Food safety

Dress code for food service employees

A proper dress code promotes food safety and brand recognition for food businesses.

Get your HACCP in
1 hour!

Sign up now

Create Your
Food Safety System
in 15 Minutes


Food Safety System
in 15 min

A proper dress code promotes food safety and brand recognition for food businesses.

  • Food employees are required to wear clean clothes and proper protective gear when working with food.
  • Proper dress codes are part of the aspects of food safety compliance regulations.
  • FoodDocs' digital Food Safety Management System can help you consistently monitor food hygiene tasks all the time.

Having a dress code policy speaks more than just the branding of your food business. It can also translate your approach to food safety. A dress code policy for food service employees serves several benefits to your business's marketing and food safety aspects. A lot of thought processes must go into creating this policy to properly provide comfort for your employees, brand marketing for your business, and food safety for customers.

A food handler's clothing is part of the food hygiene list to reduce the likelihood of causing cross-contamination. Points such as a dedicated dressing area, appropriate uniforms, and guidelines for prohibited items to be worn must be included in the dress code policy for restaurant workers.

Learn how to create a restaurant employee dress code policy that highlights what should food service employees wear through this article.


What is the dress code for food service employees?

Food service employees are generally required to wear clean sets of uniforms, including shirts, pants, hair nets, appropriate shoes, and aprons. A dress code for kitchen staff aims to minimize the risk of cross-contamination in foods from dirty clothes.

All worn clothes must be free from holes, rips, loose buttons, and visible dirt. Food handlers working in direct contact with food must also wear effective hair restraints, such as a chef hat and other head coverages. In addition, food handlers are not allowed to wear any accessories except for a plain wedding band.

A strict dress code policy must be written in a documented guideline along with the other company policies. It must be clearly communicated to all of the employees as part of food hygiene training. 

In some food businesses, the dress code may vary according to the theme of the food business, and uniforms may be provided. The general rule is that worn uniforms must not contribute to the contamination of food.


proper dresscode for food service employees


Benefits of dress code

Having a clear set of rules for your dress code policies helps in completing the ambiance of your food business and promotes a stronger culture within your team. Providing a dress code can help your team maintain focus and safety at the same time. A dress code is more than a set of grooming standards. 

Here are a few benefits of having an employee dress code policy in every food service business:

  • Promotes food safety. Laying out clear rules that no ripped clothes and dirty uniforms can be worn during service can significantly decrease the likelihood of causing contamination. Loose clothing can come in contact with food and spread unwanted bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. In addition, food safety clothing requirements included in the dress code can help prevent unwanted accidents.
  • Brand promotion. Especially for food businesses that provide custom uniforms to employees, customers can have greater visibility of your brand through uniforms. This can help boost brand recognition and name retention among consumers. 
  • Proper identification. Uniforms can help customers and employees alike differentiate between back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house employees.
  • Culture inside the workplace. Dress code regulations for staff create respectable standards among your team members. This helps instill and improve respect when it comes to authority and team culture.

A proper dress code goes beyond aesthetics and looks in the restaurant industry. It is a significant part of food hygiene standards and an effortless marketing strategy. Involving the local health department and your team in the policy-making process can help address potential challenges with policies.

In addition to having a dress code, your team must also implement a regular food hygiene checklist to ensure compliance. Get the most intuitive digital solution to remember all food safety tasks with our digital Food Safety Management System (FSMS) at FoodDocs. Our system can generate the most essential food safety checklists and more in just 15 minutes.


FoodDocs food safety system-1


Creating a dress code policy

Your food business dress code policy must be clear, complete, and inclusive, and it must prioritize safety. The policy will be provided along with an employee manual and must be emphasized to all incoming and existing employees.

 Create your dress code policy according to this guideline:

  1. Description of the policy. Describe the rationale behind the regulations for employee attire and a brief overview of the entire guideline.
  2. Objective of the dress code. Identify the main points, importance, and benefits of having a dress code policy.
  3. Affected employees. Identify the positions to whom the policy is applicable (e.g., front-of-the-house staff and kitchen staff).
  4. Dress code list, guidelines, rules, and important reminders. Describe all aspects of the dress code policy, including:
    1. Personal hygiene related to dress code
    2. Description of proper uniform
    3. Prohibited articles of clothing
    4. Areas where the dress code policy must be in effect
  5. Exceptions and remarks. To become more inclusive, consider reasonable accommodations such as cultural and religious beliefs in making a dress code policy. This section can also be used to describe additional policies, such as alternative solutions to non-compliance.
  6. Corrective action. In case of non-compliance, food handlers must be held accountable. Lay out corrective actions such as conducting a retraining program among food handlers or disciplinary action.

