Keep Westword Free

Five reasons restaurant employees should be allowed to have tattoos and piercings

Being stylish has its price: For restaurant employees, having a tongue barbell, ear plugs, bright pink locks or an anime tattoo on their arms could get them fired, bitched at -- or not hired in the first place. An unconventional look with body modifications and Manic Panic really should not be a deterrent to working in the food-service industry, but it often is -- and while some employers are rational and realistic, there are still other who actually believe that customers will be freaked out to the point of choking on their meatloaf and mashed potatoes at the sight of some ink or a nose ring.

I'm calling bullshit on all that. Here's my list of five reasons why restaurant employees should be allowed to have visible tattoos and piercings. Let the freak flags fly, with a side of fries and a Coke.

See also: - Top eight Colorado flag tattoos - Top ten most unusual Denver Broncos tattoos - Tattoo artist/rock star Corey Miller on music, ink and television

5. People with ink and metal are not automatically unhygienic Here's a news flash: Most people who choose to get ink or piercings regularly bathe and groom. During the course of my career, I've heard gross mischaracterizations from food-service employers about applicants with ink and piercings being dirty, unkempt, even disease-ridden -- and at the very least, certain to scare poor, hapless customers who would almost certainly abandon their chicken fingers and make a dash for the parking lot upon seeing a lip ring or hint of ink through a shirt sleeve. Sure, there are people who don't wash themselves, get trashed on cough syrup and pierce themselves with safety pins, and get horrible jailhouse tats in their friend's garage (or in actual jail) -- but being a non-showering McNasty isn't exclusive to people who get alternative body modifications. And anyone who acts like an idiotic tweener shouldn't be hired by restaurants, anyway -- that's what mall food courts are for. 4. Tats don't bleed into food, and jewelry doesn't fall out often Employers who ask their staff to cover up their tattoos with long sleeves or bandages should be held down and forcibly tattooed, on the face, with the words "I'm a giant dick!" -- because servers running around with bandages over tattoos and Band-Aids over piercings look stupid, and also present a way worse image to customers. Instead of appearing to have gotten some ink during spring break in Cancun or a Monroe with a shiny, pink gemstone for their birthday, they look like they were beaten up the night before in a bar brawl.

I understand that managers get bent out of shape at the idea that someone could drop a ball, or a ring could end up in someone's plate of vegan squash soup -- but in reality, only cheap body jewelry is that flimsy, and it takes a concerted effort to unscrew/tug loose a well-made, well-fitting piece. Why not compromise and just tell employees not to buy crap body jewelry from Spencer Gifts -- or they'll be written up or canned on the spot on general principle.

3. Customers are sporting rings, barbells and ink themselves I never understood why restaurants insist they have an image to maintain that includes making sure employees adhere to an outdated dress code, when people who eat in these restaurants don't live in bubbles or vacuums. It's not logical to assume that diners would be mortally offended by a server or host(ess) having a tattoo or an eyebrow ring, when most of them have a modest bit of ink and an extra hole here and there themselves.

Most restaurant patrons simply want the people who cook their food and the people who bring it to them to be clean, friendly and non-intrusive. A cook having a Batman tat on his neck isn't going to affect the taste of food either way, and a server having snakebites isn't going to make coffee go cold or beer go warm.

Besides, I have ink and piercings, and restaurants have no problem taking my money.

Continue reading for more reasons.

2. Generation Xers are coming into upper-management positions According to my calculations, we of Generation X are getting old. From my standpoint, this has mostly disadvantages -- but one of the few advantages is that we are now becoming seasoned and experienced enough to start becoming the owners, managers and investors, and so all those tats we got at Warped Tour and piercings we got at Lilith Fair that adorn our aging bodies are part of who we are, and we aren't gonna smack the younguns' around for getting blasted and having needles plunged in them in various locations.

We have an evolved perspective on what constitutes a professional appearance, and while there are, and always will be, older folks who will not take younger people seriously if they have ink and piercings, my advanced age and life experience has taught me that these gummers are usually the same ones who don't take younger adults seriously no matter what they look like. I'm willing to give the generations under me a break -- after all, they already missed out on all the best things the '90s had to offer, like Zima, Alice in Chains and the tail end of MTV playing music videos.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

1. Body mods have no influence on work ethic Some of the worst restaurant food and service I've experienced has come at the hands of employees who were starched, collared and clean-cut, and some of the best grub and atmosphere from staffers with dreds, Day of the Dead tattoos and bones through their noses. Having ink and metal -- or not -- doesn't make a shit bit of difference in job performance and attitude. There is no real reason why employers should discriminate in hiring practices -- particularly when they are passing up some good job candidates simply because they have blue hair or Hello Kitty tattoos that most customers could not care less about.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.