• Restaurants have a higher concentration of foreign born workers than the overall economy.
  • When communication is not understood by employees this may lead to safety issues, loss of productivity, hygiene concerns, staffing problems and poor morale.
  • Many companies offer digital language programs allowing employees to learn and train at home or on the go.

Restaurants Rule the Economy

The majority of consumers state that food service establishments are an essential part of their lifestyle. There are more than one million restaurants across the country with sales in 2017 projected at $799 billion.

The food service industry is one of the largest employers providing jobs for 14.7 million people. It leads the economy in jobs filled by foreign born employees and their children. Restaurants have a higher concentration of foreign born workers than the overall economy, 23% vs 18.5% respectively, according to the National Restaurant Association. It also claims that 43% of restaurant chefs are foreign born.

Many of these foreign born workers and their children possess limited proficiency in English, referred to as LEP.  Instead of comprehending all the aspects of their tasks properly, many foreign born workers come up with their own cheat sheets or other coping instruments to hold onto their jobs and hide their deficiencies from their managers.

Communication is Key

Communication with employees is essential to the success of a food service establishment. Being ineffective in getting your point across can lead to loss of productivity, safety issues, hygiene concerns, staffing problems and poor morale.
Being understood about cleaning, food prep, customer service, hiring and scheduling are all aspects of food service that need to run smoothly to be profitable.

Limited English Proficiency workers may present a number of problems for food service managers and owners as well as themselves, including:

  1.  harder retention
  2. high risk of litigation
  3. poor social skills
  4. jeopardizing other employees
  5. increased safety risk to themselves
  6. major impediment to food safety
  7. limited employee advancement
  8. undermined customer service
  9. more store downtime correcting problems.

At the same time there are many hurdles that LEP workers face for learning opportunities: 1) lack of financial resources, 2) lack of time, 3) inconveniently scheduled programs, and 4) long waiting lists to attend outside programs.

Managers can begin to improve their communication with LEP employees by:

  • Learning the language of their employees
  • communicating the main message- keeping phrases and sentences as simple as possible
  • avoiding asking yes/no questions or asking to check comprehension in a way to elicit a specific response
  • giving employees enough time to speak slowly
  • showing employees what you want
  • getting to know them personally and culturally
  • never assuming that an inability to express thoughts clearly implies a lack of intelligence or that they can’t understand you.

    Offer Your Employees Solutions

There are many key advantages, to managers and owners of food service establishments, to offer English Language Training Programs, including: 1) higher retention rates, 2) customized training, 3) skillful customer assistance, 4) lower risk of accidents, 5) enhanced worker skills, 6) increased store productivity, 7) enhanced communication between workers, 8) improved worker safety, 9) attracting new hires more easily and 10) hiring internally.

McDonalds offers employees the English Under the Arches Program, a nationally recognized workplace ELL program that provides English Language instruction using a combination of technology and in person instruction. McDonalds realized that many staff members held great potential for workplace advancement yet lacked the language skills to fully compete for the positions.

Training in the Digital Age

Thanks to technology, there are many digital language programs available for businesses to help meet their training needs and that allow employees to learn at home or on the go.

As with any new initiative, comprehensive language training requires an upfront commitment of time and money on the part of the food service establishment. If food service owners and managers provide their employees with the specific tools they need to succeed, there’s a much higher chance that they will do just that.


Does your company offer an ELL Program for employees?  Would you like your company to create an ELL program for employees?  We want to know…leave comment or ask Dr. Gary a question.


Dr. Gary Russotti MD, MS
Idea Boxx – Director of Medical/Biochemical R&D and Regulatory Compliance

  1. Chart of languages image; https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-most-spoken-languages-in-america.html
  2. Hello image; http://www.flinthillsmpo.org/lep
  3. World Picure; http://www.mass.gov/massworkforce/resources/multilingual-services/