While other businesses in the hospitality sector concentrate mainly on branding and style in the search for new uniforms, a boutique hotel chain based in Madrid takes a different approach. In keeping with their theme of sustainability, the chain recently announced new uniforms made from 100% recycled materials.
Room Mate Group, a Spanish hotel chain operating dozens of properties across Europe and select locations in North America, unveiled their brand-new uniforms in late January 2019. The uniforms are made by a company known as Ecoalf.
At first glance, they look like anything else you might find at a casual boutique hotel. But they aren't. According to a company press release, every part of the new uniforms is made from plastic bottles reclaimed from the Mediterranean. That's right, everything from the jackets to the shoelaces are made using recycled plastics.
Turning Waste into Fabrics
The process of turning recycled plastic into clothing has been around long enough that it is no longer a proprietary secret. In effect, plastic bottles are shredded into a substance known as 'flake'. That plastic flake is converted into a thread which can then be woven into a variety of fabrics.
Some have likened the fabrics to virgin polyesters. They behave much the same way and the threads can be combined with cotton, canvas, or other threads if certain properties are desired. At any rate, converting plastic flake into thread is pretty common these days.
The fact that Room Mate Group has chosen the recycled material for its uniforms further demonstrates its commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly business. And although neither one is a marketing tool by design, company management is smart enough to know that talking about their eco-friendly business model does endear them to their clientele.
A Great Way to Brand
Hotel chains typically utilize uniforms to enhance their brands. They know that guests arriving to check-in expect to see hotel staff dressed in uniforms complete with company logos and coordinating colors. If they arrived to find staff dressed in jeans and tee-shirts, they would be taken aback.
According to Salt Lake City-based Alsco, uniforms are very powerful brand enhancement tools if for no other reason than the fact that they are visual in nature. What customers see with their eyes goes a long way to what they think with their brains, says Alsco.
With that in mind, Room Mate Group's decision to embrace 100% recycled material for their uniforms is a master stroke. The uniforms are a tangible, visual demonstration of the company's philosophy of sustainability. The trick now is to make sure customers know about the uniforms without being ostentatious or presumptuous.
It's doubtful staff members will stand behind hotel counters and speak of their uniforms unsolicited. It's doubtful management will post signs in the lobby announcing the uniforms. But there are other ways to get the word out, like mentioning the uniforms in any literature that talks about Room Mate Group's sustainable business model.
Comfortable and Functional
Sustainability aside, it is assumed that Room Mate Group management also considered the people who have to wear the new uniforms. Hopefully they took into account staff member comfort, for example. Comfort is a big deal in a hospitality-based business inasmuch as uncomfortable staff are less hospitable.
As for function, what has been seen in pictures thus far looks pretty typical for hotel chains. Formal jackets and white shirts complemented by casual khaki slacks provide just the right amount of function without looking too formal. By all accounts, it looks like Room Mate Group hit a home run.