Skillful customer assistance. According to Food Chain Workers Alliance, as “82 percent of food chain workers are in frontline positions,” LEP workers with a competent command of English can provide better customer service and ensure a higher rate of returning customers.
Lower risk of accidents. As a report in the Journal of Extension makes clear: “…it is expected that food handling behaviors will improve due to improved knowledge and result in safe food handling practices, thus reducing the incidence of foodborne illness.”
Customized training. Managers will be in charge of designing their own onsite language training program, determining the kind of content—such as job-specific language comprehension—that they want their LEP workers to learn.
Thanks to technology, there are many digital language learning programs available for businesses to help meet their training needs and that allow their employees to learn at home or on the go. Panda Restaurant Group, for example, offers Rosetta Stone’s Catalyst program as an employee benefit to its workers, many of which are English Language Learners. The company has seen a tremendous interest from its workforce, with 275 workers signing up to take on the courses in an attempt to improve their English skills. As a result, Alvin Tang, coordinator of the learning and development department at Panda Restaurant Group, told PCMag.com that he saw those same employees begin “to provide better customer service, more natural casual customer interactions, and safer exchanges with co-workers.”
Tang put it best, “there are so many barriers in careers as is. We don’t believe language should be one of them.” The company has also seen the added benefit of an increase of nearly 20 percent in employee retention at the locations with the highest usage of the Rosetta Stone language program. Tang can’t directly tie this back to the language program but he believes providing employees with the tool “helped them feel a sense of belonging,” which encouraged them to stay at the company.
As with any new initiative, comprehensive language training requires an upfront commitment of time and money on the part of the food service organization. There’s no question that it will take time for workers to sharpen their language skills and additional funds to set up the program, but what you put in, you get out. If food service owners and managers provide their employees with the specific tools they need to succeed, there’s a much higher chance they’ll do just that.
Don’t overlook a language strategy when looking at your overall business plans. It will likely save you in the long run.
Brotherson is senior director, enterprise sales, for Rosetta Stone. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.