At Restaurants Canada, our membership is as diverse as the industry we represent: from a fish and chips shop in St. John’s to a Thai restaurant in Toronto, to a café in Kelowna. Big and small; chains and independents; restaurants and pubs; caterers and cafeterias: we speak to the needs of all our members – one of which is to know their responsibilities to the people who work for them.

After all, people are our greatest asset. More than 1.2 million Canadians are employed in our industry. Without them, we simply couldn’t do what we do – and that is to serve 18 million customers every day.

We provide our members with information and best practices on an ongoing basis to ensure they have the resources they need to create positive workplaces. This includes everything from staying current with the latest legislation and regulations to advice on recruiting, training and retaining staff. At our recent trade show, we hosted a panel on “kitchen culture” and the future of tipping.

We also offer our members a group health insurance program that they can roll out to their employees – not to mention a food safety training program, an allergy awareness guide, an online training discount, and other resources to assist them and their employees.

As part of these efforts, we have a document on best practices for dress codes, which was posted on our website well in advance of the release of the Ontario Human Rights Commission policy paper. We advise the following:

  • Consider comfort and durability, especially given the often hot and crowded quarters kitchen staff work in. Lightweight fabrics, short sleeves and moisture-wicking material are good choices.
  • Ensure that male and female staff uniforms are equivalent or similar in terms of style and design, and ensure your dress code complies with provincial human rights legislation.
  • Ensure that your dress code allows for cultural and religious accommodations, such as head scarves and hair styles.
  • Think about functionality – for example, server aprons may require pockets for tablets and wireless payment systems.
  • Look for colours that fit with your logo and branding, and consider more than white or black in the kitchen. Chef jackets come in a multitude of colours.
  • Solicit employee input. When buying new uniforms, have your employees test them out and try on various sizes before placing a full order.
  • Make sure potential employees are aware of your dress code and uniform policy during the interview and hiring process.
  • Put your dress code in writing and include it in your employee manual so all employees are aware of it and any issues can be discussed.

Running a restaurant is one of the most challenging, demanding and exciting careers — members tell us it’s a real benefit to have a lifeline to an association like Restaurants Canada. By working together we can make good things happen for restaurant owners, their employees and customers, and communities across Canada.


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