Server style: How uniforms set the tone for Baltimore restaurants

When it comes to a restaurant’s ambience, server uniforms can be just as important as decor, lighting or music. We asked four restaurants to explain their choice of employee attire.

The Elephant

Casual elegance is the desired aesthetic at The Elephant, according to Mallory Staley, co-owner and general manager. Staffers wear a white button-down shirt, black pants, black shoes and one of 200 different dark-colored bow ties that the restaurant provides. “The whole concept for our dress code was that we wanted it to be approachable, sophisticated and not be stuffy,” Staley said, adding that bow ties were originally worn untied. That changed after a month. “What we learned was that it might have made us look a little too relaxed,” Staley said.

Bygone

Uniforms at Bygone atop the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore are supposed to remind customers of the “lavish American lifestyle” of old, according to Don McCafferty, director of hospitality for the Atlas Restaurant Group. Servers wear burgundy velvet jackets by local designer Tom James, black pants, white tuxedo shirts and bow ties from Tuxedo House in Timonium. “They’re a throwback to ’30s and ’40s smoking jackets,” McCafferty said. “There was a learning curve for learning how to tie bow ties,” he said of the staff. “But they all feel that they look good.”

Charleston

At Charleston, servers wear a gray suit, white broadcloth shirt and neckwear of their choosing — and co-owners Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf have been known to give bow ties to employees. Foreman wants his staff to blend into the surroundings of the restaurant. “Part of my goal ... is for the guests to be the ones who shine,” he said. “We are the bit players. We just get a lot of stuff done.”

Woodberry Kitchen

At the restaurant led by James Beard Award-winning Chef Spike Gjerde, the style of dress reflects the restaurant’s locally sourced mission. Servers have the option of wearing a three-colored, seasonally appropriate plaid shirt — it can’t be a Western or a flannel — and denim pants, or a white shirt and gray skirt. “We want people to feel comfortable,” said Hannah Ragan, director of operations for the Foodshed restaurant group.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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