The dress code policy must be properly documented and verified in case of revisions. You can consult with local health departments regarding specific regulations on proper attire for food service operators to create effective policies. 


How to enforce a dress code policy?

Like any other food safety guideline, the dress code policy must be consistently implemented and observedthroughout your operations. Consistency in following the dress code policy is key to maintaining all of the benefits that it may have.

Use the following restaurant rules in enforcing your dress code policy:

  • Use a daily employee hygiene checklist to ensure that all employees are following the policy.
  • If uniforms are provided by the business, regularly verify the inventory to know if there is a need to renew or repair damaged uniforms and gear.
  • In case of non-compliance, you can issue a maximum number of offenses to each employee and closely observe if there is any improvement.
  • Document violations and apply corrective actions, such as a retraining program for the importance of the dress code policy.


What if food service workers don't follow the dress code?

As previously mentioned, non-compliance with the dress code policy may merit a violation and can cause bad publicity. If in case the non-compliance was observed by a health department inspection, the violation could cause a significant deduction to your overall evaluation.

Non-compliances, such as failure to wear hair restraints, wearing accessories, and maintaining a dirty apron, can significantly increase the risk of causing foodborne illnesses and related injuries. As a food business manager, clearly instruct employees on the importance of following the dress code and lay out the consequences of non-compliance.


Why should food handlers wear clean clothes?

Wearing clean clothes is a part of food hygiene rules and appearance standards that help prevent cross-contamination of food products. Dirty or soiled clothes can contaminate the food being prepared. The dirt can transfer to the food unknowingly.


How often should food handlers change their clothing?

Food handlers must come to work wearing neat clothing and uniforms. When contamination of the uniform occurs, such as food spillage, food handlers must immediately clean their clothes and, if possible, change. This guideline is also applicable to aprons.

Clothes, uniforms, hair restraints, and aprons must also be changed every shift change. Additionally, aprons must be changed after working with raw foods such as eggs and chicken. Food handlers must also thoroughly wash their hands before putting on their uniforms to minimize contamination.


dresscode of food handlers


What should you not wear when working with food?

Although inclusivity is highly encouraged in the food business workplace, there are particular articles of clothing that must not be worn when working with food. The FDA Food Code clearly identifies jewelry as a potential food safety hazard and, therefore, must not be worn in food service.


Food handlers are highly discouraged or prohibited from wearing the following:

  • All types of jewelry (e.g., watches, earrings, facial jewelry, medical alert bracelets, and necklaces) except a plain wedding band.
  • Artificial nails
  • Nail polish
  • Dirty clothes
  • Loose footwear
  • Clothes with loose buttons or ripped design
  • Tank tops or crop tops

These prohibited items can be considered food safety hazards to a food establishment. Every dress code policy aims to protect consumers and employees from food injuries and related circumstances. A restaurant uniform policy may vary from one food establishment to another but must always include what not to wear in the kitchen.


What do you wear as a prep cook?

The dress code for a prep cook may significantly vary, but a prep cook should generally wear clean work clothes or a chef coat, an apron, clean pair of pants, non-slip work shoes, and an approved hair restraint.

Sometimes, prep cooks can use disposable gloves to handle food directly. Prep cooks must learn the proper use of single-use gloves to avoid cross-contamination.


What is the dress code for a server? 

In the absence of a company-provided uniform, the dress code for a server includes clean clothes or dress shirts, a pair of work pants without rips, and closed footwear. A ponytail or an acceptable hair restraint is advised for servers with long hair.

Despite minimal contact with food preparation, food servers are also discouraged from wearing accessories to minimize the risk of cross - contamination.


Why is an apron necessary in food preparation?

An apron is essential protective gear for any commercial kitchen. It provides a certain level of protection against contamination and soiling of your clothes. 

Using an apron during food preparation promotes proper food hygiene and protection from accidents. Food handlers who wear aprons are less likely to accumulate burns in case of accidents.


using an apron during food preparation


When must a food handler change their apron?

Kitchen staff using aprons should change aprons every shift, after handling raw foods, and when the apron gets soiled with food.


When should a food service worker take off their apron?

Food workers should remove their aprons before they leave the food preparation area. The apron must be placed in a designated place to prevent getting contaminated from outside the kitchen.

Removing an apron before using the restroom is an example of proper food hygiene compliance.


Can you wear an apron in the bathroom?

No. Food handlers are mandated to remove their aprons before exiting the kitchen.


Is it OK to wipe your hands on your apron?

When food handlers wipe their hands on their apron, the likelihood of cross-contamination increases. Aprons can collect food residue that may get transferred to other food contact surfaces. As much as possible, wash your hands and wipe them correctly rather than wiping them on your aprons.


