Looking the part for noncommercial?

Hiring staff with tattoos or beards may equal a more creative workforce.

Katie Fanuko, Associate Editor

tattoo chef

Behind the swinging doors of noncommercial kitchens, tattoos don’t draw much contention, which is why at least one operator sees body art as a secret weapon to obtain top talent that otherwise might turn to restaurants.

Although he requires staff to cover all tattoos while interacting with residents, Matt Foxworthy, general manager of foodservices at Bivins Foundation, a senior living and long-term care community in Amarillo, Texas, relaxes the rules in the kitchen. He says this sets his team apart from surrounding senior-living facilities that aren’t as accepting of body art and allows him to draw from a larger creative pool—a concern for 77 percent of operators according to FoodService Director’s 2014 The Big Picture survey.

“When you allow creative people to come in, you’re going to get that creativity throughout your entire facility,” he says. “I think if you want to stay on the growing trends of the food industry, you have to take [tattoos] into consideration.”

Chef coats can be forgiving, allowing for more liberal policies on tattoos. Many organizations, including Aramark and Chartwells, require staff to wear long-sleeve chef coats, which conceal visible tattoos in front of guests. “We have a very diverse audience that we are feeding, and we want to make sure that we are as nonoffensive as possible,” says Mark Petrino, senior associate director of Residential Dining at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., whose self-op follows similar guidelines.

While they might have some wiggle room where tattoos are concerned, often operators aren’t as lenient with piercings and jewelry, which can pose a food-safety issue. Some allow stud earrings, but most other facial piercings or dangling jewelry is not acceptable.

To ensure that bearded employees follow the rules, some operators take disciplinary action when necessary. Employees who don’t wear a guard receive a verbal warning, followed by a written warning for subsequent violations, Petrino says. “We just can’t compromise on food safety,” he says. 

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