Your bar, nightclub, restaurant, or lounge needs a Dress Code. Period.
I could just leave it at that and have you figure it out on your own, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to explain the why’s and how’s of the industry, right? So let’s take a look at Dress Code and its Why’s and How’s.
WHY DO I NEED A DRESS CODE?
1) Dress Code dictates Environment – The type of club/bar/lounge/restaurant you are or want to be is just as dependent on your Dress Code as it is pricing and decor . When a Patron enters the door, they know right away the kind of environment they are patronizing, based on how people are dressed. If you were to enter an establishment with 25 televisions showing team sports, yet everyone was in a suit and you’d probably realize, “Hey, I’m in an upscale Sports Bar”. What kind of environment do you want? Part of creating that environment is dictating a Dress Code.
2) Dress code decides Clientele – If you allow people into your establishment wearing whatever they want, anyone who wants can enter the door. Conversely, by dictating what people must wear, not everyone will come to your establishment. You must decide, “Who do I want as my Patrons?” College kids? Bikers? Elderly Couples? Each of these groups dresses in specific ways and will either not want to be told what to wear (possibly excluding them from your establishment) or will want to wear specific clothing (possibly making them enthusiastic about coming to your establishment). Every social group in every part of the world has its own idea of fashion and style. It is up to you as the establishment’s Owner to dictate your “style”. By dictating your Dress Code, you dictate your clientele.
3) Dress Code defines Attitude – People are far less inclined to get into fights while wearing an Armani suit or Manolo Blahnik shoes. First off, they don’t want to ruin their nice clothes. Second, when people are dressed nicely, they take pride in their style and fashion sense. I call it the “Damn, I Look Good!” Effect. People that are feeling and looking good are less likely to want to act bad. It is a rare occurrence when nicely dressed individuals start bar brawls. So why not run an establishment the nicely dressed like to frequent? Heck you might want to open a place with no dress code, where everyone wears sweatpants and tank tops. Good for you! Just remember, more people are willing to dress UP to spend money than dress DOWN and spend money.
WHERE TO START
If you want a classy, upscale establishment, your Dress Code should be classy and upscale. If you don’t care who walks in the door, don’t bother with Dress Code. IF you don’t want to be a biker bar, hip hop club, or cater to hipsters…make your Dress Code patron-specific. No bandanas might take care of some bikers or maybe no motorcycle boots. No athletic jerseys will cut back on some hip hoppers and no skinny jeans will remove hipsters from the equation.
Some possible options:
No baggy or sagging pants
No oversized shirts
No clothing with athletic team logos
No sandals/flip flops on men
No tank tops or undershirts
There are tons of variations, even within this grouping. You may allow shorts, but only with collared shirts and shoes. Or you may allow team clothing during sporting events. No matter what, always keep in mind that you (the Owner/Manager) are the one making the decisions. Don’t let your customers dictate the Dress Code if you want something different. You may receive complaints, but in the long run it will play out in your favor.
HOW DO I IMPLEMENT A DRESS CODE?
Surprisingly, many Owners have a difficult time with this. Some owners consider enforcing or implementing a Dress Code as being bad for business. You did just read the “Why” portion, right? While implementing a Dress Code might cut out some of your intended Patronage, it will also INCREASE the number of people coming to visit your establishment because they want to look good AND YOUR BAR IS JUST THE PLACE TO DO IT. As opposed to the Dive Bar down the street where the clothes on your back don’t matter.
1) What Is It? – What do you want the Dress Code to be? Coat and tie for men? No sneakers? No torn jeans? Sit with your Management Team (or Head of Security) and figure out what you want people to wear. Are you trying to upscale your establishment? That might mean requiring “stylish” attire. Do you run a bar on the beach? Asking people to wear collared shirts might not be the best idea. Throw ideas around and see what works. Remember, you can always change it! What is important is that you point some thought into it and test it out.
2) Write It Down – Yeah, that’s right, put it on paper. And keep that paper by the Entry Door. Better yet, post it where it is VISIBLE TO ENTERING PATRONS. That way, if anyone asks or complains, your Doorman can point to the sign and say, “Sorry Sir/Ma’am, but it’s company policy that our Patrons dress a certain way for admitttance.” It is also a good idea to post the Dress Code to your website and have it explained (briefly) on any answering machine messages.
3) Enforce It – This is another area where Doormen/Owners/Managers have problems. Once you set a Dress Code, stick to it. That means NOT ALLOWING SOMEONE IN THE DOOR WHO ISN’T DRESS CODE COMPLIANT. PERIOD. No exceptions. They can go home and change or come back another night. It isn’t The End of The World. I promise. If your Roamers are circulating and they see a Patron wearing a baseball cap when the Dress Code says, “No Baseball Caps”, tell them to take it off. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but let them know they are in violation of Dress Code. Enforce the Dress Code and continue to Enforce the Dress Code. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your Patrons will comply. The Patrons that don’t comply are probably not who you want around anyway.
4) What To Wear and When – You may own an establishment that runs different promotions on different nights of the week. Shift your Dress Code accordingly. What works on College Night, may not on Hip Hop Night and vice-versa. Make sure your Door Staff know what the Dress Code variances are and correctly enforce them!
One of the things that makes Dress Code implementation so great is that it works on a semi-conscious level. People don’t even realize that they are being asked to dress a certain way in order to elicit (or restrain) certain types of behavior or attitudes. Want a raging party? Have people dress in costume. Quiet, jazzy night in order? Coats and ties for gentlemen, dresses for ladies. Test your Dress Code and see where and when you receive complaints and what they are. Then adjust accordingly!
Until next time…