When Starting as a Waiter or Waitress,Do You Have to Pay for Your Uniform?

As every job comes with its own set of requirements, working in the foodservice industry is no exception. Be it the late or odd working shifts, standing all day on toes to serve and oversee the customers, or wearing a uniform that you cannot wear elsewhere – all of these come along with the job of serving at a restaurant. Now, among several questions that may come to your mind related to the uniform your employer requires you to wear, the most important one is about paying for it.

This article addresses this important question and provides you with the correct answer while also exploring some other common questions related to wearing a uniform while working in a restaurant or bar.

Why Wear Uniforms?

1. Identification

Almost all the restaurant managements have a mandatory rule about their servers wearing a uniform. This is mainly because of the representation of the uniform and that consumers can identify you amidst the sea of customers seated or roaming around. Restaurants today usually use the term server instead of waiters or waitresses as “server” is gender-neutral.

So, the next time someone asks you about the difference between a waitress and a server, you tell them that it is the same thing; however, using the term server is politically correct.

2. Brand Identity

Also, uniforms are a reflection of brand identity. These uniforms usually have the restaurant’s logo, which is a significant indication of brand association. This helps the employers distinguish their servers from the other restaurants’ servers.

3. Dress Code

Moreover, uniforms help establish a dress code automatically. You must have heard things from your employer such that the shirt should be neatly tucked in or the pants should be ironed perfectly. This helps in having a neat and clean dress code that everyone has to follow, which brings about customer satisfaction. People dining at a restaurant feel more satisfied and at ease when the servers are properly dressed.

4. Uniformity

Having the same dress code or type of dress for everybody leaves no room for any difference between the waiters. It does not matter if you belong to another state or region or bear a different identity – uniforms help everybody appear equal.

Who Should Pay for Your Uniform?

The simplest and the quickest answer to that is: “you are not required to pay for your uniform.” Usually, when you start a job as a server at a restaurant, you have to get a new uniform set. Now, this set might be given to you by your employer, or you may be asked to buy one. In both cases, you are not the one who has to bear the cost of the uniform.

If your employer provides you with the uniform, then there is no reason to deduct it from your first salary. Or if you have to buy your uniform, your employer should reimburse you as soon as possible, better yet, before your first paycheck. Nevertheless, if you wish to get a set or two more for your convenience, then your employer is not bound to reimburse you.

According to the Federal Law and Fair Labor Standards Act, your employer can only make you pay for the uniforms if you still manage to earn the minimum wage after charging you for the uniform. The minimum wage, as declared by the law, is about $7.75/hour. The tips servers get are not included in this as the tips belong solely to the employee unless agreed upon before the hiring.

Therefore, if you are earning your minimum wage per hour, then yes, your employer can deduct the cost of uniform from your paycheck. The same goes for the maintenance of the uniforms. However, if the required uniform is necessitating extra care and maintenance than usual clothes, the employer will be violating the Federal Law if the cost of maintenance of these uniforms is deducted from the employees’ paychecks.

Important Considerations When Getting Your Uniform

Should be Comfortable

It is highly recommended that dress as a uniform should be based on how comfortable it is to wear. Servers at restaurants have to endure very long shifts during which they mostly have to be at their toes. This nature of the job mandates a uniform that is comfortable to wear.


Although the law might differ from one state to another, most employers cannot enforce prohibiting pants over skirts. For instance, in California, the restaurant managements have to give a free choice to their female servers between wearing pants or skirts. So, a uniform should be an all-inclusive one that does not oppress or force anyone’s beliefs.


Durability is yet another important consideration when designing or buying uniforms for servers. For the same reason as to why the uniforms should be comfortable, they should also be durable. Servers’ uniforms have to withstand long hours, and amidst that, a button coming off or a stitch ripping off is not something wearers would love.

Choosing the Right Footwear

Choosing the right footwear is also highly important. Choose a pair of shoes that are comfortable and are slip-resistant. You do not want to encounter a situation when your shoes fail to hold your steps while carrying a tray loaded with a customer’s order.

What Should You Do?

You should grab the first best offer you get from this industry if you have been looking for it. Gaining experience as a server in the food industry or hospitality management opens numerous doors of opportunities for you, including a flight attendant. So, no profession is less. The Federal Law of our country protects numerous labor rights, and it is best to know about yours.