Why is an apron considered a safety item?

An apron acts as a protective barrier against contamination between the food being prepared and the handler's clothes. It also helps prevent splashes of hot oils, food residue, and chemicals from spilling directly onto the food handler.


What's the point of a half apron?

Hald aprons or waist aprons are commonly used by front-of-the-house food employees. They provide wider leg movement and can act as carriers of essential tools and utensils. 


Why should aprons be worn below the knees?

Aprons that cover especially below the knees are used to protect the server's clothing from messy operations, such as removing food debris from tables and wiping counters.


Can wearing a dirty apron contaminate food?

Yes. A dirty apron has a very significant probability of transferring the accumulated dirt into the food being prepared. This is the reason why aprons must be regularly changed and washed.


What is the biggest food safety risk when wearing dirty clothes?

As mentioned, wearing dirty clothing can be a food safety risk because it can cause cross-contamination. Dirty clothes can cause biological contamination and spread foodborne illness-causing bacteria throughout the kitchen. Pathogenic microorganisms can spread when food contact surfaces, hands, and food come in contact with a dirty piece of cloth


food safety risks in the kitchen


How can we prevent food contamination in clothing?

The best way to prevent food contamination from dirty clothing is to practice strict food hygiene protocols and grooming practices. This aspect of food safety includes following the restaurant dress code and other food hygiene kitchen rules, such as proper handwashing. 

These operations must be consistently monitored and observed to minimize the risk of causing foodborne illnesses. To do this, use checklists and comprehensive monitoring systems to ensure that all food handlers know the dress code policy and follow it accordingly.


How can you help your team remember the dress code?

Following the dress code policy is an everyday task, as well as other food hygiene operations. Forgetting to observe the proper attire for food handlers can introduce significant food safety hazards to your food business. In addition, government inspection officers are particular about keeping the workplace safe from contamination.

To ensure that your employees always follow your designated dress code, your team must have a comprehensive food safety management system. FoodDocs is more than just a regular monitoring system. It is a fast digital solution that can ensure overall consistent compliance with food safety and hygiene regulations. 

With our digital solution, you can get the following features and benefits:

  • Our digital solution features automatically generated monitoring logs and checklists based on your business category that can help you maintain food hygiene, including dress code. Some of the essential food hygiene documents that our system can provide include an Employee Hygiene Checklist that includes actual dress code points to maintain.



Employee Hygiene Checklist from FoodDocs


  • We also feature a Food Handler Training module where you can log digital copies of employee training certificates. Enter issuance dates and expiration of certificates, and our system will intuitively remind you when you need to renew training. Keep dress code information always up to date with this feature. 
  • With our food safety application equipped with a smart notification system, your employees will never forget to perform food hygiene tasks. Our system will send alerts to responsible food workers to remind them of important food operations that need to be done on time.

Assuring food hygiene compliance is a huge task for every food business and food safety manager. Our system offers features that can help you improve efficiency while allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.

  • Set up our digital Food Safety Management System in just 15 minutes by answering questions that will describe your business category to our system.
  • Save up to 20% of your time managing your food safety operations with a real-time dashboard. Use this feature from our digital FSMS to identify areas that need attention so you can apply immediate corrective actions.
  • Never worry about the additional space that your documents will take with the dedicated cloud storage for your team. Store, organize, and access all digital documents through this feature.


Setting up our digital FSMS takes only 15 minutes with the help of artificial intelligence and a machine learning program. The system that our digital solution will provide for you is complete and based specifically on your food safety operations.

You can customize all automatically generated food safety monitoring logs and checklists to further fit your operations. Ensure compliance using a more efficient digital platform

Use our free 14-day trial to experience all of our system's features, and start your food safety journey with us today.




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you have some specific questions or clarifications regarding the dress code for food service? Check out these frequently asked questions below:


Can you wear tank tops in food service?

Most food service businesses do not allow food handlers to wear tank tops as they expose too much skin. Some foodborne pathogens naturally live on human skin and can only be removed through proper handwashing. Prolonged exposure to heat and external factors can increase the risk of cross-contamination. 


Can you wear shorts to the food service? 

While no strict code prohibits wearing shorts to food service, this increases the risk of injury, burns, and cuts on the food handler's legs.


Can servers wear sleeveless shirts? 

Guidelines for restaurant server dress code policy are more lenient when it comes to sleeveless shirts. On the other hand, food handlers working at the back of the house should be warier of the kitchen dress code policy. Sleeveless shirts expose skin and have more risk of sweat dropping into the prepared food.


Can servers wear black jeans?

While less formal than black trousers, black jeans can be worn as an alternative. Casual dress code types will also depend on the local protocol of your food business.



Similar posts