How to Enforce Uniform Policy in a Restaurant: 5 Tips

You created what you thought was a fair yet professional uniform policy in your restaurant, yet your employees rarely come dressed for work as you asked for. You don’t want to let it slide too often, so how can you get your employees to dress according to the rules?

Here are five tips for enforcing uniform policy in a restaurant:

  • Include the uniform policy in the handbook
  • Encourage employees to report violations 
  • Be understanding about first-time violations 
  • Document all offenses 
  • Create an offense system with progressively worse punishments

Ahead, we’ll delve deeper into these tips so you can crack down on employees who are dressing too casually at your restaurant. There’s great information to come, so make sure you keep reading!

1. Include the Uniform Policy in the Employee Handbook

Perhaps one of the reasons your employees aren’t dressing according to your uniform policy is that they simply don’t take the dress code seriously. 

After all, it’s not like the uniform policy is in the official employee handbook. Well, not yet, at least!

Once you amend the policy to include the rules about work uniforms, those employees who thought you weren’t going to stick to a professional dress code should quickly change their tune.

After all, if an employee doesn’t wear their uniform to work without any mention of the dress code in the employee handbook, then it boils down to a matter of he said, she said. 

It can be hard to prove offenses unless you have photographic evidence or a recording from your security camera. 

Once the uniform policy is in the employee handbook, it’s no longer one person’s word against the other but one employee’s word against the handbook.

In almost every situation, the employee handbook always wins. 

If the rules are very clearly outlined in the handbook and an employee doesn’t follow them, then they’re the one to blame.

Don’t just quietly update the restaurant employee handbook. Be upfront about the changes. 

Maybe you post a notice in the back or hold a quick meeting. During the meeting, you could hand out the updated handbook and encourage everyone to read it and follow the rules.  

2. Encourage Employees to Report Violations (But Verify Them Before Punishing)

As we’ve discussed in another post on the blog, as a restaurant owner, you’re not omniscient. 

Having security cameras is one way to be more of an all-seeing eye around your establishment when you can’t be there, but cameras don’t catch everything. 

When you have a meeting or post a notice announcing the changes to the employee handbook, you should also mention that you welcome employees to report uniform policy violations. 

Your employees are on the floor and see your staff every single day. They’ll thus be your most reliable source for whether someone is wearing the right clothing or is dressing however they please.

Now, we should note that employee accountability can be a bit of a double-edged sword. 

Some employees will only report violations to you if they truly saw a violation.

Others might have a grudge against a fellow employee and can use this as an opportunity to slander that other employee and possibly get them in a lot of trouble. 

Thus, they’ll lie and say that an employee wasn’t meeting the dress code even if they were.

No matter how much you trust your employees, be it with your life or you’re still developing that trust, we always encourage you as the restaurant owner to look into each claim of a uniform policy violation. 

After all, if you blindly go along with the word of your employees and it turns out that one of them was being mistrustful, you’re going to have egg on your face.

You need to do your own investigations to verify every potential violation. To do that, you might review security camera footage or ask other employees outside of those who reported the violation. 

If enough of them say that an employee wasn’t dressing correctly and especially if you have footage of it via your security cameras, then you can consider that case verified. 

3. Be Understanding About First-Time Violations

While you ultimately do want to enforce your restaurant uniform policy, that doesn’t mean jumping right to the worst punishment.

We’ll talk more about punishments a little later and what’s appropriate versus what isn’t, but here’s what we recommend.

Take a more understanding approach toward an employee’s first dress code violation, especially if you haven’t otherwise had any other issues with them. 

We suggest pulling that employee aside so that the two of you can talk in private. Ask the employee if there’s any reason why they might have disobeyed the rules.

Perhaps the employee somehow wasn’t abreast of the new uniform policy. Although this is unlikely, it’s a possibility. 

Maybe the employee is having a hard time affording the new wardrobe. They may be reluctant to tell you that, of course.

The issue could even be as simple as the employee forgetting their uniform at home, whether that’s part of the uniform or the entire thing. 

Listen, mistakes happen, and that’s why we recommend a more understanding, compassionate approach for a first-time violation. 

If someone made a genuine mistake, then you shouldn’t blow it up to be bigger than it has to be. Remind them of the policy and then send the employee on their way. 

4. Document All Offenses

Even though the punishments for uniform policy violations may not be severe at first, you do want to keep a running tally of who’s broken the rules as well as who hasn’t.

You might create a spreadsheet with the names of all your employees as well as boxes for first-time, second-time, third-time, etc. violations. 

Each time an employee is found to have disobeyed the restaurant dress code rules, you’d add a check next to their name. 

This is the only way to fairly ensure that you’re enforcing the uniform policy to the level appropriate to the offense. 

In addition, you’re also making it very easy for someone else to step in and know which employees are on thin ice and which barely have any dress code violations under their belts.

You will not be in your restaurant every single day, and even on those days when you are there, you sometimes may not have time to check the uniform policy log.

This running tally of violations will allow you to come back to the log whenever you have time, see who’s violated the rules and when, and then take action from there. 

5. Create an Offense System with Progressively Worse Punishments 

We’ve danced around the subject for long enough. Let’s dive into what your offense system should look like for uniform policy violations.

Do keep in mind that these are just ideas and you’re free to tinker with them and modify them as you see fit. It’s your restaurant, after all.

First Offense

As we talked about a little earlier, for an employee’s first dress code offense, the best course of action is to try to understand where the rule violation might stem from.

If you can ameliorate the issue early on, then this employee won’t be a problem moving forward. 

However, if you have no idea why the employee isn’t dressing according to the rules, then they could have recurrent violations, and often unnecessarily, at that. 

You should let off a first-time offender with a warning and still document the offense. 

Second Offense

What if an employee comes in a second time not dressed appropriately for work? 

This is their second offense and should be punished more harshly than their first offense. 

Rather than issue them a verbal warning, you might produce a written warning. 

Be stern in your language, noting that this employee has already broken the uniform policy rules once and that a third violation will carry with it a punishment. 

Third Offense

If an employee still isn’t listening to the rules, then by the third time around, you need to take more severe disciplinary actions.

We recommend meeting with the employee in private to discuss the violations to this point. 

What the disciplinary action will be is your choice. You might dock their pay, make them take on extra work, or put their name as the first available one to cover someone’s shift the next time an employee gets sick.

Subsequent Offenses 

In some cases, you might find that your employees still aren’t following the restaurant uniform policy even though they’ve had several chances, you’ve given them ample warnings, and you’ve punished them for it.

While steeper punishments might be recommended, at some point, you have to step back and ask if this employee is worth keeping on the payroll anymore.

If they’re regularly violating dress code rules, then what other rules are they breaking that you might not even be aware of?

Although firing an employee for not dressing for work should absolutely be a last resort, you may sometimes feel like your hands are tied. 


It’s frustrating when employees don’t follow the uniform policy in a restaurant. As the restaurant owner, you have to be ready to enforce the rules so your staff will change their tune.

A restaurant dress code is for the image of your restaurant, as it gives off a sense of professionalism and unity. 

We hope that with the information in this article that you can push for your employees to obey the uniform policy going forward! 

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