wash and dry at home, if the uniform needs to be ironed, and the length of time the uniform looks professional.” Spas must balance costs of new uniforms with the costs of laundry service and the price of replacements for overwashed and faded garments. “Finding a uniform that has a high-quality fabric that the employee can wash and dry at home, doesn’t require ironing, and lasts over time would be a good investment,” says McTarsney.
For example, according to Leon, polyester fabrics cannot be washed or ironed at high temperatures, and this means they should be laundered in a polyester cycle at 100 degrees or less and ironed at very low temperatures, which limits the ability to wash out oil stains. And, according to Grum, most uniforms typically are machine washable and should be line-dried when there is spandex in the fabric. If there is no spandex, then the uniform is safe to be placed in the dryer. That’s why it’s
important for employees to follow the care instructions on the uniform’s label, another duty that should be spelled out in any employee handbook. “Uniform care should be simple and straightforward—wash and wear—to allow employees to focus on what matters: their clients,” says Asmar.
To be sure that uniforms are cared for properly, Spa Ojai provides laundry and dry cleaning services for its associates as a resort industry standard benefit. It also replaces uniform pieces as needed and considers requests for different or additional pieces on a case-by-case basis. Diaz-Garcia also recommends that employees leave their uniforms at the property, because its laundry department takes care of cleaning them at no charge. However, “if an employee prefers to take a uniform home, we recommend a light wash and just a few minutes in the dryer,” she says.
If the look is comfortable, professional, and flattering, employees are more likely to be motivated to maintain the uniform and follow the spa uniform policy. “The best way to implement a uniform policy is to create an inspirational look for employees,” says Asmar. “Motivating staff through well-fitting and flattering uniforms helps to elevate the spa experience for practitioners and clients alike. We recommend creating a top and bottom coordinate plan that works for the entire department, with a uniform program that includes sizes XXS to 5XL. Inspiring staff with flattering silhouettes and garments that are made for the way they move makes launching a uniform policy easier.”
Amp up your spa staff’s appearance with stylish uniforms from the following companies.
A La Turca Textiles
Chi Couture Uniforms
Fashionizer Spa Uniforms
Noel Asmar Uniforms