Ken Fording, floor manager at a popular North Carolina restaurant, has worked in the food industry since he was sixteen. He began his career as a dishwasher at a Roadside Inn and has since worked every job the industry from busboy to head chef, expediter to waiter. He notes that in the early days of his career, work safety shoes weren’t something workers and management paid attention to.
That’s no longer the case as Fording says he and his staff, “would be lost” without slip resistant shoes.
“Our wait staff regularly pull double shifts, which means they’re on their feet for twelve or thirteen hours at a stretch,” he says. “And our kitchen staff is working 8 hour shifts. Everyone who works in a restaurant nowadays recognizes you need two things in a shoe: comfort and safety.”
Although slip resistant shoes are not mandatory for staff, Fording notes almost every employee, front and back of the house, wears them. Aside from comfort, the shoes are essential for safety.
“People would be falling all over the place without them,” says Fording. “The back of the house would be like an ice-skating rink.”
He notes one employee just came back to work after being out over a year with a workers compensation claim related to a slip and fall accident. The employee was not wearing slip resistant shoes at the time of the accident.
“We can’t make people wear slip resistant shoes but we really don’t have to,” says Fording.
“If you’re working in this industry, you recognize that finding a solid slip resistant shoe that will bear up to long days is essential.”
When asked what features matter most to his employees in a slip resistant shoe, Fording responds that comfort and safety head the list. After that, solid construction and style come into play. “Most of the guys don’t care what they wear but I know some of the female staff pay more attention to their shoes,” he says. “And personally, I’m dressed up working the floor so I need a shoe that can transition from kitchen to front of the house and still look good.”
Fording’s company provides one pair of shoes a year for management but employees are responsible for purchasing their own slip resistant footwear. “It’s the first thing we bring up after they’re hired,” he says. “We tell them, ‘You’re going to want to get a pair of good shoes.’”
On a lighter note, Fording jokes that he wishes he could make restaurant guests wear slip resistant shoes. “We have a wood floor foyer, nothing unusual about it, and women often come in wearing these super high heels and if they slip, they blame it on the floor.”
He shakes his head and laughs. “There’s nothing wrong with the floor. They’re just wearing the wrong shoe.”