Hotel Hustle: Standards

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Standards or standard operating procedures are probably the most common words in hospitality speech. We are nothing if not standardized. Recently there’s been a lot of conversations in and around appearance standards and if they are outdated and potentially racist, sexist or ageist. 

The hospitality business especially on the front of house side is very aesthetically focused. The appearance standards for anyone working the front of the house or who has direct contact with guest can be a mile long and very exclusionary. Personally I’ve always felt that a lot of our standards especially the ones on tattoos to be very outdated. Someone showing up to a job interview with visible tattoos shouldn’t mean an automatic rejection, because the company may miss out on the best candidate.

The same can be said about hair standards and that’s where the racism can come in a bit. A lot of black women are now moving back towards their natural hair stylings. There’s such a gamut of ways that natural hair can be presented from afros, cornrows to even well kept dreadlocks that it can be daunting to rewrite the hair standards rules, especially for restaurants. I’m still a very strong proponent of keep it clean and up and out of your face or tied up and back if working with food, but I realize hair is one way people use to express their individuality and shouldn’t be used as a strike against them. The same goes for men with longer hair or those who keep a beard for religious or even medical purposes.

The key to standards and making exceptions or adjusting to the way the world is moving forward should be through understanding. Timeshares want to give off the family vibe and everyone has a family member with a tattoo, whether they hide it or not. Working in the Caribbean long sleeve shirts, long pants and buttoning to the neck are both impractical and uncomfortable.

On the other hand employees should also be more aware of the company and environment they work in. Just because your boss is okay with the tattoos or piercings you already have, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be considerate of future placement or ability to cover up with makeup. Same goes for hairstyles they should still fit the cleanliness and grooming standard as should beards, just because you have one doesn’t mean you need to look like Santa.

Standards will always be there, but every now and then they need to be taken off the shelf, dusted off and reviewed. Even if your current set are open to interpretation there should always be room for expansion and some specificity when needed. The goal should be to adapt, but not lose the company identity along the way or missing out on the opportunity of talented employees, because they don’t meet the strict aesthetic guidelines set forth.

Our guests come to Aruba for the relaxed atmosphere, the laid back attitude and a true Island experience. It’s something companies should keep in mind when writing their standards, the dress code of a 5 star hotel in Manhattan, shouldn’t be applied to your home away from home in Aruba. Q

Aruban born and bred Shanella Pantophlet is passionate about tourism. That is the world she studied and works in, so we might as well call her a specialist. Luckily for Aruba Today Shanella also loves to write. And together with the fact that the majority of our readers are tourists, we found ourselves a perfect combination for a column: Hotel Hustle.